Sam Thompson drives pink race car for awareness and for mom

Jul. 12, 2013 @ 07:47 AM

Ramona Thompson never missed one of her son’s races.

When Sam Thompson started stock car racing in 1980, at 16, Ramona wasn’t exactly thrilled. Like most mothers of teenage sons would, she put up “a pretty stiff racket,” said Sam’s father, Jack Thompson.

Jack took up for his son, telling Ramona they weren’t going to keep their 16-year-old from driving fast and kicking up some dust. If he was doing that at the speedway, he reasoned, at least they knew where he was and what he was doing.

She acquiesced, and after that made her way to Hickory Motor Speedway every time Sam had a race.

She’d often say she did more praying at the racetrack than anywhere else.

In November 2012, Ramona died from cancer.

A few months later, Sam’s father and sisters joked that he should paint his race car pink in honor of his mom. Even before being diagnosed with breast cancer, Ramona had been an avid supporter of the American Cancer Society, loyally writing out regular checks to the organization.  

It wasn’t anything serious, Sam thought, but he came in a few days later, and there it was – a bucket of pink paint sitting by the door.

They don’t actually make pink automotive paint. Jack had it custom-made at NAPA Auto Parts.

Now, the car is baby pink, with a hot-pink breast cancer ribbon on the hood. Sam lets fans at the speedway sign the hood of the car, scrawling their names in dry-erase marker on the white part of the ribbon.

Sam said he hopes the pink car will inspire women to stop, take notice, and schedule a screening for breast cancer. If it helps just one person, he said, it’ll be worth it.

Racing has always been a part of Sam Thompson’s life. Jack can point out of the window of their home at the spot where they built Sam’s first car, under an oak tree.

But for a few years, about 10 years ago, he quit. Sam drives a truck during the day; he was away for long stretches of time and exhausted when he was home.

As long as he stayed away from the racetrack entirely, he could stay in his self-imposed retirement. He knew if he got back and smelled the racing fuel and the rubber shearing off the tires, it’d get back in his veins.

He didn’t make it very long. In 2008, he went back to the track for a few races. By 2010, he was racing a full schedule.   

“I’ve always been into racing,” Sam said. “I don’t know how to say it. You can get away from it, and when I got away from it I didn’t go back – but that was because I knew I’d get back into it. There’s just something about it.”

Racing still isn’t easy for Sam. It’s not an overnight process, he explained – you have to spend days after a race getting your car ready for the next.

But it’s a part of his life.

And with that pink car out in the garage, Ramona is still a part of his life, too.