PRESS PAST: Sonny Ray Hatcher
SONNY RAY HATCHER – Wayne Hawley – PRINTED: NRVS Official Program, July 2nd, 1999
Motor Mile Speedway is celebrating its twenty-fifth season as a NASCAR-sanctioned facility in 2013. As part of its commemorative program, motormilespeedway.com will be reprinting a selection of stories from our archives that highlight the rich history and heritage of the New River Valley short track.
The “Pride of Floyd County,” “The Wild Man,” and the “Racing Business Man” are just a few ways to describe Ray Hatcher.
He was a driver who was the man to beat in the 60’s, he drove in all forms of racing on the dirt here at the old Pulaski Speedway. His style could, I guess, be called aggressive today, but he was a driver who was always willing to let the other man lead rather than tear up a car. When he was racing here, he was best known for his modified cars, but Ray drove them all.
One of his non-modified cars was called the “Hay Barn.” Why? It was an old Hudson Hornet and in form and size it did look like a huge car. Ronnie Loan, another driver that raced here said that it looked like a blimp with four wheels. No matter how it looked, it was a winner with Ray Hatcher at the wheel. He was the “best” in whatever car he drove.
Another thing that I remember well was Ray’s racing uniform- bibbed overalls and a tee shirt. He just wasn’t Ray dressed in anything else. When fire suits became a requirement, Ray just sent his bibs and tee-shirt to the company and had them fireproofed. To steal a line from Sinatra, Ray always “did it his way.” Like most of us in those days, Ray also had a day job. He opened a restaurant in Floyd and built the business into a great success. The best pizzas in the world were what most called one of his “specialties.” Later, he began a catering service that was –and remains- one of the best around.
You might say that Ray was destined to be a driver from a very young age. Ray’s late father, Donald Hatcher, rode with the late Curtis Turner to his first race (although Donald didn’t know that when they left Floyd.) They drove down the hills to a track in North Carolina. When they got there, Curtis asked Donald for his belt to strap the door closed on the car. The car was almost new and belonged to Curtis’ father, Morton Turner. Donald related to me years later that he tried to talk Curtis out of it, but he raced anyway. I still laugh when I remember Donald telling of his return trip to Floyd with only one headlight….and it pointed to the stars. Donald said the he rode his first and last ride with Curtis that night. “You are gonna die soon enough” Donald said.
Ray was a man to be reckoned with off the track too. We didn’t have the NASCAR* people around then to cool hot tempers. If Ray felt that he had been “done wrong,” he would have a “discussion” with whomever he felt needed it. Some discussions were only a good lecture. Most of these disagreements and “talks” were over in an hour or two and one could find Ray with the person he had “talked” to between an old truck or car hauler “soaking” down the discussion and having a big laugh. I could go on all day about this “one of a kind” driver, but there is not enough paper made to tell all about Ray’s driving career here and at a lot of other tracks. He raced hard, worked hard, and played hard. He was and is RAY HATCHER.