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BUILDING A LEGACY
From Motorcycles to Cars and Dirt to Asphalt, Steve Ladd Knows His Way Around a Track
Racing was a part of Steve Ladd’s life before he was even born. His father built race motors years before, and he grew up hearing his dad tell those stories.
When speaking of who has influenced his racing career, Ladd shared, “Daddy has gone to almost every race I was ever in.” While many drivers also grew up watching NASCAR, he admits, “I was already racing before I started watching it… (back then) NASCAR wasn’t on every Sunday.”
From the time he was 13-20-years old, Ladd worked at a motorcycle shop. At the age of 15-years old, he ventured into racing them. Many young drivers learn the pain associated with such a hobby; Ladd was no different. It was in 1973 that he broke his leg. He later got married and gave up racing. In a few years, he was back on the track and suffered a broken arm in 1983. After such unfortunate experiences, “I decided I needed to make a living,” he laughed.
Ladd later traded dirt in for asphalt when he began running Legends cars for four years participating in the Brooks and Dunn Shoot-out and other races at Nashville Speedway and Highland Rim. He also raced at other tracks in Tennessee, Alabama, and finished third in a Race of Champions at Charlotte, North Carolina in 1999. In 1997 he was the Tennessee Masters Champion, and in 1999 he was the Kentucky State Points Champion.
He also ran a Super Truck in Carthage, Tennessee where he finished second. Ladd commented, “Dirt cars are all I can keep up with.”
When comparing his vast racing experiences, Ladd shared, “(Trucks) are not as exciting. With asphalt you have to be real smooth and consistent, ‘finesse it.’ On dirt you drive harder and get away with more.” He also added that with motorcycles, you feel everything they do.
During the tenure of his motorcycle racing days, Ladd won several races but no championships. He also ran various tracks in Paris, Mayfield, Benton, Paducah, and Murray. He has also accumulated several Heat wins in his Modified and came very close to winning many times before picking up his first Feature win at Paducah International Raceway earlier this season.
“(I) finished second eight times this year,” he shared on how close he had come to that coveted first win. “(I was) tickled to death… (it was) about time. Lots of them are capable of winning, so I was pretty pleased,” he spoke of his first trip to Victory Lane in his Modified.
Currently Ladd is racing exclusively at PIR but did race a few races at Clarksville Speedway toward the end of the 2009 season. Despite his racing history, this year has been a bit of a learning experience in that he sold his car from last year, so he has had to get the feel of a different set of wheels.
“You race 15-minutes every Friday to go home and work on it all week,” he shared on the work it takes to have a successful racing career. He also admits that it is hard to find good help.
For the 2010 season, Ladd had one Feature win, two Heat victories, and a total of 12 Top-10 Feature finishes, with seven of those being in the Top-five. These statistics just show how far experience combined with consistency will take you in a racing career.
When asked where he hopes to be at with his racing career in the next five years, he responded, “I don’t know… (I’ve) quit several times. I love the racing (but I’m) wore out working on race cars.” He also shared that he does quite a bit of work on other people’s cars around Tennessee. In fact, he and his son, Dustin also build their own motors. “Dustin and I do all the graphics. We do everything on it,” he said.
And where does he hope to be at in 10-years? Ladd laughed, “Still breathing… one of these days I’m going to sell all this and buy a Street Rod.”
Ladd has already laid the groundwork for the next generation of racers in his family. His son, Dustin was the Street Stock Champion at Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway and has raced Modifieds in Mississippi and in Indiana, where he currently lives. Right now, Ladd admits that Dustin’s racing is “hit or miss,” but he is looking to move back to the area, and if he does they will run both cars. His son-in-law, Jeremy McCord has run four-wheelers and Modifieds at tracks in Tennessee.
Ladd who has a combined total of 21-years racing experience (15-years in cars and six-years in motorcycles) currently drives the #28L Modified sponsored by Murray Family Vision Center, Murray Auto Parts, todaysoils.com, Pro Signs, and Cesa Contractors where he is also employed as a pipe fitter with the Paducah Local. He resides in his hometown of Murray, Kentucky, with his wife of 27-years, Debbie who he refers to as “the sweetest woman in the world” Ladd shared, “If she ever leaves, I’m going with her.”
They have three children: Dustin, Angela (McCord), and Amy (Balentine) who lives in the Netherlands where her husband is in the Coast Guard. They have three grandchildren: Brooke McCord; and Bethany and Andy Balentine. Brooke recently sung the National Anthem at the start of the races at Paducah International Raceway.
Ladd used to ride motorcycles in his spare time, but admits, “(Racing) takes all the time I’ve got.” He also wanted to answer the age-old question he has been asked so many times over the years: He has never met and is not related to dirt-racing Legend Jesse Ladd.
Steve Ladd shows that whether he is on dirt or asphalt, two wheels or four, he knows his way around a race track. Come to Paducah International Raceway on Friday nights and see him continue his legacy on the track while influencing the next generation of drivers.
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