NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News Rick Salem talks to URSS drivers during a meeting in July at RPM Speedway in Hays.
By the URSS
OBERLIN -- A year later, Rick Salem still fights back tears when talking about his father, Robert "Bob" Salem.
When you spend a majority of your life with someone you admire and look up to, that makes the loss of a loved one even more difficult to comprehend. And when you spent many of your years with a similar love as your father -- racing -- that makes the bond that much stronger.
Now, roughly a year after Bob's death, Salem is putting together the biggest show in Oberlin Speedway's history to honor his late father.
The two-day United Rebel Sprint Series Bob Salem Memorial will be Friday and Saturday at Oberlin Speedway, the 3âÑ8-mile dirt oval in Decatur County. The event is expected to have the largest payout in the track's history, as well as the most cars competing.
"It's tough for me to even talk about," Salem said. "It gets me choked up. Racing has been in our whole family, and all our family is coming back for it and is really looking forward to it."
Bob Salem raced for several decades in the state and also had a long history of working with anything with a motor. He worked for B&B Automotive, then also drove truck for Issac Truck Line. He also had his own automotive business in Dodge City. Prior to his death, he operated his own Marty J Mowers business since 1974.
He passed away Aug. 1, 2011, at the age of 78.
He was a big reason Salem got into racing, and an even bigger catalyst for helping his son kick start the URSS, one of the nation's largest 305 sprint car divisions that features some of the top drivers from many states.
"Dad supported this whole deal," Salem said about the URSS. "He supported the whole thing when we started it up. He was in favor of not starting the fast cars up front. He liked what we were doing with the series."
Salem's father raced in many different divisions during his glory days and always could be spotted for one thing painted on his cars.
"He raced for probably 30 years," Salem said about his father. "I always called him the 'Little Stinker' because he always had a skunk painted on his car. I don't know where that came from. He started racing since before I was born, and he always had it on the car."
The memorial show in Oberlin will feature Salem's sprint car series and is expected to draw more than 40 cars. It is a dual region show, meaning drivers competing for the national championship in the series will be fighting for the top spots both nights.
The Friday night show will begin at 7:30 p.m. with a regular payout. On Saturday night, races start at 7 p.m. and feature a payout of at least $1,000 to the URSS feature winner.
Northern sport mods also will compete, along with vintage cars.
Following Friday night's action, there will be a dance with a live band behind the grandstands at the track.
Salem said the entire community is on board with the memorial race, and many businesses throughout the area have stepped up with sponsorships to make the event happen.
Ron Fowler, Bob's best friend and primary sponsor, has been crucial in the development of the race, as has the Decatur County Fair Board and the Decatur County Commission. Town officials, including the mayor, have shown support as well.
While many racers in the series are expected to compete, so to will be Salem's son and Bob's grandson -- Cody Salem. He'll be back in a sprint car owned by Jon Johnson for the two-day event.
Salem also is working on getting one of his father's former race cars to pace the field during the event.
The founder of the URSS said he couldn't be more proud of the support he's gotten from everyone involved to make the weekend go off without a glitch.
"We've built this from the ground up," Salem said. "It's a family deal. We're bringing it back to Oberlin."