They Call Him "Brooksie" by Steve Neely
Dick Brooks Is a Fixture In Modified Racing
In the evening sunset, casting a curiously long shadow for such a stocky individual, is one of the most respected men in all of auto racing.
Standing next to the covered portion of the tech building at the New Smyrna Speedway with his hands at his hips, he watches as another high-powered Tour-Type Modified rolls up to the scales, ready to carefully scrutinize the car to ensure that this team conforms to the rules. If they don’t, he and the rest of the officials at the speedway, many of whom traveled the 1,200 miles from their home tracks in the Northeast, will remind them. It is a job that he’s had for two decades, and a sport he’s been around for over four.
Brooks (left) takes time to talk with Modified driver Ted Christopher (right)
“That’s tough. I kind of get along with all of them,” said Brooks. “This is a lot tougher job than people realize. You can’t keep everybody satisfied. You try to satisfy the racetrack, the drivers, the owners, the crews - it’s tough. You know, I can’t really say anybodys really gives me a hard time. Guys get upset and then 10 minutes later we’re friends.”
One of the drivers who can confirm that notion is NASCAR race winner and SPEED Channel commentator Jimmy Spencer, who drove the Tour-Type Modifieds before he moved into the big leagues.
“I remember him flagging at the Thompson 300,” said Spencer. “He was just a guy that you could always just trust knowing that he could make a call that was not in favor of anybody, an unbiased call - that was the key as an official.”
That’s not to say Spencer and his team never had their disagreements with Brooks.
“Bill Slater and him ran the (Modified Tour) at the time. We’ve had a lot of disagreements. The thing was is we always got them worked out,” said Spencer. “We rolled on with it. He was the flagman when I won the Series Championship. He was the flagman when I won the National Championship in the Modifieds. So, I have a lot of respect for Dick.
“Dick was a good guy after the race was over and business was done. We’d sit down and party and talk about racing and business in general. He knows a lot of people and the fans always enjoyed him. As a flagman, he was somewhat of a character. He’s a good storyteller, and that was one thing I remember. That’s one thing I like about him.”
Brooks is not bashful when it comes to recalling stories. He even has one for how he got the nickname “Brooksie,” the name he is more commonly known by throughout the infield of the track.
Brooks takes a photo with Eric Beers, the 2007 Speedweeks Tour-Type Modified Champion.
“When I went to school, there was another Richard Brooks there, no relation of mine,” recalls Brooks. “They all started calling me Brooksie and it kind of stuck with me all my life. Now my son, his name is Richard Brooks too, and now they call him Brooksie Jr.”
His favorite stories are from the heyday of the Tour Modifieds, and one in particular about the legendary Richie Evans, whom the definitive event at New Smyrna Speedway during The World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing is named after (The Richie Evans Memorial, won by Jimmy Blewett in 2007).
“I think a real good story was when we were at Thompson doing the 300,” says Brooks. “It was 96 degrees out, and after the race, after 300 laps, all the young guys were passing out, getting ice and stuff. Richie jumps out of the car and says, ‘what's the matter with all these young guys? I could run another 300 laps. They just don't drink the right booze. They don't know how to race.’ I tell you right now, Richie was one of the top-notch guys. He could party all night, and get in the race car the next morning and drive with the best of them.”
Brooks feels that a tough venue like the lightning-quick New Smyrna Speedway is appropriate for holding the Richie Evans Memorial name.
“Richie did a good job down here when he came here,” said Brooks. “He won a lot of races at New Smyrna. It was a shame we had to lose a guy like that. He was one of the greatest from Modified racing. Richie Evans, Geoff Bodine, Ron Bouchard; they were all down here racing, and let me tell you something, they were something spectacular. It was just spectacular racing.”
There’s no question that the extended time at New Smyrna is important for the drivers and teams that compete at the half-mile speedway. The races are usually the first races of the year for the Modified teams, most of which are based in the snow-packed Northeast. The nightly feature races are also like test sessions for most teams, explains Spencer.
“You only had the knowledge that you had, you didn’t have computers and testing,” said Spencer. “You used this fast racetrack to see how the car handles or rolls through the corners. Plus, it was like nine weekends. How many times can you go to a racetrack that was two and a half months of racing all cooped up into a week or so?”
Brooks isn't above doing any minimal job at the track.
Brooks explains why he loves the style of racing that the Tour-Type Modifieds bring to the south, and talked about his favorite race in The World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
“I just think that is the best kind of racing we have down here and the fans love it,” said Brooks. “The fans down here love these Modifieds and that’s why we come down here to do it.
“Last year, the 100-lapper was a real good race. We had a caution at the end and the field closed up. A couple guys came in to change tires and they came all the way from the back and won the thing. It really made it exciting for the people.”
Yet another balance Brooks must maintain is between entertainment value for the fans and the safety of everyone at the facility. He takes his job very seriously.
“I’m really, really on the safety side of things,” says Brooks. “I know when I flagged all
those years, guys used to tell me I threw the yellow a lot, but my first concern is the safety of the drivers. They put their trust in you to do it, and that’s my first concern.”
As the sun sets and the vivid glow of dusk fades behind the steel and aluminum grandstands, one of the most important and respected people in short track racing prepares for yet another night of competition.
“Brooksie” stares off toward a row of cars lined up before the race, and tells why he has loved being in racing.
“To come down here and race every night, and nobody gets hurt when they’re wrecked, and everybody goes home happy. That makes me happy.”
Dick Brooks is a familiar sight in the Modified pit area at New Smyrna and other tracks. (51 photos)
Dick Brooks, better known as “Brooksie,” is the competition director, chief inspector, flagman and “Mr. Know It All” for the Tour-Type Modifieds at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway.
He has had a long journey up to this point, one that he describes as if skimming through the chapters in a book that is his life.
“I built my own Modifieds back in the 60’s,” said Brooks. “I raced Waterford (Speedbowl). I came down and I sold both cars I was running. Then I went to work for the track in Waterford and I started working there a couple of years.
“I started working at Thompson in 1970 doing inspection. I think I was doing that for about 10 years, and I started assistant-flagging. Then, I moved to head-starter there (at Thompson). From there, I went to Riverside in 1983. I started flagging there and then took the chief steward’s job. I was there until it closed, and I’ve been at Thompson ever since.
One of Brooks many current jobs is being the chief steward at Thompson. He also has a role with the Whelen Modified Tour.
“Then when the Modified Tour started when Jerry Cook took over, I went to work there. I also go and do the North-South Shootout race (at Concord Motorsport Park), and then also doing this (Smyrna Speedweeks). I missed the first year this series started, and then they hired me to come down as the starter. I’ve then done this ever since.”
His job is a balancing act that would be worthy of a spot in the Barnum and Bailey circus. With so many entities involved in racing, there’s a lot at stake to keep them all happy while maintaining the integrity, fairness and competitive spirit that drives this sport. He describes his relationship with everybody involved.