Remembering “Uncle Bob” Harmon

Mike Bell

By Mike Bell
Posted in Columns 2/26/10

In automobile racing, as in any sport, there are those people that work behind the scenes to make the racing program happen.  Generally, they are never known to the general public nor most of the fans.  The better the show goes, the less you think about who worked the front gate.  You just remember the great racing.

Over the years, the really great promoters are sought because you learn that is what makes for an enjoyable race program.

We lost one such gentleman back on May 30, 2002.  Bob Harmon of Prattville, Alabama, lost his short battle with lung cancer.  The world of racing lost one of it’s greatest promoters.

Bob Harmon

When the rest of the world wondered what it takes to bring spectators to the track, Bob had the stands overflowing.  When everyone else had trouble getting racers to run at their track, Bob had the pits so full you wondered where all the cars were coming from.

At Nashville several years ago, at a special Old Timer’s Night, Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Jack Jackson and I were trying to find out just where the heck over 100 cars were pitting.  It wasn’t like there weren’t other track not running on the same night as Bob’s tracks; the competitors would just rather be there.

Bob began his career at the Fairgrounds in Birmingham.  He later took over Montgomery Motor Speedway.  They raced the NASCAR Modifieds and the Modified Specials.  When NASCAR revised the modified rules to modernize the cars, Bob shouldered on with his programs.

Then he felt he could do it better with what was fast becoming the “touring series” format.  He established the All-Pro Series for asphalt Late Models.  He started and ran the series from 1980 until he sold it to NASCAR, who had tried to compete against Bob’s series with a similar one of their own.

Bob’s last hoorah was the Nashville Fairgrounds raceway.  The big half-mile asphalt track was close to extinction when he took over.  By the time Jack Jackson and several other of us old timers made it to the oval, you needed a computer to keep up with the program.  Cars must have been coming out of the light poles.  They were everywhere!  And we were back at the motel listening to more of Billy Carden’s stories before 11 p.m.

Mike Tankersly, sports reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser, reported that among those attending the funeral in Alabama were NASCAR president Mike Helton, along with Jim Hunter, Vice President of Corporate Communications and Dennis McGlynn, President and CEO of Dover Entertainment (who flew the flags at their corporate headquarters at half-staff in honor of Bob).  Two of the drivers on hand were the legendary Red Farmer and “Fast Eddie” Mercer, who obtained his nickname from Bob.

Mercer was quoted as saying, “He brought organization to all the haphazard short track promotions across the South and built it into an entity that NASCAR purchased.  That says it all right there.  He single-handedly saved short track racing in the South.”

Former assistant Dave Kohler flew in from Pittsburgh and praised Bob for all his good work, saying “Bob’s secret was good old fashioned legwork.”

Red Farmer was quoted as saying “he always stood by his word.  So anytime he wanted me to race for him or be there for him, I was always glad to do it.”

To paraphrase Bob’s life, we will use a favorite saying of his.

“It was awesome.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the September, 2002 edition of the Pioneer Pages magazine.  Harmon was also instrumental as a promoter in Georgia, at the Middle Georgia Raceway near Macon, as well as being one of the men behind the first “World Crown 300” at what is now known at Gresham Motorsports Park. His All-Pro Series held numerous events in the Peach State, spotlighting drivers from Georgia throughout it’s existence, and his contributions to racing in the state are immeasurable.

Mike Bell is the CEO and historian for the Georgia Auto Racing Hall of Fame Association, Inc. (GARHOFA)

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