FORT WORTH-DALLAS (Sept. 25, 2000) -- Tom Mitchell has owned the ...
FORT WORTH-DALLAS (Sept. 25, 2000) -- Tom Mitchell has owned the #14 Circle Bar Racing Ford of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for the last four years, but has never been to a truck series race. He has been involved in professional racing for over 25 years, but you won't see him at the track courting corporate sponsors or cheering on the team from pit road. In fact, he's never seen the team's shop. No, he's not your typical team owner, but that's the way he likes it.
Mitchell was born and raised in Ozona, Texas - which is a long way from anywhere. Cattle ranching and racing are just two of many endeavors that the Texas businessman is involved with. He owns six cattle ranches, with the smallest being 30,000 acres, as well as the local cable television company in Ozona, two truck stops off of I-10, a motel and RV Park, and many other operations both large and small in the West Texas area.
Mitchell will also be the first to tell you that the majority of his income has come from the discovery and excavation of natural gas from portions of his ranch land.
However, you would never recognize this Texas millionaire if you ran into him. Despite his wealth, you can still find Mitchell, well-worn dirty jeans and cowboy hat, working hard at his truck stop in Ozona.
Mitchell has owned teams in Indy Racing, NASCAR Winston Cup, Slim Jim All-Pro Series, and currently, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Tom's teams have all raced under the banner of Circle Bar Racing where the actual name came from the cattle brand on one of his ranches in Ozona. In the mid 1950's, just out of the Air Force, Tom started his cattle ranching business. He created a cattle brand out of a piece of metal and a coffee container, thus the "circle bar" brand was born.
2001 will mark the 10th anniversary between driver, Rick Crawford, and Circle Bar Racing. Rick and Tom first met when Rick came to Texas in 1991 to purchase some All-Pro racing equipment from Mitchell. The two teamed up and in just five years, Circle Bar Racing racked up nine victories, eight poles, two track records, and two top-two finishes in the series point standings. Through that period, Mitchell never visited Crawford's race shop in Cleveland, Georgia nor did he attend a single race.
In 1997, Crawford and Mitchell decided that they were ready to make a move to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. They started the season with one truck and one engine. By the end of the season, the Circle Bar race team had not only been able to make every race, but Crawford came in a close second in the "Rookie of the Year" standings to the late Kenny Irwin and finished 12th overall.
This year marked Circle Bar Racing's fourth full season in the truck series. The team's successes, including a victory at Homestead in 1998, attracted the team's first major sponsor for the 2000 season. Milwaukee Electric Tool, a major producer and seller of high quality power tools, stepped up as the primary sponsor of the #14 Circle Bar Ford this season. With the additional funding, Mitchell and Crawford decided to move the team's headquarters to a more modern and convenient shop in the Charlotte, North Carolina area.
Still to date, Tom Mitchell's only view of his racing efforts had been through television. Not once has he paid a visit to his race shop, nor has he witnessed a race in person. But don't be fooled that his lack of presence in any way reflects on his control of the team. Crawford calls in to "the boss" at his Ozona office every Monday morning to give a race report.
"Tom makes all the decisions," said Crawford. "If it is something small or he isn't readily available, I try to make the call the way that Tom Mitchell would. If something major arises involving the team, I give him as much information as possible; we discuss it and implement his decision."
Crawford is considering going to Ozona with his motorcycle prior to the O'Reilly 400 at Texas Motor Speedway and try to convince Mitchell to ride his own Harley Davidson motorcycle to Ft. Worth for the race.
So, who knows? Keep an eye out if you are walking through the garage over race weekend and pass by a man in dirty jeans and a cowboy hat - it could be Tom Mitchell.