Suddeth Plants Seeds Of Racing Career In Family Garden Forest Suddeth is living proof that there is more to life than racing. Like gardening, for instance. "You can do a lot of thinking while you're working in ...
Suddeth Plants Seeds Of Racing
Career In Family Garden
Forest Suddeth is living proof that there is more to life than racing. Like gardening, for instance.
"You can do a lot of thinking while you're working in the garden," said Suddeth, a mechanic on the No. 2 Team ASE Dodge driven by Jimmy Spencer in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. "Gardening keeps your time occupied. It's a way to get off by yourself and help you decide what you're going to do next, how you can help people. I like spending time in the garden."
You can't fault Suddeth for trying to find a way to decompress from the rigors of a professional motorsports career. Like any job, time demands can often take their toll. That's especially true in NASCAR racing where teams are on the road between 25 and 45 weeks a year.
"Sometimes when you get home for a race, it seems like all you have time to do is dump your clothes out of the suitcase, wash them and go again," said Suddeth. "Truck racing is easier. When I worked full time in the Cup Series, I was gone a lot more than I am now. Now I have time to do other things like working in the garden."
Suddeth, 52, has spent most of his life in racing. The Spartanburg, SC native grew up in a hotbed of the sport around the likes of legendary drivers David Pearson and Cale Yarborough and famed car owner Bud Moore. It didn't take long for the soft-spoken Suddeth to catch the 'racing bug.'
"I got my first racecar when I was 16," said Suddeth. "It was a 1961 Ford Falcon. a real hot rod. I barely had a driver's license. I borrowed a pickup truck and a trailer and headed to Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC. That was the local track and it was a great place to race. It was the superspeedway of dirt racing, so if you could race there, you could race anywhere."
By the 1970s, Suddeth had retired the Falcon and graduated to a super fast Chevrolet Chevelle stock car. His talent as a driver had also grown as he won a dozen events and finished second in 14 other races one season.
"I took the money I won from that and built another new car," said Suddeth. "It didn't take long for me to figure out I was going to go broke racing cars, so I decided to work on them instead."
Suddeth didn't have to look far to find a job. Moore's Winston (now Nextel) Cup operation was just down the road and it was one of the finest organizations in the business.
"I talked to Bud Moore and I asked him for a job," said Suddeth. "Initially, he told me to come back later in the summer. The next time I went back, he asked me if I wanted to start that day. I did and I stayed there for 15 years. That's how I got started. Bud Moore is a great man. I think the world of him. Bud's done a lot for NASCAR and he sure did a lot for me."
From 1980 to 1995, Suddeth wrenched on some of the finest Cup cars to hit the track. Working both at the shop and traveling with the team to the track, Suddeth outlasted a host of drivers that sat in Moore's famed No. 15 racecars as Brett Bodine, Morgan Shepherd, Lake Speed, Geoff Bodine and Dick Trickle all took turns behind the wheel over the years. Suddeth saw more than his share of mechanics and crew persons come and go as well, but stayed true to Moore for giving him his start in big time racing.
"All the other race shops around us pretty much had closed up, so there wasn't really any other place to go work anyway" said Suddeth about his tenure with Moore. "Bud was about the only one left running in the Spartanburg area by the early 1990s. For me, I always believed that if you had a job, you hung on to it. Besides, I've never been one to jump jobs anyway. The grass isn't always greener somewhere else."
By the middle 1990s, Suddeth was forced to look for work elsewhere as changing dynamics in the Winston Cup garage forced Moore and several other independent team owners to close their doors. In an effort to stay close to home, Suddeth took a job with Jason Keller's NASCAR Busch Series team and worked there for a couple of years before completing stints at Robert Yates Racing and Buckshot Racing. Then, in 2000, Suddeth was faced with the reality that if he was going to stay in racing, he would have to give up his South Carolina home and move to the Charlotte, NC area.
"When Buckshot closed up, that was pretty much it," said Suddeth. "There just weren't any teams in the Spartanburg area anymore. I really didn't want to move, but I didn't have much choice."
Suddeth's skills and experience made him a perfect hire for the new Ultra Motorsports Winston Cup team in September, 2000. Working on "everything from the back bumper to the front of the car," Suddeth proved to be an invaluable resource to the team. Later, when the opportunity came to move over the Ultra's No. 2 Team ASE Dodge in the Truck Series, Suddeth jumped at it.
"Working on a NASCAR Craftsman Truck is the same as working on a Cup car and you don't have to travel to as many races," Suddeth stated. "Having the extra time has allowed me to get back to doing the kind of things I like doing in my spare time."
Suddeth has used his time off over the years to restore two immaculate hot rods -- a 1931 Model A Roadster and a 1940 Chevy Sedan. He also imported a piece of his past to resurrect his new home Lincolnton just north of Charlotte.
"I bought an old farmhouse when I moved to Lincolnton, NC in 2000 and it was all grown over," said Suddeth. "I really needed a tractor to clear a lot of it out and my mother let me bring my dad's old tractor up here to work on the place. It was the very same tractor -- a red and gray Ford 8N Tractor -- that I learned how to drive on.
"After I got the place the way I wanted it I decided I wanted my own tractor, so I bought another one and totally restored it," Suddeth continued. "Now I'm thinking about taking my dad's tractor apart and redoing it the same way. It's been in the family a long, long time and it's nice to have. It has a lot of sentimental value to me. My dad died in 1985, so having the tractor up here is very special. Every time I look at it, I see dad. I'd really like it to be like the other one so I'm hoping to get after it and restore it next summer."
In the meantime, Suddeth is happy to be a part of the No. 2 Team ASE Dodge effort, not only because it's a front-running team, but also because the relaxed lifestyle the 25-race Truck Series schedule affords him.
"I was raised on a peach farm," said Suddeth. "I guess I'll always be a farmer at heart. My dad always had a garden and in the summertime when I was growing up, I always got to pick tomatoes, beans, corn, you name it. Now that I've gotten older, it's something I like to do in my spare time. I still enjoy working on race cars and working in the garden. I don't think that's something that will ever change."