Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Les Thatcher: Auto Racing and Pro Wrestlers

Wrestler's Eye View: Auto Racing Wrestlers
by Les Thatcher
originally published in Wrestling News Magazine, Summer 1974
I had a great Sunday afternoon, just a couple of weeks back. I went out to Charlotte Motor Speedway to watch the International Hot Rod Association Southern Nationals. The sun was hot, I got the smell of burning rubber and nitro fuel in my nostrils, my mouth was dry, my hands itched to grab a steering wheel, and I loved it!

These are the feelings of an ex-race driver. There are several in the ranks of professional wrestling. Along with myself, the ones I know of are Johnny Walker, Johnny Weaver, Tim Woods and Mike Graham. The only one who is active now is Mike. I ran into him last winter in Atlanta and at that time, he was in the process of putting together a Corvette to run in Class C modified production at the drags.

Once you have felt the power of a race car under you, then you're addicted. You'll find any one of this bunch, on any given Sunday, wide-eyed at some track around the country, wishing it were they, not someone else, driving those cars on the track.

Johnny Weaver drove stock cars on the roundy-round tracks of the Midwest before turning to pro wrestling as a way of life. That's been over 14 years ago, but don't think for a minute he has let it slip his mind. Johnny makes four or five of the NASCAR big races every summer around the Southeast, watches the rest on television, and never misses an article in the newspaper about racing. When we both sit down in some dressing room, within five minutes the talk turns to racing.


Tim Woods hasn't handled a race car in about five years, but he had one of the fastest 442 Oldsmobiles, running the eighth mile drags in the Carolinas, and was very close to the national record in his class. A funny sideline to Tim's racing career was when he was beaten by a girl running a Chevy digger in his class in Shuffletown, North Carolina. It was a long time before the other wrestlers would let him live that one down. The story still comes up once in a while.

Johnny Walker drove stock cars for some years and was a top handler in his field. In 1969, they were holding wrestling matches at the speedway in Bowling Green, KY. John's ability was questioned by another wrestler who thought that he could outdrive him. Well, they were loaned two stock cars by local drivers and went at it for ten laps. After about three laps, Walker was so far ahead that he backed off to give the other wrestler a chance. Then finally before the finish, he lapped the surprised challenger. John hadn't lost his touch.

The first time I met Mike Graham, he was sixteen and, along with a buddy, had built a '55 Chevy to drag race. He has gone through a few cars since then and each one has excelled in its class throughout the Sunshine State of Florida. Graham's current "Vette" should be on the track by now, and I'm sure it will do well, also. 


I started my drag racing at age fifteen, and during my racing days handled Fords, Chevys, Pontiacs and Plymouths. I was lucky enough to win a N.H.R.A. division title and to race several times at the National Hot Rod Association Nationals in Indianapolis. Like it's been for me in wrestling, it's been the same for me in racing. I just couldn't win that big one. I think I speak for all of the above when I say that racing was a great time in our lives and we are all still drivers at heart.

From the Summer 1974 issue of the Wrestling News magazine. We found these clippings posted on the Kayfabe Memories wrestling message board, posted by "Mr. Ambivalent" in the Southeastern Wrestling forum. Thanks to Peggy Lathan for transcription services.

Originally published September 9, 2008 on the Johnny Weaver Blog by the Mid-Atlantic Gateway