At 81-years-old, Richard Brooks has no plans of slowing down.
For the past 50 years, “Brooksie” as he’s affectionately known, has been a fixture at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in northeast Connecticut and on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“I just love modified racing,” Richard Brooks said. “It’s in my blood. I love working at Thompson and the Tour.”
Before he became an official, Brooks was destined to get involved in racing. After graduating from high school, the Waterford, Connecticut, native went to work at a toothpaste factory. With his love of cars and the money he saved from his job, Brooks purchased a garage and radiator shop on April 1, 1965. He even donated radiators to the winners of races held at Thompson.
“I built a lot of radiators for the Modifieds and Late Model cars,” he said. “It kept me involved after I sold two of my race cars to guys in New York.”
Growing up behind the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Brooks started selling Speedway papers and quickly became friends with Modified legends.
“Johnny Whitehouse must have had a disagreement at Waterford,” Brooks recalled. “He took me to Thompson with him and I’ve been there ever since. I don’t think there has been any other official who’s worked in the same place for the last 50 years.”
Six-time NASCAR Modified champion Jerry Cook, who served as the Whelen Modified Tour’s director, enlisted Brooks’ help in 1985 to help get the series off the ground.
While he now serves as an official at the historic oval at Thompson, Brooks said he flagged there for over 20 years and held the role of chief steward. Some of his duties include the inspection of the race cars to make sure they are up to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s standards.
Brooksie has seen a lot of changes over the years.
“It started with little Coop cars,” Brooks said. “To see where it is now is crazy. Racing is a lot faster now. The advancements with race cars and aerodynamics have made the difference.”
Aside from his long tenure at Thompson, Brooks also did a 19-year stint with the now defunct Riverside Park Speedway from 1979-98. He also worked at the Westboro Speedway.
“Wherever and whenever there was a modified race, I was involved somehow,” Brooks mentioned.
Looking back on his 50 years at the iconic speedway, Brooks said he was proud of himself for participating in it all these years.
“It’s something I’ve loved all my life. It’s something I hope I can keep doing.”