Tragedy shadowed Glen Naylor on the race track, but he never lost his love for the sport.
The patriarch of one of Meridian Speedway’s most legendary families, who lost both his sons in separate racing accidents, died April 1 of cancer at the VA Community Living Center in Boise. He was 87.
“He was the kind of guy, once you met him, you never forgot him,” said Stan Fuller, a longtime family friend. “He made that kind of impression.”
Naylor’s racing career began in the mid-1950s and spanned four decades.
He was known in the community as much for his towing company — Glen Naylor & Sons Towing — and four full-service gas stations as he was for his friendly nature and fierce ability on the race track.
“In all the stories he told, he always won, no matter how many times he spun out,” said Glenda Cullum, Naylor’s daughter. “He was a good storyteller and an amazing man with a heart as big as Texas. He didn’t know a stranger. If you were a stranger and you met him, within five minutes you were a friend.”
Naylor won season championships at Meridian Speedway, as well as the now-defunct Ontario (Ore.) and Emmett’s Super Oval speedways. He also won several CAMRA (Canadian-American Racing Association) races. In 1982, he finished second for the season, losing by 40 points.
“When you became his friend, you became family. He treated everybody like family. That’s why he was so popular,” Fuller said. “I lost track of how many times he won the most popular driver award at Meridian Speedway. I’m going to guess he must have won it about 10 consecutive years. ... He was just that popular, and somehow he made time for anybody and everybody.”
Drivers who started out as rivals quickly became Naylor’s friends.
“He was a good racer and a hell of a personality. He was just fun to talk to all the time. He always had a smile,” said Ken Hamilton, a former owner/promoter at Meridian Speedway. “He seemed to be helpful with everybody and just an all-around good guy.
“When I first started, he had been racing for some time, and we had a few issues. I wanted to kill the bastard, but that was back when I was young and dumb. That went away years ago, and we’ve become good friends since then.”
Naylor was inducted into the Western Idaho Racing Association Hall of Fame in 1994 and received the Idaho Historical Racing Society Humanitarian Achievement Award in 2004.
“He knew he could beat you, and he didn’t have any problem telling you that. But he did it with a smile, so I think everybody loved him,” said Steve Towery, co-founder of the Idaho Historical Racing Society. “There isn’t anybody that knows racing that doesn’t know who Glen Naylor is and the whole family. It’s kind of a family dynasty.”
Naylor was a part of Meridian Speedway’s transition from a dirt track to a quarter-mile paved oval in 1962, beginning his career in what was then referred to as a jalopy hard top and later moving on to stockcars, super modifieds and sprintcars.
“In the ’60s and the ’70s before video games and before computers and smart phones and everything like that, Meridian Speedway was the hub of racing in the whole Northwest. All the good cars came to Meridian,” said Fuller, a co-founder of the IHRS. “People would line up at three-thirty, four o’clock just to get into Meridian Speedway because as far as entertainment went, there wasn’t that competition for the entertainment dollar like there is today.”
Naylor, a 1949 Notus High graduate, was a fan favorite at Meridian Speedway throughout his career and beyond. He always had a cigar and was fond of saying, “Trust me, old buddy” — which is now a trademark phrase on all the family’s tow trucks.
“He was one of my heroes when I was a kid. To me, he was like John Wayne,” Towery said. “He was a big deal to me, but I didn’t get to meet him until I was 49 years old. But still, at 49, it was like meeting a movie star.”
Naylor married his wife, Dorlene, on March 17, 1951, and together they had three children — Bob, Tom and Glenda.
Bob Naylor, the eldest son, was killed at Craig Road Speedway in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 9, 1980, when the throttle on the car he was driving stuck and he hit the wall at approximately 100 mph. He was 25.
Tom Naylor died Oct. 17, 1992, when the Super Modified he was driving at Mesa Marin Speedway in Bakersfield, Calif., hit a wall. Tom was 37.
“This is a sport that took both their boys. It’s just amazing how they kept supporting people and having the courage to go forward after two devastating losses,” Fuller said. “... I don’t know how they did it, but they just kept plowing ground and moving forward.”
Meridian Speedway has an annual race in the Naylors’ honor. This year’s Bob and Tom Naylor Memorial Race featuring Winged Sprintcars is May 29.
Naylor is survived by his wife, daughter, six grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and a large extended family.
A public viewing will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Cremation Society of Idaho on Overland Road in Boise.
“I could tell a lot of stories, but you can’t print them,” said Bob Harris, 81, who raced against Naylor in the ’60s and ’70s. “He was well-liked and a very personable person. We were friends for a long time. We had a lot of miles together, and they were all good.”
Meridian to honor Naylor
Meridian Speedway’s 66th season will begin by honoring Glen Naylor with a moment of silence Saturday. Gates open at 4 p.m. for the Pepsi Season Opener at the quarter-mile paved oval featuring the Royal Purple Modified Series, Super Stocks, Pro-4s, Claimer Stocks, High School Tuners and Six Shooters. Admission is $11 for adults, $6.50 for children ages 7-11 and free for children six and younger.