Southside Speedway: Hot on track, in the kitchen
Hopkins eager for home cooking, Late Model wins
Published Friday, June 29, 2007

FRIDAY - JUNE 29, 2007
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Biological families are joined by blood.

Then there are racing families, held together by gasoline, oil, grease . . . and maybe a little home cooking.

Barbara Hughes has a taste for victory.

Chris Hopkins has a taste for Hughes' country ham and potato salad.

It's all part of a winning recipe this summer at Southside Speedway, where Hopkins -- who gets by with a lot of help from his friends -- leads the Late Model division. Entering tonight's 100-lap feature, Hopkins has 1,940 points -- 60 more than defending champ Chris Dodson.

Barbara Hughes, who is co-owner of the car with husband Julian, credits Hopkins for the fast fun.

"We consider Chris a superstar," she said.

Hopkins, a Matoaca High graduate, returns the favor, while tapping his tummy.

"When I get off work [as a Chesterfield County welder], I don't have to waste time stopping anywhere for dinner," he said. "Mrs. Hughes fixes hot meals -- for me and all the guys -- and we look forward to them."

Everyone in the Hughes racing team stresses the family atmosphere. No wonder Hopkins' car, the No. 43 blue/rocket red Buick, has a homey name: The speed machine goes by "Pop."

A small army of crewmen gathers in early evenings at the Hughes' garage on Reams Road to make sure every bolt is secure. The group includes Hopkins' brother, Shawn, Brian Sigman, Keith Stalmaker . . . and "Cooter."

"I don't know Cooter's real name," said Hopkins, while assuring he loves him just the same.

Julian Hughes, having survived multiple heart attacks, is pretty handy with a wrench, too. Then there is "cook/paint inspector" Barbara Hughes.

"You'll notice, our car never has a scratch," she said.

Wheels turned during the offseason, as the Hughes husband-wife duo let it be known they weren't satisfied being bridesmaids. With tender hearts, they said goodbye to their car (called Katie Mae) and bought a new racer from Rick Townsend.

"Our chassis was 11 years old," Julian said. "Basically, a year ago we lost to a new car [Dodson's]."

The new ride didn't come cheap. Helping to make it possible, financially, was Robert Hughes (Julian's brother).

"One of the reasons my father was glad I got into racing," Julian said, "is because it brought me and my brother closer."

In Hopkins, the Hughes got what is considered a triple threat. That means he can drive, build and serve as a crew chief.

"If I tear'em up, I can fix'em," Hopkins said.

Contact Fred Jeter at (804) 739-2219 or