Updated: Mar 16, 2021
Arkansas Motorsports Magazine recently talked with Johnny Virden of Russellville, Arkansas about his Late Model racing career. Virden started racing late models in 1987. In just a short period of time, Virden became a front runner in the class throughout Arkansas.
As Virden"s top finishes progressed, he began to venture his racing further out in the region, and before long joined up with the then HavaTampa Late Model Series. The HavaTampa Late Model Series was the premier dirt track late model series in the United States for its time and was based out of the Atlanta, Georgia area.
During this time Virden became friends and a teammate of Late Model Hall of Fame inductee Bill Frye of Guy, Arkansas. It was obvious while talking with Virden that the traveling schedule that the racing pair had to keep was very grueling. Virden went on to add that Frye added to the stresses and strains of getting to the races on time that were often several states away from central Arkansas.
'It was seldom that we got to the races on time, and Bill was always the hold up," Virden said. "Once we were out on a race tour that went up in the northern part of the United States. We were so late when we got to one track that when we pulled in, the pits were full and there was no place for us to park. Frye got out and looked around and the next thing I knew he was driving through the pits and then pulled his truck and trailer up into a deserted pig barn that was down at one end of the pits. This left me pitting my rig beside the old barn. It was just stuff like that all time when we were traveling together."
Virden was asked if it was Frye's last minute attention to detail on the cars before leaving the shop that kept them behind schedule. Virden replied, "No it wasn't that at all. It was Bill's old truck."
"Bill's truck that he pulled his car with was just slow. It was so slow that when We was out on the road trying to get to the race tracks, the only way Bill could keep up was if we got stuck behind a school bus and it kept stopping letting off kids."
Virden laughed and smiled after telling the story. "It was a lot of fun traveling around the country and racing with him (Frye). It was always an adventure. Great times that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world."