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Tribute Video by James Armstrong
A Tribute To My Friend, Tim Hay
By Chris Graves
Tim Hay, driver of the "High Voltage Hayride" AA/Fuel Altered, was killed Saturday, August 21st, in the final round of the 2010 World Fuel Altered Nationals in Eddyville, Iowa. There have been many great stories and messages shared in Tim's memory. I had the pleasure of growing close to Tim in the years I knew him. I wanted to pay tribute to my friend Tim Hay by sharing some of the stories and memories I have of Tim and his wonderful family in their adventure on the "High Voltage Hayride."
I first met Tim Hay and the "Hayseeds" at the 2005 Outlaw Fuel Altered season opener at Redline Raceway in Caddo Mills, Texas. He debuted his nitro burning Chevrolet powered fuel altered that night and I will never forget how captivated I was by his machine. After hearing that he had broke after the first session, I strolled over to his pit and asked what had happened and when he would be back with the OFAA and told him how much I dug his radical flame throwing, nitro breathing hot rod. That was the first time I spoke to Tim and we seemed to hit it off right away.
(Tim in his OFAA debut at Redline Raceway, 2005)
Three events later in that season in Temple, Texas, Tim qualified for his first OFAA show and also earned his first round win. He qualified for the following six straight events and closed the year with back to back runner-ups (Abilene & Lufkin) in his rookie season, finishing 7th in points.
(Tim in the final round at Abilene, 2005)
(Tim with OFAA Pres. Bobby Marriott in Wichita Falls, 2005)
(Tim all smiles in his second OFAA event at Wichita Falls, 2005)
(Team "High Voltage Hayride" in Lufkin, 2005)
That winter I was put on assignment by Nitro Madness Magazine to come up with a cover photo. It took me about .05 seconds to come up with my shot, Tim Hay's fuel altered on a time lapse with flames belching from the pipes! I contacted him immediately and said, "Come on over to the house and we will take it down the street, unload it, fire it up and it should have plenty of flame once the sun goes down," so that's what we did.
The Hay's live in Burleson, Texas just south of Ft. Worth and not far from their neighborhood we could find back roads just perfect for our mission. We drove around for a few minutes and picked out spot, unloaded the car and positioned it in the middle of the street. We were trying to hurry, as cars were periodically driving by and the drivers had hilariously puzzled looks on their faces, who knows what they were thinking!
We fired up the "High Voltage Hayride" and I went to work as Tim built some heat in the motor and the flames grew bigger and brighter. Once all eight were hitting hard I made a full circle around the car, dropping my tripod every three or four feet and clicking off a few shots. I'll post my two favorite, the one that made the cover and one that caught a passing car in the background as the shoot ended. This was a lot of fun for both of us and for both, our first cover, his as the subject and mine as a photographer.
(Hayride hits the neighborhood! 2005)
(Nitro Madness Magazine cover, Spring 2006)
Tim was a man who always liked to have fun and entertain. I remember the 2005 event at Mo-Kan Dragway in Asbury, Missouri. This was always a fun race because it was a two day event, leaving one night totally open for partying! After some karaoke and usual misbehavior, we moved the party to the hotel and I can remember jumping in the pool at about 1 AM with the "Hayseeds" (Shawn, T.J. and Kristen) and the manager coming and kicking us out due to excessive yelling and splashing after pool hours, surely waking up a few people in the process.
(Tim mixing fuel at Mo-Kan, 2005)
***MUST SEE VIDEO***
Click Here to see a video of Tim in Wichita Falls in 2006. The car goes into an immediate wheelstand, Tim pedals it once but has to lift. He always knew how to put on a show!
I remember always looking up to Tim, as I knew he was a man I could not go wrong in trying to learn from. In 2006, during my short time as a crew member for Tony Pedregon, we were in Ennis, Texas for the national event and I remember Tim walking up to the ropes and us conversating. I could tell that he was very proud of me for "making it to the big time" although he didn't realize, I thought he was the "big time". That was just one of many many occasions where Tim made me feel accomplished. He had that quality in him as well. Knowing how to make others feel good about themselves by telling them straight up that you've done a great job or that he really respects what you've done in whatever task it may be. He was a very upfront man, confident, unafraid to say it like it is and let you know his true thoughts. He would never bend the truth. You knew if Tim Hay said something, it was as good as gold.
I learned that early in my experiences with him, but he really backed it up in May of 2008 when Tim along with his brother Benny gave me the opportunity to get my Official NHRA Super Comp license in their injected alcohol altered. Tim knew how bad I wanted to step on the loud pedal, in anything, much less a front motored car that could run 5.40s at 130+ mph. It was some of the most amazing gifts and opportunities I've been given in my life and you bet I jumped on it!
The first step was to sit in the car and look around, learn the controls, see how the electronics operate, etc. I drove out to Tim's house and he and I went to his brothers and got the car out. Tim personally showed me each detail of how the car worked, he explained to me what I could expect. I was in heaven. Tim took this photo of me sitting in the car that day. I know I'm pathetic, but I remember thinking how much of an honor it was for a guy like Tim to have actually taken a photo with my camera. I also remember the shutter going off five or six times in a row, as the continuous shooting function did it's job, shooting photos as long as the button was held down. Tim looked up and me and thought he had damaged the camera and I immediately cracked up laughing. He had been used to the typical point and shoot cameras.
(Tim took this photo of me in the car)
Soon after, there we were, at Texas Raceway on a Wednesday night ready to knock out a few of my six required runs. After reviewing everything, Tim gave me a "blindfold test" in the seat to make sure I had an awareness of where the controls where in case of an emergency. That was the day Tim Hay taught me how to drive a racecar. Tim was always looking out for others. Tim always wanted to make sure everyone was safe and making the right decision. Tim would step in front of a bullet for anyone he knew, whether for five minutes for twenty years.
I remember putting on his shoes and gloves, thinking to myself how cool it was that I was wearing some of Tim Hay's racing gear. Then I slid my butt down in the car and he said, "Ok, take it on up to the lanes," and that's when it hit me. It was go time. I will never forget my first burnout in an actual racecar. I was trying to pay attention to what I was doing but I'll never forget thinking in my head how cool it was to see Tim Hay standing out in front backing me up from the burnout. I hit the throttle for about a second and let out, just to get a feel for what to expect. By the third pass, I was running it through the lights and Tim kept telling me I was doing a great job and he was actually impressed. What a feeling!
(Waiting in the staging lanes)
(This was my first pass. I had no idea what to expect, but I was very calm because I felt comfortable with Tim there making sure we did it all right)
We completed the passes two weeks later and sure enough I got my license. Of course, Tim was one of the people who signed my license papers, such a gift he gave to allow me to drive him and his brother's car, and such an awesome accomplishment for me personally. It was a time in my life that will live in my memories forever, all because of the generosity of Tim Hay.
He didn't have to do that, he didn't have to take away time from his own family, his own work, his other surely more important commitments, and put a gamble on some punk photographer wadding up his racecar, but he did and I couldn't thank him enough.
(Here's a video of Tim Hay and Travis Bouchey in a match race in Abilene, 2008. Just another example of what a showman Tim was, wide open through the lights!)
(Tim and Travis Bouchey were good friends on and off the track. They entertained many fans in a series of match races together and always "wowed" the crowd)
(Here's a video by Clipper Wallace of Tim at Mo-Kan under the lights during qualifying, 2008)
Tim was a man who did what he said he was going to do. Tim's dedication to the task at hand was stronger than I've seen in anyone else. Whether it be supporting his family or working long hours when he'd rather be racing, it didn't matter. If his mind was set on it, it got done, and it gone done right!
(One of Tim's best buddies and biggest rivals early on was Jim Pruett. I recall Pruett loosing something, either a bet or a race, then had to wear a Tim Hay shirt and the photo was put up on the website. These two had too much fun together at the races!)
Tim was a role model for me in many other ways too. Tim's commitment to his wonderful wife Candy was something I always admired. Sure sometimes he would grunt and moan, as any man does, but I always knew he had a soft spot under that hard tough guy shell where his love for his wife and kids was one that would never be broken.
Tim's wife Candy is an amazing woman, who showed an equally amazing amount of support of Tim in all of his efforts. She was there for every pass, she was the one who kept that car clean and looking good. She was always the one who was ready to tell you about Tim's last pass and how hard Tim worked to get the car ready. She always had a story about Tim, as Tim was always, always busy. His motto was "You Lift, You Lose" and Tim lever lifted in any aspect of his life. He saw the finish line in everything he did and he never let off the throttle until he got there.
Tim passed a lot of his qualities on to not only his children, but everyone who could call him their friend. His charismatic personality, his confidence, his tenacity, his helpfulness and the satisfaction he got from putting a smile on someone else's face are all things people admired in Tim Hay. From signing autographs all night for fans lined up at his trailer to entertaining thousands and thousands of drag racing enthusiasts with his absolutely wild, header flaming passes in the "High Voltage Hayride," Tim was a man who could never be compared to.
(Tim signing autographs for kids at the races)
(Tim shaking Sean Belt's hand before Sean's pass at North Star Dragway, 2009)
(Tim with the all familiar smile from ear to ear)
Although he was, no doubt, the hardest working man I think I've ever met, he also knew how to unwind and forget work for a while and enjoy life, even away from the racetrack. Tim and the Hay family were headliner entertainment on the annual Outlaw Fuel Altered Association cruise trips. I missed the first cruise in 2008, but after hearing the stories and seeing the photos, 2009 was a definite must go!
My girlfriend Tera and I had the pleasure of sitting with Tim's son Shawn and his girlfriend Erica, with Tim and Candy by our side at the table next to us. Tim cleaned up good, he was a sharp looking guy in his party suit. Tim always displayed perfect courtesy towards others, be it a competitor at the track or a waiter at a restaurant. That week aboard the Carnival Cruise ship was another time in my life that will certainly never escape my memories.
After a few solid days of going hard, partying and having the time of our lives, we spent the last day recuperating sipping cocktails on the deck, trying to balance out our tan lines. Tim was a pure entertainer, never afraid to be the center of attention and have all eyes on him, he was comfortable in himself, which showed in his personality.
Although we were on vacation, Tim couldn't sit still long before it was time to make some action happen. So we decided to have some water slide drag races. Tim, Shawn, Donnie Massey and I set up a four car field and made our way up the line, or staging lanes, for first round.
Tim put me on the trailer early and Massey took out Shawn, although Shawn and I both agreed they red lit on us! Tim and Donnie lined up in the finals and Tim strapped a light on ol' Donnie and took the win, although Donnie swore Tim red lit! Those were some fun times, being able to extend friendships past the racetrack, worry free.
(Tim and Donnie in the water slide drag race finals!)
That was the last weekend I spent with Tim and the "Hayseeds" until this past weekend at Eddyville Raceway Park. The World Fuel Altered Nationals is an annual event that Tim Hay has absolutely dominated. He won the Inaugural WFAN in 2006 then backed it up with another win in 2009. You may not call that dominance on paper, but his dominance was also in the pit area. Tim was the fan favorite at each WFAN he attended, throwing the biggest flames, making the most noise and signing the most autographs. There were more kids wearing "High Voltage Hayride" shirts than any other team on the grounds. He really is the icon of the event and 2010 was no different.
(Video from 2009 WFAN)
Before we continue, I want to make note that the following event Tim ran was the OFAA back at Mo-Kan Dragway. Still without a win in OFAA competition, he qualified number two with a 4.08 @ 177 mph then took out Larry Reep on a holeshot, Aaron Leyda in the semis and defending series Champion Bobby Marriott in the final round, on a holeshot. That made two wins in a row for the team and proved the man could drive!
I also wanted to post his quote from this event, so you could get a get a sense of his attitude, after winning his first OFAA event in four years of trying.
"Finally! Our first OFAA win was everything I had hoped for. The whole race was a close hard hitting deal for us. I always look at our races from the perspective of our fans, and from the 4.17 qualifying bump to the wire to wire racing from each team, I think they left happy. Candy, Shawn, T.J, Kristen and Ronnie Martin all get my most heartfelt thanks for not quitting on this effort. This is a tough group, and to win a race with these guys after four years is greatly satisfying. To all of you that have helped us with tuning advice, parts, or moral support, we also thank you and hope everyone gets to have this feeling at least once," said Hay.
(Hay in the winner's circle at Mo-Kan, 2009)
Back in Eddyville, Friday night was unfortunately rained out so Tera and I got to spend a few hours hanging out with the Hay's among other OFAA teams in attendance. I hadn't seen them since the cruise, although I had stayed in contact although less than I probably should have. Unfortunately these days have been busy; it's easier and faster to text message someone that to call them and talk for a few minutes, a few minutes I wish I had back now. I'd kept in contact with Shawn via text since the cruise but hadn't talked to Tim in a few months.
Candy came up to me and said, "You know Tim misses your calls, you're always texting Shawn and not calling him anymore. You know he thinks of you as one of his sons." Although I knew she was just giving me a hard time, it did hit me in the heart and I felt somewhat guilty for not calling my good buddy Tim myself to see if he was coming to the next OFAA event or just to see how he was doing in general. But it also reminded me, how strong of a friendship Tim and I had developed over the years and it was nice to know it still meant as much to him as it so surely did to me.
It's always entertaining to just be around when Tim is at his best. He never failed to bring a laugh to the conversation, usually making fun of his own racecar or himself, he was a very humble man. Not once, did I hear Tim brag, and he had plenty to brag about. A wonderful family, a bad ass hot rod, a successful career, a pure talent behind the wheel, but never did he brag, never.
Saturday was a busy day in Eddyville, with the addition of all qualifying and eliminations to be done in one day, starting at noon with first session of qualifying. This was Tim's first race of the year. His work commitments had taken his weekends, where he usually would try to be behind the wheel of his hot rod. Like I said, he was the hardest working man I have ever met. Anyhow, being Tim's first outing of the year everyone was impressed to see him click off a 4.14 at 174 mph!
(Tim in qualifying session #1 at Eddyville)
(Here's a video of that same pass)
A few hours later, it was time for second session, as the fans started to pile in and the intensity of WFAN grew as teams fought for a spot in the "A" field in this, the final qualifying session. Tim went out and blasted to a very strong 4.04 @ 179 mph. I threw my hands up in the air when the scoreboards lit up, so happy for Tim as I knew how much this event meant to him and the team and it was so great to see him run so well heading into eliminations.
(Tim in qualifying session #2 at Eddyville)
As Tim pulled up for each run, I had the opportunity to chat briefly with his wife Candy, who is also a great friend of ours, as are all the "Hayseeds," as she walked out to back him up. We talked about what he wanted out of the run coming up and shared our excitement with each other about how well Tim was doing. Those moments grew so special as eliminations started, hoping we'd be seeing each other again in the next round.
In Tim's interview on the intercom with the track announcer, in front of the stands that were entirely packed on both sides, his humbleness really showed. The announcer kept pumping him up, reminding the fans he was the defending champion, and with a smile from ear to ear, Tim would reply simply, "Well, we will just see what happens, we sure hope we can come out and do well for the fans." Never thinking about himself, always concerned about others, never one to brag, that's Tim Hay.
(Tim during the interview prior to first round)
Tim won first round with another great run, 4.08 @ 178 mph, the second quickest elapsed time and top mile per hour of the round. I am very blessed to have many wonderful friends in the racing community, and it's hard to favor one over the other, but Tim always got my favoritism and I was so happy to see him whip the guy in the other lane, no matter who it was.
(Tim in first round of eliminations at Eddyville)
I would go back and talk to Tim after each round, he would tell me about the changes he was making and how the car was acting out on the track. I brought Tim over a framed event photo, my favorite shot of him, with both wheels up and the car haulin' ass! He slid a $100 bill in my pocket and said, "Thank you for coming, here's a little something to help you get home." Tim was a giver, always helping others any way that he could. I could always expect a Christmas card from the Hay family and in return I'd always make sure they were full up with photos from the past season of racing. That's just the way the Hay family is and I am so blessed to have developed such a close relationship to them all.
Tim had a big match-up in the semi-final against his good buddy Sean Belt. Tim was a master with his car, along with the irreplaceable help of his son Shawn and close friend 1970 NHRA Top Fuel World Champion Ronnie Martin. The car very very rarely didn't go through the lights with the flames held high. Tim rolled out for the semis and laid down a 4.05 @ 179 mph to take the win over Belt, who red lit, although would have had to lay down his best pass to beat Tim's 4.05.
(Tim in the semi-final round of eliminations at Eddyville)
Tim went into the finals with fellow OFAA competitor Aaron Leyda driving Dale Wilkens' "Hemi Hunter". Tim was the favorite in this one and the energy at the track could be felt from miles away. Not a single spectator had left, every racer racing in other categories was on the fence, and after wishing both drivers good luck I made my way to the starting line. Little did I know the photos I was about to shoot would be the last time Tim Hay would stab the loud pedal.
(Tim's last pass in the "High Voltage Hayride")
Later that night, I found myself in tears as I wrote Tim a message on his trailer after we heard the news that he had not survived from an accident in that final round. I had anticipated celebrating another WFAN victory for Tim, finally there to see it with my own eyes, as one of my heroes notched another win under his belt, and shooting the winner's circle photos. Instead, I could hardly write my message as my hands shook and tears filled my eyes. I had to say my last goodbye one of my heroes.
Tim Hay was many great things, to many many people. As a husband and father, the Hay family couldn't have asked for more. As a race fan, the people who bought the tickets and packed the stands couldn't have asked for more, and as a friend, I couldn't have asked for more from Mr. Tim Hay. He was truly one of my best friends and there is no one who will replace his place in my heart. May he rest in peace and may his family and friends stay strong through this terribly difficult time. May I only hope to meet up with him when my time comes. But rest assured, he is in heaven with the candles lit, header flames past the rear wing, racing through the finish line with the others who have lost their lives doing what they loved.
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