Cherokee Dedicates Victory Lane in Memory of Mike Butler
March 2010 Dale Wilkerson
Sunday afternoon was a busy day at the Cherokee Speedway. Some 45 teams were on hand for the Lucas Oils Series and the race known as March Madness. This race has been a fan favorite since it began with that wild three wide crash back in 2003 between drivers Earl Pearson, Chris Madden, and Dwayne Hommel. Eight different winners in eight years, the drivers love this race, the fans love this race, and photographers love this race. For one photographer, this was his favorite race of the year.“March Madness kicks off the year right, it is my favorite race,” said the late Mike Butler on Droppin’ the Hammer last March.
Butler had served as the track photographer at Cherokee Speedway until he passed away this past December. The racing community came to gather to help offset his funeral bills for the family with an auction during the race this past Sunday.
Dozens of team owners, drivers, fans and friends donated sheet metal from their cars, autographed items, shirts, caps, die-cast cars, and numerous other items. Drivers carried stickers on their cars, with some including tributes to their fallen friend on their paint schemes. Kevin Cooper, the 2008 Stock-4 Points Champion, has a memorial painted on the rear panel of his #28 Mustang that includes a picture of a camera.
“Mike was a great friend and we miss him a lot. My team and I just wanted to do something to honor his memory and we thought a picture of a camera along with the tribute was a great way to do so,” said Cooper.
Great photo of Mike on his golf cart. Tribute Sticker in memory of Mike
Track Owner Lennie Buff, had workers installing a new sign in the winner’s circle shortly after the on track activity had concluded Saturday evening. Then Sunday, before any on track activity began, members of Mike’s family and track workers gathered in Victory Lane for a brief ceremony. As track PA-Man Kevin ‘Fat Baby’ Wray read an emotionally tribute to his friend, the sign was revealed naming the Victory Lane in honor of Mike Butler. The sign includes two pictures of Mike. “Mike will always have his eye on Victory Lane. He spent a lot of hours here at the track and he captured a lot of pictures right here in Victory Lane,” said Wray.
Tom Troise and the folks with Carolina Driveline announced the ‘Mike Butler Award’ which will honor one recipient each year for their contributions to racing and the Cherokee Speedway. This year’s award was presented to Dan Overstreet who was the editor for the Racing Journal paper for many years. “I have admired Mike’s work for many years and considered him a great friend. With the help of Lennie and his staff, we will award the Mike Butler Award each year, award the winner for their work whether it is on track, behind a camera, or in some other fashion, and honor Mike’s memory and is tireless work that he put in, not just for the Cherokee Speedway, but for racing across the upstate,” said Troise.
Overstreet received a plaque and another plaque with remain in the track offices listing the winners for years to come.
Hall of fame driver Mike Duvall also shared his memories of Mike before leading a prayer for the Butler family.
Gabe Butler, Mike’s nephew, served as the honorary starter for the Lucas Oil Feature event. He scaled the ladder to the flag stand and waved the green flag over the 26 cars and before the capacity crowd.
“That was fun, the crowd was cheering and then the rush you get as those cars roar by was amazing,” said an excited Gabe Butler.
Any one who was unable to attend this weekend’s events, but wants to make a donation contact the Cherokee Speedway or visit www.trackforums.com for information.