Among all the drivers at Anderson Motor Speedway is a star in his own right. Fans don t-shirts in the stands for South Carolina’s "Chuck in the Truck."
Chuck Head has been working at Anderson, a NASCAR-sanctioned 0.375-mile asphalt oval track in Anderson, South Carolina, for nearly 40 years. He began as a flagman, and eight years ago took a new job driving the clean-up safety truck.
"One of the announcers at Greenville Pickens came up with that (nickname) a couple years ago and I actually had a girl who worked for me made t-shirts that said ‘Chuck in the Truck’ and had a picture of a pickup truck," Head said.
Head has acquired quite a fanbase at both AMS and Greenville Pickens Speedway, a NASCAR-sanctioned half-mile asphalt oval in Easley, South Carolina, where he’s been the flagman for five years.
"I do have a lot of fans that sit in the grandstands and a lot of kids are there. We have a lot of fun," Head said. "Every night I go to a race track I walk down through the pits and talk to the drivers. It’s a good family-type activity going on. All the drivers, their wives and children and grandchildren. It means lot."
Forty years ago, after Head got out of the Navy, he went to South Carolina to visit his mom. While there, he attended his first race at Golden Strip Speedway, a former dirt track in Darlington County.
It took just one race for Head to be hooked, and by the third trip he had a job. While at the track, Head was talking to the track worker lining the cars up before the race.
"He said, ‘I’m tired of this stuff. These drivers give me such a hard time, I wish I could find somebody else to do this job,’ " Head said. "And I talked to him and talked to the owner of the track at that time and ended up lining up race cars."
A few years later, Head had graduated to the role of flagman at Anderson Motor Speedway, where he’s been ever since.
Racing was an instant love for Head, and is one he’s carried with him throughout his life. He plans all of his vacations around weeks the tracks where he’s working have off.
He loves the sport so much that when he married his wife 25 years ago she wanted to have the wedding on a Saturday, but he had some reservations.
"I said ‘O.K., we have to get married on Saturday morning because I have to flag Saturday night," Head said. "And we did and put the honeymoon off until Monday morning so we could be racing through the weekend. That also let me know that I had the right woman."
Head’s wife went with him to the track that night.
Head has flagged at six different tracks, both dirt and asphalt, across the north of South Carolina. He learned by simply being in the flagstand, and learning from experience.
It’s definitely a job that’s become easier with time.
"In the old days it was rougher because you had to keep up with how many laps were left, who was in the lead, and everything like that," he said. "With today’s technology with transponders and stuff like that and having a race director telling you when to throw the caution, it’s really one of the easiest jobs at a race track."
While Head enjoys being in the flagstand, he likes being able to watch races from the cleanup truck just as much.
"You go down there and crank the truck up, turn on the air conditioning and hope nobody has a wreck or anything like that and just enjoy it," he said.
Head has made a career working around the track, but he’s never actually got behind the wheel of the car.
"Everybody kept asking me, ‘Why don’t you race a car?’ and I said, ‘I know too many race car drivers. I don’t trust them. You black flag a few and they want to get back at you,’" Head said with a laugh.
He said, though, that’s he’s proud of the respect he receives from drivers. Even those he’s had issues with on the track he’s able to shake their hands afterwards, making sure he never leaves the track mad at anyone.
It’s the people and drivers he’s met who have added to his love of his job.
"I always like to go down to Victory Lane and congratulate the winners of every division. I think that goes a long way with the drivers," he said.
"I have a lot of good family friends that race cars and things like that. After doing it for so many years, you see their children come into it and now their grandchildren are getting into it and everything. It’s just something I really love."
Even though Head didn’t get into racing until he was an adult, he hasn’t wasted any time jumping right into it. He estimates he’s been to all racetracks within 200-300 miles of Greenville, South Carolina, including Cup Series races at Charlotte and Martinsville.
As he begins the 2020 season at Anderson and Greenville Pickens, Head is antsy to get back in his truck and flag stand again for another season.
"I love the sport and I’ll be glad to get back with it," he said. "It’s just something I love and hope to continue doing it as long as I possibly can."
NASCAR racing is scheduled to return to Anderson Motor Speedway on June 12 with a slate of Limiteds, BM Modifieds, Asphalt Mini Stocks, US Legends, Front Wheel Drive, and Asphalt Pure Stocks.