MANNING - A dirt track racing legend, local businessman and entrepreneur died Saturday at the age of 77.
Edward Guy "Slick" Gibbons was a successful dirt track racer for more than two decades, winning more than 250 races on the dirt track circuit that includes racetracks from Sumter Speedway to Hemingway, Myrtle Beach, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and beyond.
While racing was Gibbons' passion on the weekends, the auto parts business was his passion during the week. He started out working for Julius Cato before he opened his first store, Clarendon Auto Parts, in 1972. Gibbons wasn't only the owner, but he was also at the store every day helping his friends and customers.
In 2013, Gibbons was inducted into the Clarendon County Athletic Hall of Fame. Before his induction, Gibbons attributed his start in dirt track racing to "a group of boys in Manning" that included Elbert Brewer and Billy Disher.
"We decided we were going to get a car and start racing," Gibbons said. "They had the ability to fix the cars, and I knew what parts we thought we needed to make the car go faster."
When racers and fans alike saw a red, white and blue 1963 Ford Falcon at the track, they knew that Gibbons was there to race.
With Gibbons at the wheel and his buddies in the pits, Gibbons won the 1970 Modified Championship and the 1978 Points Championship in the Lake Model Sportsman Division.
In an interview seven years ago, Gibbons said that in the beginning of his dirt track racing career that he and his crew would "work in the daytime to support our families and then we spent most of our free time fixing up the car and racing whenever and wherever we could. We didn't have any ideas about going pro. We just loved to race."
Gibbons' crew was more like family than crew members.
"I worked for 32 years on his racing teams," said Sean Whittle. "He was family to me. He was a hard worker who loved his family and friends."
Whittle described his friend's racing style as "aggressive."
"He knocked Dale Earnhardt out of the way because he was holding him back," Whittle shared with a laugh. "That was way back when Slick was racing at the Darlington dirt track."
"He loved racing," Whittle said. "Dirt track racing was his passion. It was so much more fun."
Whittle said that local racers and fans approached him last weekend after hearing about Gibbons' death.
"They just wanted me to know how sorry they were to hear of his death and how much he did for dirt track racing," Whittle shared. "Slick was crazy about his family. They were very close. But he was close to the racers, too. On the track they were enemies, but afterwards they were friends."
Carroll Harrington, a lifelong friend of Gibbons, often drove him to the racetracks on the weekends.
"I'd pick him up at the store and drive him to the race," Harrington said. "He'd jump in the vehicle and ask me if I was ready, and then he'd close his eyes and sleep until we got to the track."
Harrington said that Gibbons didn't know the words "slow down" or "take it easy."
"He'd work all day Monday through Saturday, and if you needed something from the store on Sunday, he'd meet you there," Harrington shared. "He'd work all day. Jump in the vehicle. We'd go to the track. Come home. He'd sleep a few hours and then head to the store at 7 a.m., and if there was a Saturday race, too, we'd leave again for the track."
Harrington also described Gibbons as a "very giving man."
"If there was a needy cause, Slick was there to help out," Harrington said. "He had the biggest heart, he and Miss Kay both."
"'Awesome' couldn't describe Gibbons well enough," Harrington added.
"You'd have to add more to it," Harrington said. "I know that I will miss him and a lot of people in Manning, Clarendon County and racing will miss him, too."
In 2013, Gibbons described his racing style as aggressive with a lot of bumping.
"That's kind of what it was like on those dirt tracks," he shared. "There was a lot of bumping and a lot of jockeying going on. You had to be smart and think a couple of moves ahead."
"I guess I was gritty good at that," Gibbons said.
Whittle and Harrington shared the same sentiments about their good friend.
"He was hard charging, hard working, and he loved his family and friends," they shared. "He will be missed."
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