Abbott an institution at raceway

Buddy Abbott is president of the Gatornationals Booster Club


Published: Monday, March 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 1, 2004 at 12:26 a.m.

They were both easily recognizable at Gainesville Raceway this weekend, Buddy Abbott, a veteran racer from the day the track opened, and his son Gene, who's campaigned in the Super Comp and Super Gas divisions of the Lucas Oil Southeastern Div. 2 Drag Racing Series.

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Buddy Abbott, president of the Gatornationals Booster Club, talks with his son Gene in a 1938 Chevrolet Roadster on Saturday at the Gainesville Raceway.

ALLISON LABINE/Special to The Sun

Senior Abbott, 69, has three track championships and finished third last year. While he's not in his Super Pro '58 Corvette until next month's Gatornationals, he was busy in a golf cart, passing out coffee and donuts to the competitors and as president of the Gatornationals Booster Club spreading the word about the upcoming 35th anniversary of the Mac Tools Gatornationals.

"This is my fourth year as president of the boosters," Abbott says. "Our main function is to assist Gainesville Raceway in any ventures they undertake. And we've had a float in the University of Florida Homecoming parade for the past 15 years."

The 100-member club also is represented in Christmas parades in Bell, High Springs, Alachua and Hawthorne.

"And of course, we operate this hospitality cart at all raceway events, and we conducted our fourth annual car show in conjunction with the weekend," Abbott says. He had help with the coffee convoy this weekend from fellow boosters Yvette Glisson, Craig Lopez and Jerry Flunker, all of Gainesville.

So, from his 140-mph race car to the stop and go of this past weekend, Buddy stays involved.

For years, Abbott has been recognized with the 10-gallon hat he wore and cut-off sleeves denim shirt. The better for racers to come to him asking about a part. Most of the weekend called for long sleeves, and a jacket, however.

"I would imagine just about every racer out here has borrowed something from Buddy at one time or another," raceway general manager Don Robertson says. "He'll help out anybody who needs something."

And while Gene, Buddy, grandson Mike and niece Amy Clifton (in weekly competition) are still on the A-Team, it did at one time include wife Nancy and grandson Tim. Nancy "retired" from driving, also with three track championships, and Tim moved to Tampa.

Gene, who competed in his Super Comp dragster and Super Gas Chevy roadster, a 1938 Chevrolet roadster this weekend.

He lost in an early round in the dragster but went several rounds in the roadster.

He had momentum coming into this weekend's event. He won the Citrus Nationals at Orlando in December and last week's Super Gas Association meet, both in the roadster.

"I've been racing 35, almost 40 years now. My dad used to take me to the race track when I was 14 years old," he says.

And as well as on the race track, Gene has followed his dad into their day business, Professional Plastering.

Now 52, younger Abbott has won the Chevy Show, the Citrus Nationals twice and the Snowbird Nationals at Bradenton twice, so what triumph stands out most?

"Anytime you win it's good, you know what I mean? But I guess the one that sticks out is runner-up in a national event, the Virginia is for Lovers Nationals, back in '96. I mean, I really enjoyed that because it was a national and you get your picture taken with John Force and all them guys.

"This year we're going to try and run eight division races and three nationals, the Gators, Bristol and then Atlanta."

Gene's wife, Dianna, although she works during the week, is now going to many of the away races with him.

"She started going with me the end of last year, and I mean I've done so much better because she's with me and helps me keep up with things. She works awfully hard at her regular job (at a pest control company), but just having her with me is a really a big help," Abbott says.

The Gatornationals Booster Club meets the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the raceway. Further information is on the Web site, www.gnbclub.net, or from the raceway.

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