Aaron Ridley has three wins this year in the Southern Regional Racing Series, but the driver’s latest victory might be the most special of the trio.
The Chatsworth dirt track racer won Friday at Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, four days after cousin Biddle Ridley died following a two-year battle with cancer.
He was 72.
Aaron dedicated the race to Biddle, who was the longtime crew chief for brother Jody Ridley. That included when he was on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, where he claimed 1980 rookie of the year honors and picked up a win at Delaware’s Dover International Speedway the following year.
“He lived right across the street from our shop,” Aaron said this week while recalling Biddle.
Biddle also had a racing past before becoming Jody’s crew chief, adding to the Ridley family legacy. Aaron said Biddle “was a big-time racer” and claimed some of his victories at Boyd’s Speedway.
Friday’s 40-lap feature was Aaron’s first at the quarter-mile oval track in Ringgold, and the win earned him a $3,000 prize. He outlasted Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C., and Tyrone’s Jason Knowles. After the race, Aaron dedicated the victory to Biddle.
“When I won the race, it felt like the right thing to do at the time,” Aaron said. “It was right here close to home. He lived across the street from us and battled cancer and had his ups and downs. The next thing you know he is gone.”
Aaron’s dad, Doug Ridley, said Aaron started racing just as Jody and Biddle moved away from professional driving.
“They were sort of close,” Doug said. “Jody and Biddle’s daddy was my great- uncle. They are third cousins, but I call it ‘next-door kin.’”
Aaron also won Southern Regional Racing Series events at Chatsworth’s North Georgia Speedway on June 2 and at Blue Ridge’s SugarCreek Raceway on June 23.
“This has been one of our better years we’ve ever had,” he said.
Aaron is currently fourth in the SRRS points standings with 1,695. He is 705 behind the leader, Riley Hickman.
“We missed the first four races. If we had been in those, we’d be in first, hands down,” Aaron said. “We were waiting on a motor at the beginning of the year, and that’s the reason we didn’t get to run those first four races.”
However, he’s still happy to get the win on the heels of a somber few days for his family.
“It meant a lot because it was so close to him passing away,” Aaron said.
Doug is proud of his son for making the gesture.
“It meant a lot to dedicate that race,” he said. “There were 39 cars that night and some good cars. There were no slouches there. I’m just glad he did that.”
There’s also another omen from the race that made him think of Biddle.
“A little boy who helped me, his grandmother dated Biddle,” Aaron said.
The boy, 16-year-old Bryson Walls of Chatsworth, told the Ridleys he had a feeling there was an invisible hand at play.
“He said after the race he felt like there was someone watching over us because we did all the right things and made all the right decisions,” Aaron said. “That hit home when he said that. When we did win, it became pretty emotional for everybody.”