Scott “Slim” Patman won upwards of 90 street stock and modified features in his nearly 20-year career of racing on dirt tracks across southern Indiana and nearby states.
His brother, Tom Patman of Vallonia, can tell you the significance of each of his brother’s wins from the first in 1991 to the biggest payoff ($4,000) and to one of Scott’s last wins in 1999 (at Brownstown Speedway).
On May 2, Brownstown Speedway will conduct a special street stock race in memory of Scott Patman, who lost his battle with cancer Jan. 5. The Scott Patman Memorial will pay $1,000 to the winner.
Tom said his brother, who was 57 when he died, would be just as surprised to learn a race had been named after him as he was the night in 2013 when he was inducted into the Brownstown Speedway Hall of Fame.
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“I knew about it, but he didn’t,” Tom, 58, said of that induction ceremony, which also included a surprise for Tom.
He was inducted into the hall the same night even though he never won a race himself.
“The best I ever finished was third,” Tom said. That was driving a ride he shared for one season with two other local drivers, Mark Kellner and Steve McQuary.
“Every third week, you got to drive,” he said.
He said he figures he was included in the hall of fame because his brother never raced anywhere unless older brother Tom was there to work on the car and help with the finances. Slim also worked for Tom, who owns a construction business.
Tom said he eventually decided to get out of the driver side of racing, and he paired up with his brother in the mid-1980s.
It couldn’t have been any other way because the brothers were pretty much inseparable, according to Scott’s son Nathan Patman of Brownstown.
“They raced together every week,” he said. “They went hunting together in the fall.”
But Tom said Slim was just a better driver.
Tom said the Patman brothers never had the best equipment or a lot of sponsorship money, but Scott was able to win by driving smarter than the other drivers.
He said he figures being able to beat drivers who came from racing families who had better equipment was all the motive he and his brother needed to excel at a sport that’s never easy.
The Patmans didn’t come from a racing family although their dad, Raymond, often took them to races when they were children.
“We went to the Hoosier 100 more than once, and our grandpa (Wilbur Eggersman) took us to the Indy 500,” Tom said.
But none of the older family members ever raced or owned a car.
“We learned on our own, me and Slim,” Tom said.
Scott had his own car at first, Tom said. It was a light-blue, four-door 1972 Ford Torino their dad bought from a dealership, and Craig Darlage of Brownstown was his first crew chief.
“It was (a) driver’s ed car,” Tom said.
They mostly raced at the Brownstown Speedway, and it didn’t take a lot to field a car back then, Tom said.
“But more than we had,” he said. “It was a lot of work.”
Winning that first race in 1991 at Brownstown ended nine years of frustration for Slim. From that point forward, he was always a threat to win no matter where he raced or what kind of car he was racing, Nathan said.
The Patmans were able to win for a couple of reasons, Tom said.
“We outworked them and outsmarted them,” he said. “We didn’t outmoney them.”
Slim also learned a lot from watching veteran drivers such as Jim Curry of Norman, who won the Jackson 100 three times, Tom said.
He said if he and his brother visited Curry during the week, they could usually count on a win Saturday night.
The pair also developed quite a local following of fans who would travel to different tracks to watch Slim race, Tom said.
He said there are two things he took away from his years of stock car racing.
One is that some people spent a lot of money trying to win races, while another group raced to have fun. The Patmans were in the second group.
“The other one I will always remember is there’s been lots of good racing careers lost because of marriages, and there’s been a lot of good marriages lost because of racing careers,” Tom said. “Both ways. Me and Slim were very fortunate there though. A lot of women won’t put up with racing.”
After picking up that first win, Slim went on to win five more times that year, seven in 1992, 18 in 1993 and 10 in 1994. In 1995, the Patmans switched from the street stock class to modifieds. Tom said he lost track of the wins after that, but they won every year including the three or four victories Slim captured during his last season in 1999.
Tom said modifieds required more concentration that a street stock.
“They’re a driver’s car,” he said.
Slim won the 1991 street stock title at Brownstown Speedway, where he won 48 races. He also won a modified title at the speedway in 1995 along with the Bloomington Pro-Stock Champion title in 1993 and three other track titles.
“We probably raced 40, 45 times a year,” Tom said. “Usually a couple of times a week.”
Tom said the pair eventually decided to get out of racing because of cost and smaller purses. Tracks started reducing purses but not reducing the cost of admission for spectators.
“A prime example is in 1998. We won the modified portion of the Jackson 100, and it paid $2,000, and today it pays $1,000,” he said. “Do the math. Admission prices are not half price of what they were in 1998.”
Tom said he couldn’t believe the number of people who showed up for his brother’s funeral at Johnson Funeral Home in Vallonia in January.
“There was family, friends, racers and riders there,” Tom said. “Slim was pretty well respected to have that many people there.”
Racers from across the country such as present late model stars Jimmy Owens sent flowers for the funeral.
Nathan Patman said his dad got to know Jimmy Owens pretty well when they were both racing modifieds.
His dad didn’t like bragging about what he did on the track, but he was always happy when he was able to beat Owens, Nathan said.
Tom said the racing community is pretty tight-knit.
“We met a lot of good people through racing through the years, no doubt about it,” he said.
For the record, Scott Patman’s the largest payoff came in 1996 at the Vermillion Speedway in Danville, when he took home $4,000 for winning the David Richardson Memorial UMP modified race.
Tom said he was impressed and honored that a race has been named after Slim.
Nathan Patman agreed.
“I thought it was awesome,” he said. “I feel it is a honor.”
He said he felt his dad would be surprised by the recognition.
“He was a very quiet man,” Nathan said. “He was just very laid back and also a very humble man.”
Nathan said he started going to the races with his family when he was 10 months old.
“I didn’t really know what other kids did on Saturday night until I was 16,” he said. “I loved being at the racetrack. We would work on the car all day Saturday and then go to the racetrack.”
He said he even raced a couple of years but then married, had a son of his own and didn’t have the same desire for racing that his dad did.
“I just didn’t have the time,” Nathan said.
He said he thinks his dad would have continued racing as long as he was physically able to do so.
“He was a creature of habit,” he said. “He worked for Tom his whole life. He raced his whole life. He didn’t change a lot.”
He said for the majority of people who are successful at what they do, there has to be commitment.
“It’s just a way of life,” Nathan said. “It takes that level of commitment to be successful. I think that was part of it. He was just good at it. He was a very laid-back person, who stayed calm and focused regardless of what was going on around him.”
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What: Scott Patman Memorial Race for streets stocks
When: May 2
Where: Brownstown Speedway
Purse: $1,000 to win