FRANK COATES, of Hodges, South Carolina, may not be known by fans and competitors throughout the country but he has been a force at speedways in the Palmetto State for over four decades. At any dirt track in the state of South Carolina, when his red and white 21 Ford rolls through the gate everyone knows he will be in the hunt for the win.
Pride of South Carolina
Now 66 years old, Coates has no intentions of getting out of the racing business. Over his career, he has won 175 races across his home state and eight track championships. “I have won races all over the state of South Carolina.” Coates has concentrated most of his efforts on the Laurens County Speedway, where he has won 100 Late Model features and six championships. Both of these are all-time track records.
Laurens promoter Danny Hurley said Coates is an asset to the track. Coates won several races and the Laurens championship in 2020. “We all like him,” Hurley said. “Frank has been all over the state and he is a likeable fellow.”
Jimmy Taylor, like Coates, has raced and won across the state and he said it is special when he beats Coates in a race. “Frank is fun to race with,” Taylor said. “The fun comes in when you are able to pass him and drive away from him.”
Loyal to Laurens
Coates has success everywhere he races, including two championships at Batesburg Speedway, but is particularly loyal to Laurens County. “I like Laurens. It is closer to my home. They pay a good purse; better than most tracks.”
The Laurens Speedway is a three eights mile red dirt track that caters to local fans and racers. They hold the cost of the cars down. There is a good car count in every class of cars every Saturday.
Coates was asked what is left to add to his resume and he shared that the biggest disappointment of his career was not winning a big race at Cherokee Speedway near Gaffney, South Carolina.
Familar Ford Livery
Coates has raced Fords his entirecareer and has always owned his own race cars. Rhett Thackston does the engine work for the cars.
His red and white Fords with the number 21 and gold stripe bear a striking resemblance to the cars built by the famed Wood Brothers of NASACAR that were driven by David Pearson, among others.
“We liked Pearson. They were the Wood Brothers and we were the Coates Brothers,” Coates said.
So Far, So Good
Through his 40-year career, Coates has never been injured in a race car and has never turned one over. He said he does not take wild chances on the track but races at a pace that will have him in contention at the finish.
Always good with his fans, there was one autograph hunter that shocked Coates. “I won the race and stopped the car and was about to get out. A girl stuck her leg in the car and I had to sign her leg before she would move. I guess she had on shorts or something. Anyway, I signed her leg and she moved her leg and I got out of the car. That is the strangest autograph I have ever done.”
Best it Ever Got
His single biggest year was the 2008 season when he won the Shrine Race and 13 other races. His most cherished trophy was the one he got for winning that Shrine Race. This year, Laurens County Speedway will host the 40th Shrine Race on September 14, 2021.
This article was originally released in Issue 03-2021 of Dirt Empire Magazine. To read the full digital copy, click here.
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