Over the past two years, Charles “Reed” Farmer has contracted the COVID-19 virus. twice.
He underwent a heart operation. twice.
He was suffering from pneumonia. Double pneumonia.
However, the biggest news regarding Farmer happened only last week.
won a race.
Yes, Farmer, who will turn 90 on October 15, won the 10-lap freestyle race at the short-track Talladega, a 1/3-mile dirt track located near Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
The farmer is a regular at the track. That is, until health problems have limited the race over the past two years. Some believe heart and breathing problems may finally sideline Farmer, who won more than 700 short-run races, and whose long resume in the sport earned him induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2021.
Those who thought they didn’t know Farmer well.
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“He has a gene that no one else has,” Farmer’s old friend and fellow Alabama gangster Donnie Allison told NBC Sports. “Whatever drives him, I’m glad he got it. I think if he stops doing what he’s doing, he might die.”
Farmer was working hard in his shop on Wednesday but stopped by – somewhat reluctantly – to talk about his recent success.
“I started in turns, went into Turn 1 and came out of Turn 2 in the lead,” he told NBC Sports. Then I walked away from the field. The car was really good, delivered all the way through.”
Farmer talks about his racing like he’s 29, not 89. There is no mention of his age, except when he is faced with the fact that health problems sometimes accompany him.
“I spoke to him a week before he won the race,” Allison said. “We were in his shop, and all he could talk about was his new car. He was expecting to do well in it.”
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Farmer plans to return to the Talladega dirt track for three races next month.
“I’ve been sick for two years and now I have really bad breathlessness,” he said. “I was able to run some hot laps but didn’t race until recently. I tried a freestyle two months ago and almost died before I got out of the car. I was short of breath. But my doctors changed my medication a bit to try to strengthen my heart.”
“After I won the hot race and passed the scale, I was breathing a little hard, but nothing like I was.”
Farmer, who has raced with a NASCAR license since 1953, said he realized after winning the heat race that his breathing problems would prevent him from completing the feature. He started outside the front row and ran off the field on a fast lap.
“I let the field pass,” he said. “I ran a few laps so I could get my ‘gas’ money, and then I went out and watched my grandsons race.”
The short track plans to celebrate the farmer’s 90th birthday with the Red Farmer 90th Birthday Bash race on October 15.
“I hope to run the features race one of the upcoming weekends,” Farmer said. “I have to play it by ear.”
He’s already flew in the January ice episode, which kicks off the season in the short Talladega track, according to his schedule.
Allison, 82, said he remains impressed by Farmer’s determination to run the next lap.
“He’s trying to get his strength back,” Allison said. “It’s amazing even as long as I know him to see him do what he’s doing. I’m so much younger, so much stronger, and I have a hard time doing it.”