by Tim Glover
For Ron Folk from Durand, Illinois, drag racing is a way of life. Now beginning his fifth decade of racing, he is still heavily involved with the sport, even though he doesn’t drive as much.
Ron met his wife of 32 years, Vicky, at his local bank. She has always gone with him and supported him. "She’s as involved as I am," added Folk. Both of their children, Brian, 30, and Nick, 22, also race successfully. In fact, Nick is the 2002 IHRA Division Five Top Dragster champ, and Brian came in second in Division Five in Top Dragster. Brian wasn’t too disappointed, since he is the 2002 Super Rod champ for IHRA Division Five.
Folk’s racing career began at fifteen. He went to Byron Dragway in 1963 with friend Bob Toelke to watch a Funny Car meet. Toelke was going to race his ’56 Chevy with a 283 and three speed, but decided to back out at the last minute. Folk spoke up and said he would drive, and he hasn’t looked back. He said he played around in Trophy class until finishing high school.
After graduation, he and his brother Randy built a ’68 Camaro to race in C/MP or D/MP. They installed a tunnel ram, four speed, and a 12 bolt rear. He said they managed a couple of runner ups, but due to budget constraints had a hard time competing. He noted that he and his brother would alternate driving duties, with Ron driving a pass, then Randy, then Ron, until they were done for they day. No one seemed to care, and they had a blast. Even then, class racing was expensive, and when families came into the picture, they cut back.
About this time, Ron Leek from Byron Dragway introduced bracket racing, which Folk admits is still his favorite style of racing. "I bracket raced until about ten years ago," he said. As Brian and Nick came up through the ranks, the family started racing at more NHRA and IHRA events. "I’m basically a bracket racer. I got involved with the NHRA and the IHRA for exposure," added Ron.
Folk was an ironworker by trade, but 23 years ago he decided to start Ron Folk Race Cars. They built complete door cars until 1993. They still do back halves, roll cages, rear end work and more. Although they don’t build the chassis, they assemble a lot of dragsters. They sell a complete line of performance parts. They are also a VP Fuels dealer for their area. "Basically, we do anything involved with drag racing," he added. After Brian graduated from college and began working with the business, they shortened the business name to Folk Race Cars. In 1993, Brian took over the operation of their parts business.
Folk won the ET1 (Super Pro) Track Champion title from 1983 to 1986 at Byron Dragway. He has numerous Tenn-Tuck wins, and also enjoyed an NHRA Super Street win during the 1999 Advance Auto Parts national event at Topeka, Kansas. Folk said he’s won just about everything except the Million Dollar Race and the Moroso Five Day race. He then added, "What I haven’t won, I feel I’ve won through my boys." Both Brian and Nick have won individual day races at the Moroso Five Day series (and Brian won the overall Moroso points championship in 1996). So far Ron has a couple of runner ups at the Five Day series events. A future win for any of the family is quite possible at the Million or Moroso. Folk was honored along with several other racers in 2002 for attending the Moroso Five Day event every year since its inception.
Folk started working with electronic fuel injection when they got involved with the Stock Eliminator cars. He figured if his boys were going to stay in racing, they might as well learn to work with the stuff. Their dragsters are equipped with F.A.S.T. fuel injection systems (owned by Comp Cams) that they have learned to tune with a LOT of R&D work. They also use the F.A.S.T. system on their ’95 T-Top E/SA Formula, and their ’95 Z/28 F/S Stock Eliminator cars. "We went backwards for a while," he added when asked how the early years went. He then noted, "There’s so much more control with fuel injection. Look around. How many cars do you see coming from the factory with a carburetor? It’s the wave of the future." He remembered watching the pioneering efforts of his friend Ike Hamma, who went through a lot of effort developing the delay box. If you don’t think he has found something in fuel injection, take a look at his son’s 7.20 second, 190mph plus dragsters. Their Super Gas Cavalier with two alky carbs is the last holdout in their racing stable. Folk admits his computer knowledge is limited to using a laptop to tune the fuel injection systems. He still is not Internet savvy.
He loves first generation and fourth generation Camaros. So far, he has owned 13 first generation Camaros, so he is now looking for a 14th car to get away from that number.
Folk has other interests, including going to his family’s cottage in northern Wisconsin (he says they don’t go enough now, although they did a lot when the boys were young). He also enjoys cutting firewood and shooting pool.
The Folks travel a lot now, but didn’t start out that way. For years they raced locally, due to budget and family constraints. He mentioned he also raced a good bit at Bowling Green. As both his sons became more involved with the sport, they began traveling to National and Divisional events. "Now we travel everywhere. None of us knew what it was going to grow into. I have met a lot of good people, and have friends all over the United States. The friendship and camaraderie is unbelievable."