By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com – It is said that you can’t tell the players without a program. That may be true in some cases, but Doug Warnes was a little different. Back in the Day, everyone knew who the bright purple and white Karbelt Speed & Custom car was. Doug was well respected and a fan favorite with his paint scheme and always kept his cars, himself and crew looking very respectable. Tommy McClure, race announcer at the C.N.E. impressed with the look of the crew tagged them with the name ‘Mr. Kleen’ which stuck with Doug his entire career. The team would become the first to wear matching uniforms that were made for them by Doug’s sister. They wore vibrant purple shirts with each of the crew members with their name on them. Black pants with a purple stripe down the sides and they even wore white coveralls in the pits.
Doug and his uncle first attended races at the C.N.E. in the early 50′s and it got Doug hooked. Doug’s racing career began in 1953 when he bought his car, a Ford coupe, for $400. It was powered by a George Bowers built motor. Bowers cars and motors powered most of the top running cars for much of the late 50′s and well into the 60′s. His first car was painted black and yellow and he took the only available number which was 79. For the first few years Doug was learning the ropes and wasn’t to competitive. By the summer of 1956 he was racing other tracks including the track at Wasaga Beach. He started to win a few features and was quickly gaining more confidence. A big change to Warnes racing career came part way through the 1957 season when he sold his car and bought the familiar purple and white #90. The driver of that car was Ron Davidson but when his job transferred him the U.S. the car was put up for sale and Doug took over. He continued to flourish and as rules became more liberal. His break out year was 1961. With another Bowers built car Doug raced and won regularly at tracks like the C.N.E., Wasaga and Sutton. At one point that year he won the Wasaga feature for five straight weeks.
In 1962, Doug built a Super Modified and raced at the C.N.E. and also entered it in the Oswego Classic that year. Doug was a top 10 racer for most of the year and by the end of the ’63 season he was running 4 or 5 nights a week at Wasaga, Nilestown, C.N.E., Sutton and Delaware Speedways. That fall, Arthur Higgins, racing chairman at the C.N.E. announced for the upcoming racing season the track was dropping the popular Super Modifieds for a new and cheaper to run series called Late Models. Pinecrest Speedway made the switch the previous year and it was well received with drivers and fans alike. Doug had the distinction of winning the first ever Late Model race at C.N.E. oval but it didn’t come easy. Warnes who started on the pole shot out to huge lead and dominated the race but with one lap remaining the strap holding the hood down came off and the hood flew up and covered the windshield. Warnes kept his foot to the floor with his head out the window and still managed to take the heat victory. The car ran well for much of the season winning more times than not. Doug attributes a lot of the success and condition of the car to his father in law Mike Proctor and his long time friend Ron Moulds. There were numerous hours spent by everyone maintaining, repairing and keep the car always immaculate and race ready.
The 1965 season saw a change and it didn’t sit to well with Warnes. On the positive side they built a brand new car that was lighter and able to compete with the other top runners of the day, Norm Lelliott, Vic Parsons and Jack Cook. But a new sponsor, Tops Auto Body was on board and they painted the car and got to choose the color. They felt a burgundy color was much nicer looking than the purple and white that Doug raced for several years. His other sponsor was Town and Country Auto Wreckers and they had other cars that were also painted burgundy. The first two weeks Warnes had nothing but trouble with the car being damaged quite badly. Doug decided a color change may bring better luck so changed back to the familiar colors. It seemed to work and for the remainder of the season the purple and white Karbelt Speed & Custom #90 car was a frequent visitor to winner’s circle. 1966 brought the close of the track at the C.N.E. and Doug managed to finish fifth in the final feature. Doug along with several other racers routinely made the trek east every year to race International events at tracks in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The C.N.E. closed early ever year to make way for the annual Exhibition so this was a natural for the drivers to continue racing. The first year Doug destroyed the rest of the competition winning two of three of the big races. In the third race, Doug told me of the battles that ensued with Daytona Don Biederman. In that race Warnes was running close to the front all day but on the final lap lapped traffic gave Doug problems and was railroaded by Biederman and left on the outside finishing an eventual third. The next year saw Doug lose the first 50 lap feature race in Antigonish to the legend Jr. Hanley. In the second one Biederman edged out Warnes and they finished one-two.
In 1967, Doug continued his winning ways taking the track championships at Westgate and Nilestown. He ran Flamboro in 1968 and would continue his winning ways over the next few years. A huge fan favorite at all the tracks he ran and Doug just kept getting better winning his share of races. He was the points champion at Sunset and third at Pinecrest in 1971. He matched the feat and won the Sunset crown again in ’72 and was victorious in the International event held at Pinecrest as well as best appearing car at Pinecrest in 1973. In 1974, another battle with Biederman saw the two battle hard and it eventually took its toll and Daytona Don’s engine blew on lap 95 and that opened the door for Warnes to take the 100 lap International event. Doug would continue racing for a few more years, still successful I might add, but the travel and ever increasing cost and stiff competition contributed to him hanging up the helmet. However it lasted just a few days and Doug was back in a car that he purchased from Rick Harwood. For the first time in almost 20 years, Warnes was no longer in his familiar purple and white. He still sported the #90 but the car was a light sea mist green. He raced well but as the year finished out, Warnes retired once again, this time for good.
Doug stayed involved with racing and along with his wife Diane were hired by Nate Salter at Sunset Speedway. Doug was the chief technical steward and along with Diane developed the scoring and handicapping system used for years at the track. Doug enjoyed his time in his new position and eventually helped his son Rick to get into racing, first at Shakell’s Sunset Speedway, where he started in the Street Stock division, eventually moving to Super Late Models at Sunset, then went to running Super Late Models at Peterborough and the Flexmor Super Late Model series. Then for a change of car, Rick raced for several season with the Canadian Vintage Modifieds with the traditional purple paint scheme on his #95 – 1937 Dodge coupe and today he currently occasionally runs an Open Wheel Modified. The past couple of years you would have found Doug with his son Rick and his son / Doug’s grandson Rob running their Open Wheel Modifieds at tracks including Mosport, Delaware, Peterborough, Sauble and Varney Speedways. Grandson Rob decided to follow in the family racing tradition a couple of years ago and his first couple of years saw some rough nights for the young racer. On the final fan appreciation night of the 2009 season at Mosport, he slammed the front straight wall and rolled his open wheel modified on its roof. During the fan appreciation, the girls handed out the treats to the fans from a table rather than from the car, while the crew and several helpers thrashed on the badly damaged modified with the purpose of getting the car ready for the feature race. Rob was able to get some hot laps after intermission and the team was able to make a few adjustments before the feature, he started scratch and had an impressive 4th place finish in a badly beaten modified. The car was rebuilt for the 2010 season, only once again to see a wild ride, this time at Peterborough on the second lap of the Autumn Colours modified feature, the modified climbed the back straight wall and rode the jersey barriers, finishing with the badly damaged modified ending up between turns 3 and 4 at Peterborough during the Autumn Colours modified feature. That car has since been rebuilt and is ready for battle again. Currently the Warnes racing team, which now consists of four Open Wheel Modifieds are preparing and looking forward to the 2012 season at Mosport and Peterborough Speedways with the Techtonix Open Wheel Modifieds.
A few things have remained constant. Over the years, Doug became an expert engine builder and always played within the rules. He has been building the team’s engines, along with several other race team’s engines, Crawford, Mahoney, Hart, Bell and many others over the past years. The other constant was the purple and white that he and Rick sported through their careers. Currently one of the teams Open Wheel Modifieds is the traditional purple color. It was a great experience meeting with Doug and Rick and seeing them again at the 50th anniversary celebrations at Flamboro Speedway in 2011. Doug is truly a fine gentleman and one of the greatest and most successful racers over the past 50 years. This article wouldn’t have been possible without the meeting I had with Doug and Rick. Thanks for your hospitality. Also for the information in the book, “The Golden Years of Stock Car Racing in Toronto” by Nate Salter, a great book on the history of racing Back in the Day!
Photos from the Doug Warnes Collection