by Tony Coppi
The Warfords of Trevlac are one of Indiana’s historical drag racing families with a fleet of two Corvettes and a Willys pickup. They have raced since Mel Warford ran his first race at Stout Field in Indianapolis in 1954. Those drag races were the first to be held in Indiana. He competed in all events.
After his retirement from racing his son Randy has been at the wheel of the dragsters. With his dad as chief mechanic, he carries on the tradition of a winning team. Now, Jordan, Randy’s eight-year-old daughter, is racing in the junior dragster class at Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP) against other youngsters up to 16 years of age. She drives a five horsepower go-cart. She is one of the youngest drivers to compete at Raceway Park.
Besides winning a truckload of trophies, this family has received other honors. Mel was a winner every week at the Terre Haute drag strip in 1957 driving a ’57 Chevy. He raced at the first Nationals at Indiana Raceway Park. He held a national record every year until 1980 with his ’40s Willys pickup. Last year they were voted as being the best appearing car at Raceway Park. Recently they were featured in an article in that appeared in Drag News, a premier publication covering the heart of America. Racing in the annual National Hot Rod Association championships at Indianapolis Raceway Park each September is the ultimate goal of all drag racers. The Warford family is proud to have reached this goal.
Mel, now 69, explained how it all started: “My father started a garage in 1936. He was a mechanic and I just got interested in automobiles. In 1954 I started racing at Stout Field (National Guard Airport) in Indianapolis with a ’50 Mercury. We just raced for the fun of it and for trophies. I enjoyed it and it mushroomed. At that time we drove about 98 miles an hour on the quarter mile track. We also raced in Louisville and Bowling Green, Kentucky and in Cincinnati.”
Randy started drag racing when he was 14 years old. “I was always around with my dad at races, I started out here in Bean Blossom at the Brown County drag strip in a ’58 Camaro and raced there two or three years,” he said. “I started at IRP about eight years ago with Super Comps (Competition) and Super Gas cars. The Super Comps reach a speed up to 165 miles per hour and the Super Gas cars at 145 mph. Last year at the U.S. Nationals I went five rounds (elimination rounds) and in the second round I beat the reigning world champion, Edmond Richardson. In the third round I beat the two-time reigning champion Sheldon Gecker. It was a pretty good year,” he said.
Randy enjoys taking his wife, Lori, and their three daughters, Ashton, 12, Jordan, 8, and Morgan, 5, to the dragstrips. He says their support is the secret to his winning so many races.
Mel and his wife Carole live in Trevlac on State Rd 45 near Lake Lemon in Jackson Township. Their home was once occupied by Colonel Calvert, said to have brought the Illinois Central railroad to Brown County. The town was named after Calvert—only spelled backwards. The small village was also known as Gold Creek, Bear Creek and Richards. When the Calverts lived there it was a one-room log cabin. Over the years the Calverts and later the Warford family made improvements. Mel and Carole have lived in the home for 50 years.
Trevlac has been the home of the Warfords since the small town was founded.
“My grandfather (Ed Warford) had a grocery store and post office in Trevlac. He was the first postmaster and was there for 54 years. Originally the first post office was in Bear Creek up on the hill. When the train would come in to Trevlac the mail bags were thrown off and I would pick them up and take them to the post office,” Mel said.
Adjacent to their home is the family business Warford Silgas, which they have owned since 1961. During the racing season another son, Ron, takes care of the operation of the fuel company. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do if it weren’t for Ron,” Randy explained, “Someone has to mind the store.”
Ron lives in Nashville with his three daughters: Gwen, 24, Vanessa, 22, and Abby, 20.
The summer racing season keeps the Warfords busy and entertains the entire family.