Hall of Famer Tim Fuller: Up Close and Personal

By Robin Yasinsac-Gillespie

Three-time Mr. DIRT Series titlist Tim Fuller has been selected to join the elite class of racing greats in the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame. The 31st annual induction ceremonies will be held on Thursday, July 13 in the Hall of Fame Museum on the grounds of Weedsport Speedway in New York.

Mild-mannered and often underrated, the 55-year-old Fuller from Watertown, NY, is the true definition of a dyed-in-the-wool racer—rightfully earning his Hall of Fame status with a career 261 wins, at current count, taken down at 45 tracks in 14 states, two Canadian provinces and Australia.

Tim Fuller was too young to remember his dad racing, but it was always a family thing. So it wasn’t a surprise when Fuller showed up with a Pure Stock in 1988, at nearby Can-Am and Evans Mills. From there, he spent a single season in the Sportsman ranks, securing three wins at Can-Am before cashing everything in for a 358 Modified, a car purchased from Tommy Kinsella. In 1993, he won his first Mr. DIRT 358 Modified Series title.

“I started following the DIRT tour and things kind of took off,” recalled Fuller. “I wasn’t Danny Johnson right out of the park but I think I caught on quick. I came from zero money, at a time when you had to do it on your own—I didn’t have rich parents, so maybe that’s why I caught on quick.”

If he wanted to be successful, he had to find his own way. “I took it serious and, even way back to my Pure Stock days, I worked really hard at it.”

Fuller was hungry—both figuratively and literally: tales circulated on the tour about his willingness to sacrifice everything, living on baloney sandwiches so he could spend all his money to race.

“It wasn’t baloney, it was baloney and cheese! That was all I could afford,” laughed Fuller, verifying that story and detailing his jobs with the highway department and in a zinc mine. “Those stories aren’t embellished. I owned nothing and was as poor as they come. We got paid bi-weekly and I always had to borrow $20 the day before because I was out of money. I wanted to race that bad.”

His struggle was real—but worth it.

Through the ’90s Fuller posted wins at Brewerton, Brockville, Can-Am, Cornwall, Frogtown and Weedsport. He took the Evans Mills track title in both 1992 and 1993.

And he was soaking up every bit of knowledge thrown his way.

In 1987, “I ended up going to Florida with Bob McCreadie because he needed some help and from that point on we became really good friends,” said Fuller, whose first memory of McCreadie was in a kiddie ride Tim took in Bob’s car when he was seven years old. “I would say he was my mentor. He was the one that helped me along in the beginning stages of my racing.”

McCreadie had spent a couple of winters racing in Australia; when he dropped out, Fuller took his place.

“What a great opportunity!” Tim said of the off-season tour Down Under. “I went over there for five years. Those were good times!”

It was also McCreadie that pushed Fuller to the next level: a big-block Modified.

“If you wanted to be a professional racer that’s what you had to do. You weren’t going to make it in small-blocks—Bob drilled that in my head,” said Fuller. “You have to remember, back in those days, it was big-block and Hoosier tires—that was it. And if you wanted to make it, that’s what you had to run.”

He went Modified racing in 1995.

Fuller’s big break came in 1999 when his talents caught the eye of Pennsylvania car owner Bob Faust, a bigger-than-life individual who was quick to tell you how fat his wallet was—and how good his equipment was. That was a lot for the unassuming independent racer—but an opportunity Fuller didn’t want to pass on.

Faust saw the struggling Fuller on the pit line at Volusia Speedway, towing with an open trailer and rummaging through his pockets. Big Bob offered to pay for Tim’s pit pass.

“I told him if you pay my way into the races, you will be my biggest sponsor for the year,” Fuller recounted.

“Well then,” Faust shot back, “I expect to see my name on your car!”

On the spot, Tim took a Sharpie and wrote ‘B&F General Machine’ on the side of the car.

Later in the year at Bridgeport, “maybe in July or August, he walked by the back of my hauler and said, ‘I’ll be calling you in the morning.’ And he did. He had gotten rid of his driver and I took over.”

It took a few years for the newly formed team to gel, but once they found the combination they were turning heads up and down the Northeast.

“He [Faust] was so tough in the beginning, I honestly didn’t know if I would make it,” said Fuller. “In 2000 we were at Brewerton and I think we finished fifth or sixth—I had a Syracuse motor in, something off the wall and it wasn’t good. He had given me a cell phone because he always wanted to talk and he called me on the way home and just kept bitching, reading me the riot act. Well, I took that phone and threw it out on Route 81!

“I thought for sure I was fired! And I didn’t care at the time because I’d had enough! The next morning I picked up my landline at the shop and it’s Bob and he asked what happened last night and I said I threw the phone out the window —and he just started laughing! We were great after that.”

Bob and Michele Faust and Fuller’s family became close and the team did well in the racing game: 61 wins, including the 2004 Syracuse big-block classic, the Rolling Wheels 200, back-to-back 200s at Fulton, and DIRT series events in NY, NJ, PA and Canada. With wins came championships: the 2003 Mr. DIRT 358 Series and 2005 Mr. DIRT overall Modified crowns, the 2004 Empire DIRT Series championship, four titles at Fulton Speedway and two at Weedsport.

“I think we were so good for each other,” explained Fuller, who maintains a lasting friendship with Faust. “He always wanted to win in Central NY, he wanted to win all of the big races, the DIRT races, and he just never had that opportunity. And I was in the same boat—I wanted to win them all, too.

“And guess what? We did.”

Despite winning two huge title events in 2004 [the Super DIRT Week Modified race and a Victoria 200), Faust decided that while riding on “top of the game” he was going to retire from racing. The successful pair parted at the end of that year.

Fuller did some stuff with John Lazore and then a phone call added another twist to his already colorful story.

“John Wight called, it was a call that came at the right time,” said Fuller. “He had some Late Models—did I want to drive one?”

The answer was YES.

“I had done the Brewerton-Canandaigua-Weedsport and the Super DIRT Series thing for so long—I was looking for something new. We did some tests in 2006 and I went racing in 2007. It wasn’t expected to go as far as it went, but we did that for seven years.”

He still dabbled in everything though.

“Fortunately, the World of Outlaws Late Model and the DIRT Modified organizations are owned by the same people,” said Fuller. “In 2007 I was in a position to win both the WoO Late Model Rookie of the Year [which he did win] and the big-block DIRT points—I led them the whole way, which was kind of unheard of. That was when you didn’t need Modified track points and could just run the series races toward the title. Then in the last race at Middletown, I blew the engine and Brett [Hearn] ended up winning the points.”

Success followed on the national Late Model circuit also. Fuller’s 2009 season was one to remember: two tour wins at Hagerstown, singles at Sharon, Cedar Lake, Grandview, Bedford, Screven, Brewerton and Tri-City, and 12 Fast Time Awards on the year.

“I’m so happy that I did that,” said Fuller, of his time on the road.

Not only good racing—but some good-for-the-soul family bonding.

“My wife [Lori] and daughters McKenzie [28] and Ainsley [18] used to travel with me all the time,” recalled Fuller. “We would stay out on the road for three or four weeks—it was a great way for the kids to grow up! Ainsley has seen so many things—the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore. It might not be the way to raise a family, per se, out on the road, but we did it for a little while and we had some great times.”

Then Fuller and Wight split in the spring of 2011. John Kennedy stepped in and tried to keep Fuller going for a couple of seasons and then Fuller did a season on his own dime—and that almost broke him.

“I had the needle in my arm and wanted to keep going with it,” he conceded. “I felt like there was some unfinished business in the Late Models. I tried to do it on my own, then had a couple of bad breaks early in the year, and I just said screw it, I can’t do it.”

So the prodigal son returned to his roots. “You need deep pockets to run Late Models—deeper than Modifieds,” Tim emphasized. “I felt like I was putting my tail between my legs and going back to Modified racing but I had to make a living. And I thought my best bet to make a living was Modifieds. That’s what I know.”

While doing the Late Model gig Fuller still kept his foot in the door: Steve Hastings and Joe Knoth had been flying him in to drive their #74 for some of the Modified title shows.  And when he returned in 2015 he did wheel-time for old friend Dave Rauscher, then Ray Graham. He has been racing for Mike and Barb Maresca since 2017.

Since coming home Fuller has taken another Super DIRT Week small-block win, three titles at Mohawk Speedway, and two more at Can-Am, where it all started for him many years ago. He’s already aced a big one in 2023, dominating Fonda’s Jack Johnson tribute event paying $12,000 to win.

Fuller’s always been one of the quiet ones, never really surrounding himself with much hoopla.

“I was never flamboyant—I think I’ve only been on top of my car a half-dozen times in my career. I wasn’t the one to go nuts in victory lane,” Fuller downplayed, recalling an example. “I passed [Matt] Sheppard for the lead and $10,000 at Devil’s Bowl—came into the pits and said, ‘Let’s get the car loaded up’ and we were the first ones out of the pits. The kid that was helping me that night looked over at me as we were pulling out of the gate and asked, ‘Aren’t you even excited?’”

He’s slowly embracing his induction into the Hall of Fame.

“I wasn’t too excited about it in the beginning but then I talked to Bob [McCreadie]. Now I get mixed emotions about it: on one hand, going into the Hall of Fame means you are getting to the end of your career,” Fuller analyzed. “But then you remember when you were a kid starting out and you walked through the museum and would see all of those names up on the wall…it’s pretty cool to be recognized with that group. It means you did something right.”

And for all the sacrifice and struggles he endured on his road to the front—Fuller wouldn’t change a thing. He especially treasures the friendships he’s made along the way.

“There have been so many cool people that kept me going through some lull times. It’s amazing that some of those people didn’t want anything back—they didn’t even want their names on the car!” Fuller appreciated. “They just wanted to keep watching me race.”