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Richard’s Corner

richardparks

A Visit with Doug Stokes
06-06-08
Biography by Doug Stokes and Richard Parks
photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz

Doug Stokes is well-known by those in the media and racing in general. While we recognize his name and his generous nature in helping us at every turn, we don't really know that much about him. The following biography offers a closer look at a well-liked man in our hotrodding and racing hobby. Doug Stokes was born on 10 July 1941, at Rochester, New York, to Harold Stokes and Agnes Louise Stokes. His father came from Rochester and was of English descent. His mother was born in Rochester in 1914, and came from German/English descent. Harold and Agnes were married in 1931 and divorced in 1941, shortly after Doug was born. Harold worked at Eastman Kodak and Agnes, who much preferred to be called either Louise or 'Honey' worked at a large lithography plant as an inspector. Both of Doug's parents passed away years ago. Stokes attended PS37 (public school) and Nazareth Academy in Rochester, New York. In 1952, his mother moved to California and Doug attended Immaculate Conception in Monrovia and then graduated from Covina High School in 1959. Doug took woodshop, but says that he wasn't really good at it. His high school friends included Bill Anderson, Scot Sanders and Don Evans.  Evans, who served as a Corpsman in Viet Nam, died there from wounds that he received while saving the lives of a number of soldiers and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Doug then attended Mount San Antonio College, a Junior College affectionately called Mount Sac, where he joined the college Sports Car Club and worked on his friends' cars. He volunteered to help set up the race track at Pomona, California, for the Cal Club sports car races. The Cal Club was less stuffy than the better known Sports Car Club of America, according to many members. 

  During his school years he worked in the Los Angeles County Library System Region 8. "A good sidebar here is that I worked as the Regional Investigator, a job that consisted of visiting each of the 9 branch libraries on a rotational basis, picking up their list of overdue books, and going to each home, ringing the doorbell, and then asking for the overdue book. When I tell people about that job they either laugh, remembering the Library Cop on Seinfeld, or won’t believe me, thinking about how lethal a job like that would be these days. I really did it and the worst things that happened were doors slammed in my face.” Other jobs that Doug had were repairing bicycles in West Covina and a furniture mover. "I worked for an independent guy with a truck," he said. He also worked for Sparkle Cleaners, a dry cleaning shop. His interests were working on cars and girls. He was drafted in 1964, but the service gave him a 4F designation and he never went into the military. In 1969 he bought a very used Lotus 18 with a Ford 1600 cc engine and raced it at Riverside and Willow Springs in the early 1970's. His close friend and crewman, Scot Sanders, was a former CanAM, Indy Car, and F5000 mechanic who has worked in the local aircraft industry for the past 25 years. They are very close and many people confuse them for brothers, which they find amusing and continue to foster the notion. 

  In 1979 he became the executive director of the International Kart Federation and remained with them through 1984. During the time that Stokes ran the organization, Karting was invited to stage special events at Formula One races at Watkins Glen, New York and Long Beach, California and the organization gained membership and increased media recognition. Stokes is credited with naming the IKF’s highest award, a statuette designed by rodding artist/cartoonist Pete Millar, as “The Duffy,” for Duffy Livingstone, hot rodder and one of the fathers of Karting. Doug has worked for the San Diego Zoo, Universal City/Hollywood, Los Angeles Zoo, and Fox Photo, where he was a Key Account Representative. He then worked for Mickey Thompson Enterprises. Thompson was a larger-than-life character, who created motorcycle and car shows. Doug also worked on the Chevy-Geo Environmental Program, promoting tree-planting and fuel-efficient automobiles when gasoline was about a dollar a gallon, a big increase back then. His next job was with the Perris Auto Speedway, working for the 5K’s, the four Kazarian sons and their father. A close friend, the legendary announcer and motorcycle racer, Bruce Flanders suggested him to the Kazarian's for the public relations job at the new track and got him an interview. Stokes’ job interview consisted of one question: “Do you know Shav Glick?” His one-word answer was: "Yes." He went to work on a 90-day contract, and stayed on for the next two years. Doug then went to work for the Los Angeles Vintage Grand Prix. At Irwindale Speedway, he began in a two-man trailer with Ray Wilkings working on the planning of the 1/2 mile, paved oval race track one year and two months before it opened. Working with top-flight motor racing players like majority owner Jim Williams and Danny Sullivan, and VP/GM Bob DeFazio, Stokes helped to launch the new speedway in 1999. 

In 2005, Stokes left the Speedway to go into a potential partnership with Chet Knox, the owner of a Burbank specialty bookstore, called Autobooks-Aerobooks. His latest job is with Gale Banks Engineering, in Irwindale, California, as their Corporate Publicist.  GBE is an industry leader in turbo and new clean diesel technology. Doug also does a limited amount of freelance writing and projects. He stays active in racing and owns a rare English Mallock 17B, which is under restoration in a shop near Sacramento. He continues to participate in sports car racing and owns two formula Vee cars. He has been married to Dede Miller Stokes for fifteen years and they reside in a 100+ year-old farm house in Duarte, California. Stokes never had any children, but he loves his pets and named them for me; Peaches, Norman, Phoebe and Topper. After they passed on, the Stokes’ recently adopted a new pair of rescue pups, Pickle and Olive, two strays who have just decided to become a part of the family.

  A very special relationship developed between Doug and Shav Glick, the well-known Sports editor for the Los Angeles Times. “If you were in the racing PR business in the latter days of the 20th century, you needed to know Shav Glick. I did. By the time I got to Irwindale we got to be somewhat more than nodding acquaintances. We’d meet for dinner and were constantly on a quest for the best cheese bread. The Derby in Arcadia, California was the top joint on our list when Shav passed away. At that time my wife worked for a wonderful lady named Doris Syme who was head of the construction office at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. My wife’s mother had an 80th birthday celebration and we had invited both her and Shav to this event. Actually, Shav was there to meet her mom, we were stirring that up. However, Doris met Shav and they talked about golf. A few weeks later we were getting ready to rideshare down to Jim Williams’ home in Newport Beach for a holiday party. Shav asked if we might invite Doris and something magic clicked between them. They were inseparable from that day, until the day that Shav left the scene. It was a wonderful three or four years for both of them. By the way, I’m honored to be a voter for the annual Justice Brothers Shav Glick Award, which has been won by people like Wally Parks," Stokes added. When asked about his plans for the future and if retirement is in the wings, Stokes reflected and told me, "I'm 66, but I'm not planning on retiring or slowing down. Like Shav, the best part of motorsports is the people who ARE the sport. I’ve had the honor of meeting, knowing, and working with quite a few. I was always stunned that these men and women remembered MY name. Oh yeah, I freelanced in golf PR only once, at the first Shark Shootout at Sherwood. All of the greats were there; Palmer, Nicklaus, Norman, Kite, etc. Luckily I knew their names and what they looked like, but was not a golf fan, so I wasn’t so in awe that I couldn’t work," he concluded. 

Gone Racin' is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM

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Al Unser Sr. riding Doug Stokes’ 3 wheeled bike at Ontario Motor Speedway.

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Lake Speed(l) and Doug Stokes

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(from l-r) Shav Glick, Doug Stokes, Billy Krause, Rodger Ward.

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