9/23/2019 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Charlie Patterson’s story is sponsored by Five Star Residences of Clearwater located at 4519 East 82nd Street, Indianapolis • 317.849.2244

For Charlie Patterson, an 82-year-old stroke survivor, grandfather, husband, farmer, and INDYCAR & NASCAR legend since 1956, slowing down has never been an option.

Charlie grew up on a farm. At 5 years old, he fed cows and, unlike most kids his age, drove a tractor. “At about 14, I started watching these boys race cars. I got really wound up about racing. Next thing you know, I’m 19 in a shop cleaning parts, sweeping floors, and soon I was working at the Speedway. Then I took up traveling around the country with them. That started my whole life in the racing world.”

In 1972, Charlie launched Patterson Drive Shaft. Business grew and he needed more space to work on racecars. Charlie created a whole street for working on cars! He named it Roena Street. But that didn’t sound very racy, so he renamed it “Gasoline Alley.” Charlie chuckles, “Made the Speedway awfully mad.”

Charlie stayed busy: a housing development called Patterson Woods, and with NASCAR drivers. “For about eight years, I was supplying about three-fourths of all drive shafts that NASCAR was using.” That opened doors, leading Charlie to start NexGen Motorsports, a company designed to help promising drivers. “It led me to bring in people like Tony Stewart.”

One of the young drivers was the first female African American driver, Cheryl Glass. “She drove my silver crown car at the Hoosier Hundred.” Cheryl had quite a career until her untimely death. Charlie recalls, “It was quite an honor to go see her name and the car I built for her at the Racing Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa.”

Racing put Charlie Patterson next to many celebrities. “Paul Newman drove my race car in the movie Winning, and we became lifelong friends. He’d say, ‘Hey, let’s take the T-bird that’s in the movie.’ He’d put his hat and sunglasses on and we’d go get beer. He’d pay the lady who ran the store and she’d hardly look at him. After he left town, I told her who he was. She liked to had a fit!”

Charlie recalls, “Paul Newman once said to me, ‘You know the reason I like you? You’re doing something real in life. You’re getting up and milking a bunch of cows. You’re farming. Then you’re coming to the Speedway and taking care of these racecars. That’s pretty neat.’ I suggested when the movie was over that Paul go to the Bob Bondurant school. This started his career in racing.”

Charlie met many racing legends and celebrities. “How many people stand on the speedway at Daytona Beach in the pit area and talk to [various celebrities]? So being involved with racing brought me to meet famous people throughout the world.”

But the real highlight was meeting Vicky, who strolled into the shop one day. Charlie hired Vicky and 3 years later, they tied the knot. Charlie says it’s the best move he’s ever made. “She takes care of everything. She’s fun to be with. She looks out for me. She’s been a real Godsend.”

Charlie’s legacy in the drive shaft business is being carried on by his son. Another legacy is to inspire new drivers and fans. He’s been involved in creation of the Champion Highway Safety Program and, as well as other efforts to support racing. Charlie’s dream is to, “Get kids to go home and beg their folks to take them to the racetrack!”

Charlie Patterson can still be found on Gasoline Alley. “To this day, I’m still working on the NexGen program and I’m still working in the shop. Here at 82, I’m still very active doing the things I’ve loved all my life.”

Charlie Patterson’s interviews were conducted by the Story Guides at Voices Live On. To hear the full audio interviews in more detail, go to:

If you know an Indiana senior with a great story, contact our Indiana Seniors Guide rep, 

Sean Kurker Founder
Toll Free 833.856.5483
Charlie’s interviews were conducted by the Story Guides at Voices Live On. To Schedule a Senior’s or Family Life Interview, and to hear Charlie’s full audio interviews in more detail:

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff