A true giant of the sport, Harold Leep passed away on February 6, 2014 at the age of 81 years old. Born in Cookson, Oklahoma, Leep called Wichita, Kansas home during most of his racing years.
Starting in modifieds in 1951, Harold got his big break in 1957 when Chet Wilson tabbed Leep, to drive his new Chevrolet-powered sprint car. Many thought Wilson was making a big mistake in hiring an inexperienced kid. But it was a match made in heaven; Harold started winning immediately in the car that came to be known as “The Offy Killer.” They took down a pair of USA sprint titles, then taking on the best of IMCA with impressive results. Leep won at every major state fair in the region as he and the Offy Killer made the small block Chevy the industry standard while turning every Offenhauser engine into a museum piece. Harold also drove for Red Forshee and Red Lempelius in the sprint car ranks.
Leep then turned his attention to supermodifieds, winning three NCRA titles and track championships at 81 Speedway (4), Oklahoma City (4) and Tulsa (1). In 1969, he won titles at all three tracks driving for Ray Cates. Other owners of supermodifieds that Leep drove to victory lane included, Roy Pulver, Jelly Wilhelm, Aaron Madden, Lonnie Snowden and Pat Suchy.
The Hutchinson Nationals was not immune to Leep’s magic, as he scored five victories in the southern Kansas classic. “To us supermodified racers, Hutch was like Knoxville is to sprint car guys, it was the crown jewell of our sport,” Leep once said.
All the wins added up to inductions in eight separate Halls of Fame, including the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2000.
Although Harold was a regular at the Chili Bowl and Belleville Midget Nationals, he only drove a midget one time. “Chet Wilson and I were at Minot, North Dakota, for an IMCA race when a midget owner buddy of Chet’s, Art Jacobson, told Chet his driver wasn’t going to show up. Chet told him ‘my driver has won lots of times in midgets.’ “The truth was I’d never even sat in one and I told Chet that but he said it was a good car. I won the feature that night, the only time I ever drove a midget.”
Leep retired following the 1984 season with hundreds of wins and dozens of championships. Following his driving career Harold became a promoter at Muskogee, Oklahoma and was a championship caliber bowler as well.
“He was larger than life to all of us growing up,” said Shane Carson, a fellow National Sprint Car Hall of Famer. “He changed racing everywhere he ran. He raised the bar. He was a great friend, too.”
Harold Leep leaves behind his wife, Geraldine, stepdaughter, Jennifer Hall, stepsons, Mike Johnson, Greg Johnson and grandchildren, Jeff Leep, Lloyd Leep, Jake Hall and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Harold Lloyd Leep in 2008.