Thee Carlin Dixon, the first modern era African American team owner in NASCAR, passed away on Feb. 20, 2015. He was 76 years old.
Born on Oct. 30, 1938, Dixon was a member of the U.S. Army before transitioning to civilian life. His company, Mansion Decorators, was well-known across the country as a quality coating company. In addition to running his company, he raced motorcycles. In 1987, he began fielding and racing late models in NASCAR’s Late Model Stock series, and quickly moved up to the Sportsman Division in Charlotte.
In 1989, he fielded his first Winston Cup entry, under the banner of Mansion Racing, with Mike Potter driving. In 1990, Dixon attempted two races with Mike Skinner. They made the show at Rockingham. The two teamed up for another eleven races between 1991-1992, qualifying for five of them.
Dixon claimed that he was the pioneer of the multi-color car, with Glidden Paint’s sponsorship in 1992 putting six colors on the car. Within a year, an up-and-comer named Jeff Gordon was driving something similar, although the designer of that car, Sam Bass, said in a Triangle Business Journal article that he never saw Dixon’s version.
In 1993, Dixon fielded cars four times for Ken Bouchard and Jim Sauter, and made an additional race with Bob Schacht but did the car did not take the green flag.
Sponsorship woes kept Dixon from fielding cars during those years on a full time basis. Anonymous donations allowed Dixon to attempt as many races as possible, but his cars would not be a permanent fixture on Cup grids for the rest of the decade. Glidden, Duron and Burger King all served as sponsors for a time, but never for the entire season. “I just can’t get money to put the car on the track,” Dixon said in an interview with the Athens Banner-Herald in 1999.
A year later, Dixon was able to secure enough funding from S.T. Wooten and Noopco Paint Remover to make two of eleven races with Carl Long, and the duo qualified for the Coke 600 before making a deal with Darrell Waltrip, who had failed to qualify for the race, that would put him in the car. In addition, Waltrip’s sponsors Big Kmart / Route 66 would adorn the No. 85.
Long and Dixon made three of an attempted twelve starts in 2001 and one of five in 2002. Dixon didn’t field another Cup car after.
His best Cup finish was 28th in the 1992 AC Delco 500 at Rockingham with Skinner.
Dixon also fielded trucks from 1995-1999 in what was then known as the Craftsman Truck Series. His best finish in that series were a pair of 19ths by Frank Davis at Flemington in 1995 and by Randy MacDonald at Walt Disney World Speedway in 1997.