Gary ‘Hot Shoe’ Balough, one of the greatest drivers to ever hit the track, is the focus of one of racing’s greatest controversies
Motorsports fans know, that like many other sports, racing has its fair share of controversies. Of the many to befall racing, Gary Balough’s is among the most legendary.
Race fans know Gary as the winner of at least 1,000 races throughout his career, most in Late Models on southern tracks and many in the northeast Dirt Modifieds. Despite a successful career, Gary is also well known for his creative means of financing that career, drug trafficking.
Drug Trafficking and racing is actually more prevalent than one might imagine. The Wittingtons, known for their victory at the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans, were involved in trafficking marijuana to fund their racing careers. What makes the story of Gary Balough unique however, is Gary’s winning record, talent for racing and the career he may have lost.
Gary’s 1,000 wins and his involvement with “The Batmobile,” probably the most famous dirt modified race car, made him one of the most promising future stars of stock car racing. In 1980, Gary and the no. 112 Batmobile utterly destroyed the competition at Super Dirt Week in Syracuse, NY. By 1982, Gary had finally appeared to make it to NASCAR’s Cup Series. He found himself a strong team in the respected RahMoc Racing, and had secured a sponsorship from Domino’s Pizza, which would have provided funding for at least 25 races in the series.
Gary’s career was taking off, however he would soon become embroiled in what National Speed Sport News dubbed “Black Thursday.” Respected NSSN writer Keith Walz recounted in a now historic piece, “five prominent members of the South Florida auto-racing community, including NASCAR Winston Cup driver Gary Balough, were indicted on drug-trafficking charges. The five were among 66 people charged in what FBI agents described as a multimillion-dollar drug ring stretching from Florida to North Carolina.” There were even allegations that Balough and others used their race cars and haulers to transport illegal drugs.
After bonding out for $100,000, Gary took to the track in his RahMoc Racing Buick in that weekend’s Richmond Cup race. He crashed and finished last in the 32-car field. “Hot Shoe” Balough’s NASCAR career was effectively over.
By 1986, Balough was out of jail and winning again, securing the All Pro championship. As much as he wasn’t done winning, he also wasn’t done serving time. Gary was jailed twice more and was released for the last time in 2010 at age 66. Since his release he has returned to the short tracks he called home in the 70’s and 80’s and to his legions of loyal fans.