For nearly 17 years, Chad Hickam has been infected with the short track racing bug.
Sunday's reopening of Moberly's Randolph County Raceway elevated the sport's blood flow through the veins of this Centralia native.
"I've spent a lot of time here before it closed two years ago and had some good memories. I was excited to learn it was reopening," Hickam said at the 2020 season opening race held Sunday. "Moberly's track allows for three-wide racing. It's a lot of fun because of the high banks, and yet it can bring a lot of chaos for drivers."
His most memorable night of racing took place June 22, 2013, at Moberly when he orchestrated a major fundraiser for 3-year-old Jackson White and his battle against leukemia.
The boy was a preschool classmate of Hickam's son Traegan.
"The news that Jackson had leukemia hit be very hard," Hickam said. "It became personal to me, and I was grateful that (David and Janet Claypoole), who were into their first year as the race track owners, supported this and allowed the fundraiser to happen.
"Nearly $10,000 was raised that night to help the White family with their medical expenses for Jackson. That night of racing is my fondest ever because race drivers and people from all over came together to help support financial needs of medical expenses they had for their son Jackson. It is bigger than any race I've ever won.
"The great news today is that Jackson White has recovered and doing fine."
Hickam said he will also remember what happened while he was racing that night.
Hickam started in the fourth row back among 24 cars, he recalled, and during the first lap, a few cars got tangled up ahead of him and spun.
"I ended up in that mess too," he said. "It forced me to come into the pit, and all of a sudden it seemed like 50 people came rushing to my car to pitch in and help get my car back to working order. All those guys helped put me back on the track in time where I restarted last. I worked my way up to finish fourth in that race.
"It was amazing what those people did and I believe it was all because of the fundraiser I put on. It was a special night for different things that happened."
Since he first began racing in 2004 in the 4-Cylinder class, Hickam has primarily raced on five tracks in Missouri and at Quincy Raceway in Illinois.
He once served as a flagman and as a race director at RCR for a couple seasons before he returned to racing.
"I have enjoyed watching the races at Moberly years ago. There was some stiff competition. I remember watching locals," Hickam said. "Competition among some locals was at a high energy level. I really enjoyed watching Pete Agee, Jeff Creed and Clinton "Pinky" Dale compete in Stock Cars. Those guys really went on the track and battled hard. It was fun to watch them on the track."
Two years ago he competed in seven races, but because of changes associated with his job, Hickam did not race in 2019 except for Memphis Nationals held in the fall.
"I missed the transfer spot by one position out of 160 cars in my class. Because I performed that well considering it was my only event of the year, it piqued my interest to get back to racing on a more regular basis this year," Hickam said.
Last Sunday, with his key mechanic Daniel Brown accompanying him, was Hickam's first race of the calendar year.
Hickam was among 24 drivers entered in the B-Modifieds class and finished fifth in the feature race, taking home a $125 prize. Cole Campbell of Mexico took the checkered flag and pocketed $300. The next three finishers ahead of Hickam were Dakota Girard of Moberly, Tyler Lewis of Columbia and Vance Wilson of Quincy.
"Most drivers, if any, will not finish a season coming out on top making money. It's easy for cars to get banged up and it's an expensive, yet very enjoyable, hobby to participate in," Hickam said. "Replacing a fender that is a common thing that gets beaten up will cost between $300 to $500, for example, and you will easily spend at least $200 on a set of tires for each race.
"Then there is the schedule of balancing out your work schedule, family time, travel and the many hours spent in the shop making repairs or adjustments to your car."
Hickam said he intends to compete in as many of the 18 scheduled racing dates held Sunday evenings at RCR as possible.