IF YOU GO
* What: Johnny Walker Memorial Race
* Where: Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip, 745 Scruggs Road, Ringgold, Ga.
* When: Saturday, gates open at 10 a.m. The memorial will be between noon and 1 p.m.
* Fees: Race entry $25, plus toy, canned good donation or an extra $10. Spectators $10 entry.
A 53-year-old drag race worker killed after a race car driver backed into him will be honored Saturday at a charity ride.
Johnny Walker, known for his long, white beard and his smile, died Nov. 3, a day after 22-year-old driver Hillary Mason was heating the race car's tires in the burnout area and backed into Walker, slamming him to the pavement.
Walker, a Chattanoogan, worked part time and volunteered for 18 years at the Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip near Ringgold, Ga., where friends considered him an icon. Police investigated the crash and ruled it an accident. No charges were lodged against Mason.
Now friends want his legacy to continue and will rename the lane to the pits -- the area where Walker worked -- "Johnny Walker Lane," said Patrick Henry, an Optimist Club member who helped organize the race. A donation also will be made to the Forgotten Child Fund in honor of Walker and his family.
At Christmas time, Walker would volunteer to dress up as Santa and hand out candy at the track, Henry said. He also volunteered for charity events like the Hamilton County Santa train, because he wanted to help children.
"He loved kids," said Pat Sartin, who volunteers at the track.
Days before Walker's death, she said he asked her where he would dress up as Santa and said he couldn't wait to do it. Walker wasn't married and didn't have children of his own, so he made the track his family, she said.
Friends said it was fitting that during Saturday's race toys will go to Catoosa County Stocking's Full of Love for children in need and the canned goods to the Chattanooga Food Bank.
"Johnny would have wanted this," Henry said.