For Milton’s auto racing heroes Harmon “Beaver” and Bobby Dragon, winning awards is commonplace.
Their basements are full of trophies big and small, plaques and helmets from victorious races and personal achievement awards spanning back to the mid-1950s.
Last month, they headed to the podium yet again to collect another accolade. This time, they weren’t on Catamount Stadium’s old Milton track or in the winning circle at Barre’s Thunder Road, Plattsburgh’s Airborne Park or West Haven’s Devils Bowl speedways.
Instead, they were in Daytona, Fla. being inducted into the Living Legends of Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
That’s right — the Dragon brothers have officially been coined “living legends,” a phrase the Milton and Vermont community bestowed upon them long ago.
Earlier this month, the pair sat in Bobby’s living room, reminiscing on the glory days as if they were yesterday. As the snow piled up outside, the stories stacked up inside.
“We’d race up to 75 races in the summer, four nights a week,” Bobby, 72, recalled.
“Sometimes even five. And with one car!” Beaver, 77, added, a dig at the increasingly expensive racing culture.
The two bantered back and forth, adding to one other’s stories. Sometimes, they’d finish the other’s sentence. Other times, they’d challenge each other’s memories, pulling together bits of information until they got it right.
“We covered a lot of ground,” Beaver said, noting racing took them all over the New England region, up to Canada and down to North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and even Daytona.
The Living Legends organization awarded the Dragons its first-ever Regional Achievement Award to commemorate the brothers’ influence on racing well beyond Vermont.
“It’s an honor that was totally unexpected,” Bobby said.
“Yeah, it’s an honor to be inducted,” Beaver jumped in. “There were probably more deserving people than me, but I’m in.”
While they’re modest about the award, they’re familiar with the fame. Bobby says every week he runs into a fan, now 50 or 60 years old, who will tell him, “You were my hero growing up.”
To this day, over 13 years after their careers concluded, they receive mail with old pictures of their cars or similar memorabilia for them to autograph and send back.
At February’s banquet, they spent hours penning autographs for attendees. To their delight, many of the guests were opponents (and friends) from their driving days.
“I hadn’t seen him in 40 years,” Beaver said again and again, as more names came out of the woodwork.
Names of other legends fell off their tongues with ease, as if they were family, because to the Dragons, they were.
Dave Dion, Dave Moody, John McGuire, Ken Squier, Benny Parsons, the list went on and on.
So when they reached the podium last month, the Dragons knew they had an endless stream of people to thank. Yet Beaver, a man who loves to ponder the old days, was instructed to cut his 20-minute prepared speech down to the five-minute time limit that he, Bobby and other hall-of-famers were allotted.
Much more comfortable in the cockpit, Beaver was content, but both brothers knew their careers span far longer than what can be noted in five minutes.
Beaver, for example, said he couldn’t have raced without the help of local auto shops in Milton who kept his car in tact.
The support within Milton and area communities sometimes overflowed Catamount’s hometown fan section, creating an even bigger crowd for hometown racers like the Dragons than big-time NASCAR names.
With home track advantage, the Dragons competed with the best of the best. And they kept up.
Now, they stand next to the best in Daytona, where they hope to return in coming years to reunite with their old race buddies.
They’ll laugh about the time Beaver hid a snake in his opponent’s driver seat — which he vowed to never do again after that driver’s retaliation left him flying into the wall — or the time he flipped his car seven times over during Catamount’s final night, just to slide into a backup car and finish the race.
They’ll banter about who looks the oldest and express appreciation for the racers still driving, like NASCAR’s Red Farmer, in his mid-80s.
Whatever they’re bantering about next year, though, won’t change what Daytona cemented last month and what Milton has known for decades: The Dragons legacy will always carry on.