Receiving his driver’s license in the mid 1960’s sparked a desire by 16 year old Victoria-born Bert Sweeting to become a race driver.
Two years later, Bert and his friends and fellow car enthusiasts Fred Carver and Larry Whitman built their first dragster.
Bert subsequently struck up a close friendship with fellow “Golden Knights” car club member Gary Shepherd and the two of them set the goal of building a double “B” class dragster to compete in the hotly-contested West Coast “Division 6” of the NHRA (“National Hot Rod Association”) drag racing series. Working as an apprentice welder at Victoria’s “MacKay-Cormack” shipyard, Bert fabricated his and Gary’s tube frame “rail” dragster after seeing a photo on the cover of a national hot rod magazine. With Bert behind the wheel and Gary keeping the car’s engine in fine tune, the two would compete in NHRA races for over half a decade at Canadian tracks including Cobble Hill, Duncan, Mission and Edmonton and “south of the border” ones such as Arlington, Bremerton, Puyallup, Seattle and as far south as Bakersfield and Irwindale in California.
Running head-to-head throughout this time period with the likes of NHRA top driver and world record holder Gary Beck, Bert had a very satisfying victory when he beat Beck at a 1969 event at Duncan’s “Van Isle Dragways” in front of a boisterous crowd of 2,000 spectators. Shortly after this milestone win, he chose to retire from active competition in order to spend more time with his wife Marie and their growing family.
In 1973, using his now expert-level tradesman talents, Bert started “Nomad Welding”, a mobile welding/fabricating business which included his involvement with the local oval track racing community in which he built and installed rollcages for many racers including Ross Surgenor, George Stuart, Rick O’Dell, the car building team of Harvey Chipper and Dave Smith and many others. He successfully ran his welding service for 37 years, retiring in 2010.
In 2011, Bert was the first drag racer to be inducted into the “Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame” and in later years he was a familiar sight on Victoria streets and at “Northwest Deuce Days” in his 1930 Ford roadster pickup.
Bert Sweeting passed away at the age of 75 in July of 2019.