Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
I’m not a very good friend. It’s too easy for me to get all wrapped up in the details of everyday life and work; my schedule usually sits front-and-center ahead of most else in my mind. That’s probably why I totally ignored the bulletins reporting the death of Wanda Lund-Early this past January. As I said previously, I’m not a very good friend.
If I was a better friend, I would have been all over the news that Wanda died on January 5th of this year. If I was a better friend, I would have been stunned by the tragic news. If I was a better friend, I would have been even more stunned by the idea that her death was self-inflicted. If I was a better friend, I would have known that she was hurting on the inside while trying to make things right on the outside.
Wanda Lund-Early had a big heart for all those around her. She did whatever she could to help the cause of those in need, and she was an indefatigable voice for all things NASCAR. That was because of her close connection to the sport – she was the widow of DeWayne “Tiny” Lund, the journeyman racer from Iowa who proved any skeptics wrong by winning the 1963 Daytona 500. Tiny Lund’s victory in The Great American Race has been referred to as a “storybook” finish, but I doubt that any writer could have ever imagined such a classic narrative.
Unfortunately – based on what I eventually learned about Wanda’s suicide – her story, too, followed a classic narrative of its own.
How I met Wanda Lund-Early was a story in itself. It was late May in 1997, and I had been invited to the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame in Mooresville to do a number of book signings during their “Champions of Speed” celebration. The entire event was overwhelming to me, since I was being regarded as a “champion” on the basis of having a book so newly printed that I had to deliver the first several cases to Mooresville directly from my publisher. Numerous events were scheduled to coincide with Race Week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and I had been selected to appear every day alongside NASCAR’s elite.
As former crew chief Barry Dodson said to me at one point during the week, “You must be blown away by being part of all this!”
I smiled at Dodson (who was standing next to driver Mike Bliss at the time) and replied, “You have no idea…”
Dodson’s “blown away” comment was the understatement of the century.
During the course of the weeklong “Champions of Speed” event, I was privileged to spend time in the company of such NASCAR legends as Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, and the late Benny Parsons. I also appeared with other racers like Don Miller (who co-owned cars for Rusty Wallace at the time), J.D. Gibbs (during his driving days in the Truck Series), and Larry McReynolds (who was working as Dale Earnhardt’s crew chief at the time).
For a wet-behind-the-ears college professor who was winding down a two-year gig at Michigan State University, hoping that his new book might simply result in future employment, meeting such luminaries (and being treated on a level equal to them) was akin to being a prospect at the NFL draft. Promise and potential hung in the air and surrounded each “big name” I met.
It was my being mistaken for a NASCAR driver that led to my meeting Wanda Lund-Early…
The walls of the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame were decorated with all kinds of paintings done by motorsports artists, and several of the pictures were of legendary drivers. Near the tables where all of us “champions” met the public was a portrait by Jeannie Barnes of DeWayne “Tiny” Lund following his 1963 Daytona 500 win.
Now, it’s important to understand here that I was – in 1997 – a much larger man with more hair than I currently possess. At a quick glance, I guess someone could have confused me with the Tiny Lund in the portrait (although they’d have to be unaware of the fact that “Tiny” stood 6’5”, weighed 270 pounds, and died in 1975 after a wreck at Talladega).
As odd as it might seem… someone did.
An older couple approached me and asked if I was the man in the painting with the trophy. Once I realized who they meant, I laughed, thanked them for thinking I’d won the Daytona 500, and explained who I really was. The couple said they were passing through the area on their way to Florida from upstate New York. I said I had family in upstate New York and mentioned the town. Less than five minutes later, we were marveling about the connection between us – the couple had worked for the same shoe company as my aunt and uncle from New York, and my uncle had even been their floor manager for many years. The coincidence was nothing less than staggering to me.
Their driver error was also, I’ll admit, a bit flattering.
Later that day, I was scheduled to “appear” with Wanda Lund. As the time of the session approached, I was greeted by a petite woman with a big smile and a hearty handshake. Wanda introduced herself, and I immediately launched into my story about the couple’s confusion over me and the portrait of Tiny. We laughed about the case of mistaken identity and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting about all sorts of topics, and not just NASCAR. We talked about our families, the towns where we lived, and our love of “down home” comfort foods.
Our talk about NASCAR gravitated toward the benevolence of the “good ol’ days” and the various ways that Bill France, Sr. kept his sport both running and growing. Wanda also spoke of how drivers and car owners looked out for each other. She told me about the day in 1964 when Wendell Scott broke racing’s color barrier and won a Grand National race in Jacksonville, Florida. Wanda explained how Tiny noticed that Scott’s Chevrolet badly needed new tires, yet the Virginia driver didn’t have the resources to buy them.
Lund walked over to the Firestone truck and told the crew there to supply Wendell with whatever he needed; Tiny would personally pay the bill. Four brand new Firestones were soon delivered to Wendell’s pit stall – a gift from the reigning Daytona 500 winner that helped Scott to win his first (and only) major Grand National event.
Wanda also related the fact that Wendell Scott’s victory had to be “confirmed” by NASCAR officials before the race results could be considered final. This additional step was, in her mind (and in the minds of others) because “Big Bill” feared the repercussions of having an African-American driver kiss a white trophy queen. Scott’s victory was not declared “official” until many hours later, after the crowd had gone home.
Wanda’s years with Tiny Lund eclipsed some turbulent times in NASCAR. Tiny, who lovingly referred to his wife as “Hillbilly,” was a recognized name in the sport during those years when factory support waned, leaving R.J. Reynolds Tobacco an opportunity to underwrite what would soon become the Winston Cup Series.
Wanda Lund had a front-row seat for the attempted rise – and eventual fall – of the Professional Drivers Association in 1969. The PDA’s boycott of the inaugural Grand National race at the Alabama International Motor Speedway (now known as Talladega Superspeedway) gave Tiny the chance to drive a 1969 Ford that was “owned” by “Big Bill” France and sponsored by Pepsi-Cola. Lund drove the Ford – his first and only Grand National ride that season – to a ninth-place finish, leading 28 of the 152 laps he ran before dropping out with clutch problems.
It was on the high-banking of Talladega where Tiny Lund died in August of 1975. Ironically, his fatal wreck occurred in what would be his only Winston Cup start of that year. On lap seven of the Talladega 500, Lund’s No. 26 Dodge was T-boned on the driver’s side. According to sports writer Kim Chapin, in his 1981 book Fast as White Lightning: The Story of Stock Car Racing, Tiny Lund died as the result of “massive internal injuries” about ten minutes after the collision that also involved Walter Ballard, Terry Link, and the late J.D. McDuffie.
As the legend goes, eventual race winner Buddy Baker – a dear friend of Lund’s – broke down in tears during post-race interviews when told of Tiny’s passing. As Kim Chapin’s book tells the story surrounding Lund’s death and memorial service, other NASCAR drivers moved about nervously with blank expressions and a “That’s Racin’” attitude. The fate that befell Tiny Lund at Talladega that afternoon in 1975 could have befallen any one of them any time they climbed inside a race car.
Despite her loss, Wanda Lund recognized the plight of others who raced for a hard-earned living, back before the corporate jets, NASCAR’s office in Manhattan, and the need for twenty million (or more) dollar sponsorships. She spent her time with the racing community trying to preserve the memory of those who’d struggled to make a career out of building cars, racing them, wrecking them, and then starting all over again.
Victories in competitive cars with stable teams may have been few for many of that generation in NASCAR, but their efforts were notable and worth remembering, especially in that ESPN era of 24/7 sports coverage.
Wanda knew that NASCAR was an important part of my life, as well. I mentioned the need for someone to collect the definitive stories of racers like Tiny, Wendell, J.D., Walter, Terry, and so many others – the stories of where they raced, what they drove, and how they worked through the trials of NASCAR in those “early” days, regardless of their successes or failures. Before I knew it, Wanda Lund-Early was flipping through a date book she’d fished from her purse. She scribbled furiously on a blank page, then handed me the slip of paper.
The page was covered with the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of a “Who’s Who” in NASCAR. To this day, that sheet of paper is one of my most prized possessions. I’ve used the numbers several times over the years to arrange interviews and assist with various media contacts, and I’ve never reached for the page without thinking of Wanda first.
Through Wanda’s generosity, I was able to interview Doris Roberts, the widow of NASCAR legend Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, who died following a fiery accident at Charlotte in May of 1964. Doris, who passed away in 2004, reaffirmed my theory – as did Wanda – that the real courage in “old school” NASCAR resided with the wives who provided stability on the homefront while their husbands were racing to try and provide a decent life.
One of my fondest NASCAR memories was the afternoon I spent visiting with Wanda at her home in Waynesville, North Carolina – the small town where she was born, and also the town where she took her own life. She talked openly with me about Tiny’s career, their adventures together, and the ways that automobile racing affected the lives of so many in their social circle. Wanda showed me family photographs over coffee and freshly-baked treats that – by themselves – were well worth the trip from Charlotte.
I left Wanda’s home that day carrying stories, photographs, a slew of cherished recipes, and a firm reminder of why NASCAR was such a unique culture within the universe of professional sports.
I guess it’s been my lack of personal contact with many in-and-around NASCAR of late that allowed me to miss the tragic news about Wanda Lund-Early’s passing earlier this year. Hearing about her suicide, coupled with rumors I heard about her possibly being a victim of domestic violence, gave me even greater pain. Wanda and I had lost touch over the years, especially as the daily demands of parenting and teaching and writing consumed much of my time and energy.
As I look ahead to next year’s Daytona 500, it’ll be impossible to not think about Wanda Lund-Early and the kindness she showed to those she met during her all-too-short life. She was a caring connection to NASCAR’s past who saw the sport through its rough-and-tumble developmental days, even after Tiny’s death in 1975. She was a friend, even though I didn’t rightly deserve her help, nor did I return the generosity she provided to me.
For what little it’s worth – to all the connections we shared, and to all her surviving family – please allow me to say how deeply saddened I am that Wanda is no longer with us. A little bit of the real NASCAR died along with her that day last January.
Connect with Mark!
©2000 - 2008 Mark Howell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Memories, both good and bad, sustain us in later life. Thank you for sharing your memories with us.
Thanks for the reminder that those we hold dear could leave us at any time. You are not alone; I think most of us can relate to wishing we’d spent a little more time with those we’ve lost over the years. A touching column, Mark.
Good article Mark. Sometimes we need to be reminded of whats important.
Thank you for a view behind the scenes with the people that made NASCAR the great sport it once was.