The Frontstretch: No Small Feat: Tiny Lund by Vito Pugliese -- Thursday November 8, 2007

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No Small Feat: Tiny Lund

Driven to the Past · Vito Pugliese · Thursday November 8, 2007

 

Name: DeWayne Louis "Tiny" Lund
Birthdate: November 14th, 1929
Death: August 17th, 1975
Hometown: Harlan, Iowa
Cup Debut: October 9th, 1955 Memphis-Arkansas Speedway
Races: 303
Wins: 5
Poles: 6
Top Fives: 54
Top Tens: 119
Earnings: $185,669

Career highlights: Journeyman driver who won the 1963 Daytona 500. Awarded Carnegie Medal of Honor for saving the life of fellow driver Marvin Panch in a sportscar race prior to the Daytona 500. Panch then offered him his ride for that race as he was recovered from his injuries. Winner of races in NASCAR, USAC, ARCA, and the Pacific Coast Racing Association. 3-time Grand American Champion ('68,'70,'71), 1973 Grand National East Champion, 4-time Most Popular Driver (Grand American). Died in a crash in the 1975 Talladega 500.

Let's set the record straight. DeWayne Lund was not a small man by any stretch of the imagination. The name "Tiny" was a term of endearment. He stood a towering 6'6" tall and weighed in at over 300 lbs. Safe to say, his cars never hurt for left side ballast.

Following his service in the Korean War, Lund opted to try his hand at stock car racing. He made his first career start at Memphis-Arkansas Speedway, a 1.5-mile dirt track in Lehi, Arkansas, driving a Chevrolet. His sponsor was Carl Rupert, who owned a seatbelt company. Today we have full-face helmets, five-point harnesses, SAFER Barriers and HANS Devices, but back then, protection amounted to little more than a leather helmet and a lap belt. Tiny started 23rd in the 41-car field in that race, which was dominated by the Ford factory drivers Speedy Thompson and Marvin Panch, a driver that Lund would have a chance encounter with several years later. Lund's race was cut short on lap 65 when he was involved in a wreck that caused his car to flip and tumble end over end. He suffered many bruises and a broken arm in the wreck. The culprit? Of all things, a broken seatbelt.

Lund’s first career win came in 1963 on the sport’s biggest stage, the Daytona 500. How he won the race is a worthy bit of racing history, but how he even got to compete in the race is a story all itself. Part of the Speedweeks at Daytona that we have come to know is the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona sportscar race. Back then the preliminary event was another sportscar event, the Daytona Continental. The Wood Brothers' driver, Marvin Panch, was testing a Maserati sportscar powered by a Ford engine for the event. Coming down the backstretch, Panch and another machine got together, sending his Maserati out of control. The car flipped over, and burst into flames. Panch was on fire, and unable to free himself of the burning machine. Luckily, there happened to be a 300lb bystander in the form of Tiny Lund. Tiny and a pair of spectators climbed the fence and rushed to the aid of Panch. Lund pulled him through the gull-wing doors of what used to be an Italian exotic, saving his life. Panch was seriously injured, suffering burns to over 2/3 of his body. As Panch lay in a hospital recovering, he asked the man that saved his life if he would be interested in driving his car for the Daytona 500.

Lund qualified second, and finished sixth in his qualifying race. The Wood Brothers were always one of the most innovative teams in the history of the sport, and they had devised a plan to win the race that day. The goal was to make one less stop than everyone else. Part of this plan consisted of completing the race on one set of tires. Lund was leading the race with ten laps to go, but was passed by Ford factory stalwart Fred Lorenzen in a Holman-Moody Galaxie. Lorenzen had to dive onto pit road as the laps wound down, handing the lead back to Lund. Ned Jarrett passed Lund not long after, but he too was forced to make a stop for fuel at the last second. The big thirsty 427 in Lund’s No. 21 Ford coughed and sputtered, running dry on the last lap, but he had enough of a lead to coast across the finish line to a 24-second victory over Lorenzen.

The Daytona 500 win would be the crowning acheivement of Lund’s career. He drove for the Wood Brothers for several races after winning the Daytona 500 as Panch continued his recovery. His next wins would come at Columbia, South Carolina and Beltsville, Maryland in 1965 and 1966, respectively. Two iconic North Carolina short tracks in Hickory and North Wilkesboro would be the site of his final two victories in 1971 - NASCAR events, but in Grand Am cars - a series comprised of Mustangs and Camaros, running alongside their full-sized brethren.

Tiny's career and life came to an end in 1975. He was involved in an accident on the sixth lap of the Talladega 500, driving a Dodge Charger for owner A.J. King. He got together with J.D. McDuffie on the backstretch, triggering a horrifying accident. Rookie driver Terry Link was turned, and ran directly into the driver's side door of Lund’s machine, killing Lund instantly. Link's machine erupted into flames, and as his Pontiac rolled to a stop he was unresponsive. Two spectators watching from the infield climbed the fence, and with help from driver Walter Ballard, were able to pull Link from his car in much the same way that Lund had done for Marvin Panch in 1963 at Daytona. Another giant of a man won the event that day; upon hearing of Tiny Lund's passing, Buddy Baker dropped to his knees, overcome with emotion after hearing of his friend’s death.

NASCAR has had its share of hell-raisers and rabble-rousers. It has also had its share of good-hearted gentle giants as well. Tiny Lund would fall into the latter category. While not the most successful driver ever, he was certainly one of the more memorable drivers of an unforgettable era. Tiny was an outgoing and generous gent who loved fast cars, fast times, fishing, and had a soft spot in his heart for the younger race fans. Tiny was known to hand off whatever trophy he had won to a child he'd see standing there in awe of him.

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©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Oldsmo-Bill
11/09/2007 06:51 AM
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Thanx, Vito,
Out of all the storylines I enjoy on Jayski’s links page, Frontstretch’s “Driven to the Past” is my favorite. I used to be a big racing fan many moons ago – all kinds: NASCAR, USAC, CAN-AM, TRANS-AM, GP, etc. Had a subscription to CAR & DRIVER from 1968 throught he seventies. But I kinda lost touch after graduating college, marrying and starting a family. Well, there I was in 2005, 7 years into my second marriage, when I decided to sit down one Sunday and watch a NASCAR race. The next week, my wife suggested I watch another one. The following week, she watched the race with me, and like that, we both were hooked. She, being a new fan, is constantly surprised by my knowledge of the “old school”. But my memory is only so good. Your columns really bring back everything in a clearer light. Thanx for helping to keep my youth alive!

Rosemary
11/09/2007 07:59 AM
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I enjoyed reading your article on Tiny Lund, as my late husband had worked for him as a teenager in the early 1960’s. Thank you for keeping the roots of Nascar alive!

Mike
11/09/2007 11:23 AM
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Tiny was something of a practical joker when he wanted to be. One time he collected all the car keys before a race and was the only driver able to start his car when they gave the command. Another time, he handcuffed “Tiger” Tom Pistone to a fence just before a race. But on the other hand, Tiny had a deadly fear of snakes and Joe Weatherly, The Clown Prince of Racing, found out about it and put a rubber snake in Tiny’s car. Needless to say, Tiny saw it as he was climbing into it and you never saw a man that size move that fast to get away from it. Tiny’s widow, Wanda, does make the occasional public appearance at some racing events. She’s a little firecracker and a very sweet woman.

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