Vito Pugliese · Thursday May 31, 2007
This week the Nextel Cup Series heads to the Monster Mile. As Ted Nugent would call it, the concrete jungle hell-zone is a fitting location for a race this weekend, the 63rd anniversary of D-Day. The track located across the way from Dover Air Force base has been home to many poignant moments over the years. One of the most memorable was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. winning the week after 9/11, circling the track with a large American flag in hand. On a weekend where we celebrate The Boys of Point Du Hoc scaling the cliffs of Normandy, the boys of Moorseville will be climbing the highbanks of Dover, Delaware. While we honor those brave soldiers who risked their lives, and those who contributed the ultimate sacrifice to liberate Europe and save the world from Adolf Hitler's Nazi war machine, we also are honoring one of the legendary names in the sport. Many may not realize it, but Bud Moore was one of the soldiers who helped bring about an end to World War II, as a 19 year-old Corporal in the United States Army. While many celebrated figures in our sport are recognized for their exploits at Daytona Beach, this week we honor a man who did his part on Utah Beach.
Walter M. "Bud" Moore was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on May 25th, 1925. Little more than a coincidence that the root word of his hometown is "Spartan", the society of legendary warriors who fended off legions of armies far greater than their own. Bud was part the 90th Infantry Division, 359th Regiment, D Company – First Platoon. He was a machine gunner, hoisting a .30 caliber squad support weapon, slugging through neck-deep water while being shot at by the Wehrmacht's best. Bud would later recall that he initially felt some regret about having to shoot at someone he never even met before. However after being shot at first and realizing what the outcome would likely be if he did not return fire, he reasoned, "you learn pretty quick what it takes to survive." To this day Moore carries the physical, mental, and emotional scars that so many veterans today endure.
While nearly 4,000 men were dying not far from his position on Omaha, Gold, and Sword Beaches, 197 were killed that day on Utah Beach. For Bud Moore though, the battle had just begun. Having already taken part in the greatest military invasion in history, Moore would also take part in the defining battle of World War II, The Battle of The Bulge. After having captured nearly two dozen Nazi soldiers with just himself and a Jeep driver, he was awarded The Bronze Star and promotion in rank to Sergeant. As the battle raged on, he would be awarded another Bronze Star, this time with clusters. He would later earn five Purple Hearts for injuries sustained in combat. When it was all over, he had been shot through the leg, the hip, had both eardrums ruptured; struck in foxholes, he also got blown out of a Jeep by an artillery shell.
Kind of puts a heel blister from exhaust heat into perspective, doesn't it?
When the guns finally fell silent, Bud Moore returned back to the United States. He began entering races in 1950, and Bud Moore Engineering entered it's first event in 1961, at one of the Daytona 500 qualifying races. Back then the qualifying races paid points too, and Moore's No. 8 Pontiac Tempest driven by Joe Weatherly won the event. Weatherly would go on to win eight races in Moore's Pontiacs that season. Although the majority of the 1960's belonged to Ford and Plymouth, the Tin Indian was the car to beat in the early 60's. In only his second year on the circuit, Bud Moore's operation with Joe Weatherly would win the 1962 Grand National Championship.
Even more impressive, they would return a year later to win it again.
However in 1964, all of the success Moore and Weatherly had enjoyed together would be for naught. At the Riverside roadcourse race in 1964, Joe Weatherly was killed instantly when he lost control of his car and impacted a concrete barrier. They didn't have window nets, head restraints, or helmets worth wearing back then. The force of the impact caused his head to fly out of the car window and strike the concrete barrier, similar to Jerry Nadeau's wreck at Richmond in 2003. Following this tragic event, Moore removed the No. 8 from his cars, and began campaigning the No. 1. Tragedy struck again when the driver he hired to replace Weatherly, 1963 Rookie of The Year Billy Wade, was killed at Daytona in a tire test. He retired car No. 1 and began to field car No. 15.
Bud Moore would field cars for a number of drivers in the 60's including Cale Yarborough, Lee Roy Yarbrough, and Bobby Allison. In the late 60's however, Moore would turn his attention to a different form of racing. While Nextel Cup is by far and away the most popular form of motorsports in the United States, back in the late 60's there was another racing series on the map that actually stood ready to rival NASCAR. Trans-Am racing was the hot ticket, racing American musclecars on roadcourses across the country.
Ford tabbed Moore to head up their Trans Am effort as part of their "Total Performance" campaign of the late 60's. Ford had chosen to run the Cougar over the Mustang, and subsequently was unable to win anything in 1968. They enlisted the help of Moore to help accelerate the development of the updated Mustang and the new bullet between the fenders, the high-winding BOSS 302.
In 1969, Bud Moore campaigned a pair of BOSS 302 Mustangs for George Follmer and Parnelli Jones. The team to beat was Roger Penske's No. 2 Sonoco Camaro Z/28 driven by Mark Donahue, as there wasn't a driver's championship, only a Manufacturer's Championship. Parnelli Jones won in the debut of the BOSS 302 at Michigan International Speedway, but it would be Donahue winning five of the last six races to beat Bud Moore and Ford. In 1970, factory backed racing had peaked, and Ford made one last ditch effort to win a title. They did just that, narrowly edging Donahue and his Penske Camaro for the Manufacturer's title, at the peak of Trans Am's popularity. The next year, manufacturer support had dried up as the muscle car boom had reached it's crescendo, and Detroit was focusing on emissions and mpg, not torque and bhp (brake horsepower).
In 1972 after a break from the action, Moore returned to NASCAR. He would end up fielding rides for some of the most recognizable names in the sport such as David Pearson, LeeRoy Yarbrough, and Donnie Allison. In 1973, he would have 1970 champion Bobby Isaac behind the wheel. Isaac would retire part way through a race at Talladega in 1973, saying he heard voices in his head telling him to get out. The driver who would replace him would be a brash, loudmouth kid from Owensboro, Kentucky named Darrell Waltrip. In 1974, Moore would finally return to victory lane with Buddy Baker, winning four races that year, two of which ironically were at Talladega. Bobby Allison would win 14 races for him from 1978 to 1980, coming in second in points in 1978, and third in 1979. Benny Parson would score three wins for him in 1981.
In 1982, Bud Moore had a new driver in his car, 1980 Cup Champion Dale Earnhardt. Surprised to see Dale Earnhardt in a Ford? He drove one in 1982 and 1983, winning three races with Moore and Ford. It is also fitting that DEI's car numbers are 1, 8, and 15; all originally Bud Moore numbers in addition to the No. 8 campaigned by Ralph Earnhardt. In 1984, Ricky Rudd executed what today is still probably the most spectacular looking crash, in the Busch Clash (now the Bud Shootout) at Daytona in his Bud Moore Thunderbird. A few weeks later, with Rudd's eyes taped open, they won the Richmond 400.
Through the 1980's and early 1990's, Bud Moore fielded Top 10 cars for many different drivers. His final wins were back to back events in 1992 at Martinsville and North Wilkesboro with Geoff Bodine behind the wheel. As the 1990s drug on and sponsorship dried up, Bud Moore eventually backed out of the sport, his last race being the Winston 500 at Talladega in 2000.
While out of the sport for many years, Bud Moore is still revered among diehard Ford and NASCAR fans that started following the sport while another war was raging in a far off land. He was as true and loyal to the Blue Oval as he was to the Red, White, and Blue. As you sit down to watch the race this weekend, thank a veteran that you are able to do so. It is airmen, sailors, Marines, and soliders like Bud Moore who made it all possible.
This Bud's, for you.
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