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Buddy Arrington was born on July 26, 1938 in Martinsville, Va. No photographic evidence exists, but it is a fair assumption that there was likely a Chrysler Pentastar emblem on his crib. Mopar guys are a different bunch for sure. If there was anyone who embodied the term “Mopar or NoCar” it was Arrington. At a time when the Chrysler Corporation was circling the drain and NASCAR appeared to be legislating them out of competition, Buddy held true to his roots, and carried the torch for the Mopar faithful, after even King Richard ditched his Dodge in favor of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Buddy was typically the only Chrysler product in the race up through the early ’80s, running Chrysler Imperials and Dodge Miradas. The last time an Arrington Chrysler would see the track was at Riverside in 1985. It would be 16 years until Dodge returned to competition in 2001 with the Intrepid, although there was a brief resurgence in the early ’90s in the ARCA series with the Chrysler LeBaron. Which is French for “The Baron.”
Being an independent owner and driver with no major sponsorship or backing, Arrington was the perennial knife-to-a-gunfight competitor. Without a bill-payer in place, Buddy relied on his ingenuity, resourcefulness and method of recycling racecars and parts that would impress even the most jaded Greenpeace or Sierra Club member. He didn’t have a regular team that worked with him; many times his crew was comprised of a rag-tag group of volunteers from other teams, or people just getting started in racing who needed some experience.
He competed in his first Grand National race (now Nextel Cup) in 1964 in Jacksonville, Fla. It is a little ironic that the eventual winner of the race, Wendell Scott, also had some experience trying to race with limited support and on a shoestring budget. Granted, Scott had a whole other list of issues to contend with, but seeing as Buddy took home a whopping $175 for his eighth-place finish in his first effort in a Dodge, he learned to get creative in managing his operation early on. He ran No. 78 for the 1964 season, but from 1965 to 1988 he was always No. 67.
Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, he would run limited schedules as funds would allow. He ran his first full season in 1978, finishing ninth in points. Buddy holds the distinction of having the second most starts without a victory, trailing another longtime privateer, the late JD McDuffie, who had 653 starts prior to his tragic death at Watkins Glen in 1991.
Arrington earned his best career finish in one of Petty’s discarded Dodge Magnums at Talladega in 1979, coming home third, just two laps behind winner Bobby Allison. Arrington’s success was ironic, as Petty deemed the Magnum unfit for superspeedway racing a year earlier at Daytona, when he shut the engine down on the backstretch for a plug check and couldn’t even coast around back into the pits due to its heinous aerodynamics.
Well, Arrington took those cars and made the most of it, sticking with them for several seasons and finishing 11th in points in 1981 with the abandoned Chrysler products. In 1982, he rose four spots higher, coming home seventh in what would turn out to be his best career points finish. At a time when half the field was comprised of Buicks, Buddy was the last man standing with Mother Mopar.
In 1985, once the parts finally dried up from a lack of factory support (mainly because the factory almost dried up with them), Buddy went to the next closest thing to a Dodge; a Ford. With help from Bill and Ernie Elliott, he would campaign previously raced Melling Thunderbirds until he retired following the 1988 Firecracker 400 in Daytona, driving of all things, a Chevrolet. After a lifetime of avoiding the General like the plague, he conceded in his final race to run a Chevy, finishing 23rd.
In 1986, Arrington’s team endured tragedy when ARCA driver Rick Baldwin was attempting to qualify Buddy’s car for the Miller 400 at Michigan International Speedway. During qualifying, Baldwin lost control, spun and backed into the turn 3 wall with devastating impact. Baldwin was critically injured and was in a coma for nearly 12 years. He eventually succumbed to head injuries in 1997.
Today, Buddy and son Joey run and maintain Arrington Manufacturing in their hometown of Martinsville. After a few years driving Fords and that final forgettable race driving a Chevrolet, they have returned to where it all began, assembling Dodge engines for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as well as development work for Nextel Cup and Busch series motors.
This state of the art facility cranked out the power plants that earned the 2004 and 2005 NACAR Craftsman Truck Series Manufacturers’ Award and Engine Builder Award, winning championships with Ted Musgrave and the late Bobby Hamilton. Today, Arrington Engines houses 40 employees and turns out 60 to 70 engines per year. They even assemble packages for late-model performance cars and classic muscle cars as well. If you have a late-model Mopar in need of some tweaking or maybe want to drop an R5-P7 800hp 358cid small block into your Challenger or Dart, No. 67 has your hook up.
About the author
Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.
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