NASCAR Race Weekend Central

That’s History Profile: Curtis Turner

Curtis Turner started out driving well before he was old enough to get a driver’s license. He hailed from the area of Bent Mountain, Va., and as with many who lived in remote regions of the South during this era, Turner worked to export the local product: moonshine. He became as big of a legend running illegal liquor as he did on the track. His ability to outrun Federal agents as well as local law enforcement earned Turner respect for his skill behind the wheel and unlike his counterpart Junior Johnson, Turner was never apprehended by the police. He ran his first race in 1946 in Mt. Airy, N.C. He finished last in a field of 18. In his next start, he won, beginning a legend as the best driver ever to race on dirt.

That’s History Profile: Fireball Roberts

Fireball Roberts was one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history to never win a championship. And while the biggest prize managed to elude him; Roberts, the 1957 Most Popular Driver, still managed to etch his name in the NASCAR record books. In 1958, he became the first driver to win two 500-mile races in the same season, winning at Trenton, N.J. and the Southern 500 at Darlington. Three times he earned victories in two of NASCAR’S most prestigious races; the 1958 and 1963 Southern 500s and the 1962 Daytona 500. Perhaps his lasting legacy came in one of the sport’s darkest moments, his death in the World 600 in 1964; which was the catalyst for the development and implementation of fuel cells, driver safety products, and fire retardant uniforms.

That’s History Profile: Cale Yarborough

William Caleb Yarborough was born the son of a tobacco farmer on March 27th, 1939, just outside of Darlington, S.C. Later on in life, Cale would raise not tobacco but turkeys. He had little interest in the product, but more so what was happening down the road. 1950 was the first year of the Southern 500, the first superspeedway oval specific to NASCAR, and one of the first to feature banking. Cale didn’t have a ticket, so he slipped through a break in a chain-link fence to watch the action. A few years later he attempted to make the race, lying about his age to gain entrance. His first start at the track would be in 1957 driving a Pontiac for owner Bob Weatherly. Starting dead last, he’d only improve two positions to 42nd, a failed hub ending his day, but not his desire to race.

That’s History Profile: Coo Coo Marlin

Clifton Marlin’s career began almost by accident. His brother Jack campaigned a car at Hohenwald Speedway in Tennessee, but didn’t show up one night for one reason or another. Coo Coo volunteered to drive and finished third in his first race on dirt. While he credited a lot of it to beginners’ luck, a good car, and the competition giving him plenty of room; he had another colorful explanation for it. He figured that being a farmer and having an intimate relationship with the earth helped him get around on it faster in a racecar as well.

That’s History Profile: Alan Kulwicki

As we head into Bristol this weekend, we are often reminded of some of the most memorable moments in NASCAR Kulwicki was born on December 14, 1954 in Greenfield, Wis. He was a pioneer in the sport, coming to NASCAR through the Midwest’s ASA series, which produced such luminaries as Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, and Dick Trickle. Kulwicki was one of the first drivers to complete college, graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1977, with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Alan used his education and experience to his advantage; always getting more out of less, and doing things smarter than the other guy. Legendary car owner Junior Johnson was once asked which driver he would have wanted to drive for him that never did. The two names that came to mind were seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, and Kulwicki. Johnson was convinced that having a driver who was just as (if not more) mechanically adept as he or the people he had assembling the car would have made them a force to be reckoned with.

That’s History Profile: Benny Parsons

Benny Parsons was born in Ellerbe, N.C., on July 12th, 1941 – a small town just north of Rockingham. After growing up in the South throughout his childhood, Parsons actually made his first career choice around a profession that had nothing to do with racing – but driving an automobile nonetheless. Making a move up north to Detroit in 1960, Parsons relocated to where his father ran a taxi cab garage. That’s where the youngster spent the remainder of his young adult years… learning how to drive not through the local dirt track, but by dropping passenger after passenger off at their destination as a cab driver.

That’s History Profile: Tim Richmond

Tim Richmond came into NASCAR reminiscent of the way so many do today. He got his start in open wheel racing by testing a sprint car for a friend and wound up turning laps faster than the regular driver. At the age of 21, that brief test had him hooked and soon after he won the USAC Rookie of the Year in 1978. Two years later he moved to big-time open-wheel racing, competing in the Indianapolis 500 in 1980, finishing ninth after running out of fuel. Driving for car owner DK Ulrich, he would make his NASCAR debut at Pocono later that year — a track where some of his most memorable, yet heartbreaking memories would be made.

That’s History Profile: Junior Johnson

Robert Glen Johnson, Junior was born June 28th, 1931 in the tiny burg of Ingle Hollow, N.C. Like many of his day from the region, Junior dabbled in the production of grain alcohol corn whiskey; known far and wide as Moonshine. The Johnson family produced the stuff for consumption as well as distribution, and the latter would land him in trouble with the U.S. Government in 1956. He would spend nearly a year in an Ohio federal prison prior to his release in the fall of 1957. Although he was never caught “ridin’ dirty,” he was captured by his father’s still after a foot pursuit through the wilderness of Wilkes County, what was to bootlegging then what Charlotte is to NASCAR today.

That’s History Profile: Darrell Waltrip

Waltrip won his first race in 1975 at Nashville, Tenn. and he won again later that year at the Richmond Fairgrounds. This was back during the “big car” era. With all the aerodynamics of a sofa on tap and no power steering, the control truly was in the driver’s hands. During this time when he started racing, he would tally 27 wins. Some of those wins came as an owner AND a driver. All of them came against four of the top seven drivers in the all-time wins column.

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