Rex White : Small stature, giant legend
Looking back at the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee's career MORE: NASCAR Hall of Fame profile of Rex White " NASCAR Hall of Fame by class (Note: This release is part of a series in advance of the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Jan. 30, broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly and Rex White are the five 2015 inductees.) DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.– Over the years, NASCAR premier series champions have come in all shapes and sizes – tall, short, muscular and lean. The single constant? It’s impossible to judge a book by its cover. Based upon first impressions, Rex White – at 5 feet 4 inches, weighing just 135 pounds and with his right leg withered by childhood polio – might have seemed the unlikeliest championship contender of all. White , however, was tough as nails fearing neither competitor nor track conditions. He won the 1960 premier series title and posted 28 victories over five seasons, finishing among the top five in nearly half of his 233 starts. "He looked more like a jockey than a race car driver," fellow competitor Buddy Baker told the Gaston Gazette, "but he lived large once they started the race. On short tracks, he was very aggressive. He didn't mind going in the turn with (NASCAR Hall of Famer and three-time premier series champion) Lee Petty and saying, 'I'm inside and if you come down we’re not going to agree on stuff.' "He raced hard." NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, the 1983 premier series champion, said, "I admired Rex as a race driver because he was a little guy. I started out small. Seeing him winning encouraged me to chase my dream." What might have been a handicap to many only served as motivation to White , born Aug. 17, 1929 in Taylorsville, N.C. "Most of the lessons I have learned (from childhood illness) have stayed with me all my life," said White in his autobiography "Gold Thunder," written with Dr. Anne B. Jones. "The biggest one was how to conquer fear." White learned to drive at age six, driving a neighbor's truck in surrounding fields. Two years later he was working on his family's Ford Model T. “I was unaware the car on which I labored represented hope to people around me (and) frustration to those trying to stop illegal moonshine," said White . "I saw automobiles as transportation, not the symbol of an upcoming billion-dollar sport." White dropped out of school, moving to the Washington D.C., area where he found employment as a cook and, after marriage, a service station job. A poster advertising stock car races took White to Lanham (Maryland) Speedway where he caught on as an unpaid crew member for 1952 NASCAR Modified champion Frankie Schneider. A year later, White returned to the track with a 1937 Ford purchased for $600 lettered "X." He won his heat race, the semi-main and the feature. "I'd never won a trophy at anything," said White . White made his premier series debut in 1956 on Daytona's beach/road course. In 1958, he teamed with crew chief Louis Clements in an "off the books" program by GM's Chevrolet Division. They won twice in 1958 and five times the following year. The 1959 season also saw the debut of White's iconic No. 4 gold and white Chevrolet. The 1960 season was the first in which White ran a full schedule, going to the post only after he and Clement built a car for a competitor, the sale of which netted $2,000 for their own Chevrolet. White won six times finishing 35 of 40 races among the top 10. White's ninth-place finish at Birmingham, Alabama on Aug. 3 was his worst performance in the year's final 15 races. The championship was a runaway, White beating NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty by nearly 4,000 points. "The thing about Rex is he thinks," said Clements in a 1960 interview with Sports Illustrated. "When he's out on the track, he's planning and figuring out which cars he has to race to stay ahead." Car owner and engine builder Smokey Yunick, quoted in the same article, said, " Rex is not a cautious driver but he know when to use caution." White didn't disagree. "I couldn't run quite as fast as some of those other guys," he said. "So long as I was smart and kept running; if any of those other guys had trouble, I had a chance." White nearly defended his title in 1961 winning seven times but finished second to NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett. He added two more top-10 championship finishes before retiring at the conclusion of the 1964 season. Between 1959 and the 1963 seasons, White won more races than any other driver. He won 36 premier series poles – at least one in eight consecutive seasons – and finished second in NASCAR's Short Track late model championship in 1959. In retirement, White has owned an automobile dealership and for 25 years a trucking company, both in the Atlanta area where at age 85 he continues to reside. Named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, White holds membership in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame and the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Rex White
NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Rex White reflects on his career and winning a NASCAR championship.
Hall of Famer White short in stature, tall in talent
Oldest living premier series champion gives his thoughts on induction, Abreu Rex White , still keeping busy at age 85, reigns supreme as NASCAR's oldest living champion. He might also rank as its shortest. But White , who stands just a few inches above five feet, never saw his height as any sort of disadvantage, even in the rough-and-tumble days of stock-car racing's infancy. "I really wasn't built or the size for fighting, so I kind of avoided any physical contact with any drivers," White said. "In the race car, though, I was probably about the same height as all of them." White's stature will take another step up come Friday night, when he'll be enshrined as part of the sixth class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He'll be inducted with three drivers he competed against -- Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott and Joe Weatherly -- and latter-day star Bill Elliott. It's an honor that left the 1960 champion of NASCAR's premier series at a loss for words. "It's just unbelievable because I didn't really think I was going in that early," White said of his emotions upon hearing the news. "Just unbelievable -- I don't even know the correct word to use for it, but I was really flabbergasted." White won 28 races in NASCAR's top division, all but two of which came in a four-year heyday from 1959-62. He never regarded his diminutive size as a hurdle, a point that was underscored just last weekend with a modern-day corollary. A popular victory by Rico Abreu, who stands 4-foot-4, in the Chili Bowl Nationals sprint car showcase has opened the doors for a driving opportunity in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. White said if Abreu's talent speaks for itself, all other factors should remain equal. "If they build the race cars and get him adjusted and sitting in there where he can operate everything," White said, "I would say he's just as capable of winning races as any other driver." White's ascension to the top of the NASCAR ladder came during a time when the sport was expanding its reach, growing beyond the dirt bullrings and entering a major speedway boom. Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway opened in the year White was crowned, and Daytona International Speedway 's 2.5-mile high banks debuted for business the previous year. Though he could see the sport transforming, White said he couldn't have envisioned what NASCAR would look like in 2015. "No earthly idea that it was going to grow to where it is today and be as popular as it is, and draw the money and pay the purses that they're paying," said White , who picked up a $13,000 check for winning the 1960 title. "I'm not even sure that Bill France had enough foresight to see that. I don't know. He may have, but I sure didn't." If White happens to cross paths with current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick during the Hall of Fame ceremonies, a link between the two will come full circle. White -- who drove a "Gold Thunder" car noted for its pristine gold and white paint scheme -- was the last champion to carry the No. 4 before Harvick accomplished the feat last season. White , like Harvick, was particularly loyal to driving for Chevrolet. The story goes, White needed to change his number from No. 44 once he stopped driving Chevrolet factory cars. Noting that Billy Myers -- an early star driver from Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina -- was a hero of his, it made White's choice all the easier. "Naturally, I grabbed it," White said. "It was a great number. Still is today." Though White hung up his helmet after a part-time schedule in 1964 and retired from his job at a car dealership in 2003, he said he's yet to slow down. His active schedule has picked up recently with appearances and interviews ahead of his Hall of Fame induction. Come Friday night in Charlotte, his stature as one of the sport's all-time greats will be secured, complete with a personalized blue blazer and the presentation of his NASCAR Hall of Fame ring. White says he's looking forward to the festivities, even if there might be the potential for stage fright. "Probably as ready as I'll ever be," White joked. "I'm sure there's something that I'll screw up on, so anyway, I'm going to do the best I can. It's a great honor, and it's a pleasure to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame."
White happy to be mentioned with big names
Rex White talks with Bob Dillner about what it means to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
White : 'Words can't express how honored I am'
Rex White acknowledges the team effort that helped earn him a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Podcast: Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott ponder racing a T-Rex
On this excerpt from Ryan Blaney's Glass Case of Emotion Podcast, Ryan and Chase Elliott talk about what it would be like to race a T- Rex .
Rex White | Class of 2015
Inductee for 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame class
Jeremy Clements' 'Black Widow' Darlington paint scheme honors family
RELATED: Full Darlington coverage " Throwback paint schemes Jeremy Clements Racing is excited to announce they will be fielding a Throwback paint scheme this coming Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway . The No. 51 Camaro SS will be sponsored by long time partners www.repairablevehicles.com and will feature the "Black Widow" paint scheme that was driven by a number of racing greats in the late '50s in the likes of Hall of Famers Buck Baker and Rex White and powered by the renowed engine buliders of the time, Jeremy's grandfather and great uncle, Crawford and Louis Clements. Crawford and Louis both also crew chiefed as well for some all time greats. Crawford crew chiefed Hall of Famers Junior Johnson, Buck Baker and AJ Foyt all to wins the early '60s, and Louis crew chiefed Rex White to the 1960 Cup Championship. "I'm really proud to honor my grandfather (who started me in racing) and my great uncle with this cool Black Widow Paint Scheme from the '50s," Jeremy said. "Even more excited to represent them and Clements Racing Engines in our home state at Darlington Raceway ." Buck Baker in his Black Widow.
Voting for 2016 NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award Opens Sept. 4
RELATED: Cast your vote DARLINGTON, S.C. (Sept. 3, 2016) -- Voting for the National Motorsports Press Association Sprint Most Popular Driver Award will officially open Sunday, Sept. 4. The award, sponsored by Sprint and administered by the NMPA, is the only major NASCAR award determined solely by fan vote. It has been presented annually since 1953. The 2016 voting period will open at 12 a.m. ET Sunday and close at 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 20. To vote for this year's award, fans can visit www.mostpopulardriver.com through either desktop or the NASCAR MOBILE app. Voting is limited to one vote per person per email address per day. Fans are encouraged to share their votes through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Eligible drivers for this year's award are those who have declared for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. NASCAR Hall of Fame member and 1988 series champion Bill Elliott holds the record for most MPD awards with 16; Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . has won the award for the past 13 seasons. Nineteen drivers have earned MPD honors on one or more occasions since its inception. "The launch of the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award is one of the most anticipated events of the season for many fans," Kenny Bruce, president of the NMPA, said. "NASCAR fans are the most passionate you'll find in any sport and the NMPA considers it an honor to allow them to determine the sport's most popular driver. "We are pleased to present this year's program once again with series sponsor Sprint, whose help and guidance have been invaluable in bringing the Most Popular Driver program to fans." Sprint has been the presenting sponsor of the MPD Award since 2014. The winner of this year's award will be announced during the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards program on Friday, Dec. 2 in Las Vegas. NBCSN will air the post-season program beginning at 9 p.m. ET. MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR will carry the awards show live. A $10,000 donation will be made to the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver's charity of choice on behalf of the NMPA. NMPA MOST POPULAR DRIVER AWARD Year – Recipient 2015 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2014 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2013 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2012 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2011 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2010 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2009 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2008 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2007 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2006 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2005 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2004 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2003 - Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2002 - Bill Elliott 2001 - Dale Earnhardt 2000 - Bill Elliott 1999 - Bill Elliott 1998 - Bill Elliott 1997 - Bill Elliott 1996 - Bill Elliott 1995 - Bill Elliott 1994 - Bill Elliott 1993 - Bill Elliott 1992 - Bill Elliott 1991 - Bill Elliott 1990 - Darrell Waltrip 1989 - Darrell Waltrip 1988 - Bill Elliott 1987 - Bill Elliott 1986 - Bill Elliott 1985 - Bill Elliott 1984 - Bill Elliott 1983 - Bobby Allison 1982 - Bobby Allison 1981 - Bobby Allison 1980 - David Pearson 1979 - David Pearson 1978 - Richard Petty 1977 - Richard Petty 1976 - Richard Petty 1975 - Richard Petty 1974 - Richard Petty 1973 - Bobby Allison 1972 - Bobby Allison 1971 - Bobby Allison 1970 - Richard Petty 1969 - Bobby Isaac 1968 - Richard Petty 1967 - Cale Yarborough 1966 - Darel Dieringer 1965 - Fred Lorenzen 1964 - Richard Petty 1963 - Fred Lorenzen 1962 - Richard Petty 1961 - Joe Weatherly 1960 - Rex White 1959 - Jack Smith 1958 - Glen Wood 1957 - Fireball Roberts 1956 - Curtis Turner 1955 - Tim Flock 1954 - Lee Petty 1953 - Lee Petty
At Martinsville, Hendrick embraces memories while motivating
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Rick Hendrick probably knew the answer. That didn't keep the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner from asking the question. Standing inside the No. 48 hauler, shoulder to shoulder with team members, Hendrick glanced at driver Jimmie Johnson . "I'd like to have another clock," he said matter-of-factly. "Jimmie, how many clocks do you have?" "Not enough," came Johnson's rapid reply. "That's the right answer," chimed in crew chief Chad Knaus. Officially, Johnson has eight career victories at Martinsville Speedway , where the race winner receives a grandfather clock for his or her efforts. Driver introductions were less than an hour away, and Sunday's STP 500 would not start for another 90 minutes or so. Hendrick, 66, was making the first of several stops on a sunny but cool Sunday morning at Martinsville -- which is the site of both some of his greatest highs in racing and his most devastating heartbreak in life. His Hendrick Motorsports organization fields four teams in NASCAR's premier series. The No. 48 of Johnson, the No. 5 of Kasey Kahne , the No. 24 of Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott , and the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr ., the series' most popular driver. On race days, Hendrick visits them all. After chatting with Johnson's group Sunday, Hendrick ducked into the No. 88 hauler, then the 5 and finally the 24. That the HMS transporters are parked next to one another helps expedite the process. Later, he speaks again briefly with the drivers and others out on the starting grid before the beginning of the race. "I start at the back of the grid and work my way to the front speaking to the drivers," Hendrick said of his own personal weekly grid walk. "It makes it hard sometimes when you've got one in the back, one in the front, one's going to the bathroom, things like that. It's tight between the time they get out of the truck (after driver introductions) and they start the race." That's the case at Martinsville, with Johnson starting uncharacteristically deep (24th) in the 40-car field, and Kahne pitting at the front thanks to a No. 2 qualifying effort. Slowing the process to a crawl are the fans and fellow competitors with whom Hendrick stops to chat as he makes his way from the frontstretch to the Turn 2 side of the series' smallest venue. The founder of a hugely successful NASCAR operation and automotive sales group, Hendrick remains an incredibly humble person. Fans that stop the team owner seeking an autograph get an autograph; those who ask for a photo get their picture taken with the team owner. The only request, coming again and again from those who help ferry their boss from one location to the next is a simple: "Give him room to walk, please." After stopping to offer Johnson and Earnhardt, who rolled off 21st, encouragement, Hendrick stops to speak with owner/driver Tony Stewart on pit road. Stewart remains sidelined after a back injury in a non-racing incident before the start of the season. His Stewart-Haas Racing organization purchases engines and much technical information from HMS, though that will change next season when SHR moves to Ford. SHR driver Kevin Harvick speaks briefly with Hendrick as well, then crew chief Rodney Childers. A few yards farther and it's Felix Sabates, minority owner of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, who steps around the cars on the grid to greet Hendrick. The team owner is still two teams shy of completing his task by the time the national anthem has ended and the planes in the flyover have flown over, colored smoke trailing from each. Elliott and Kahne are already behind the wheel, but Hendrick manages to lean in and speak to each before the window nets go up on their respective cars and the command is given to start engines. Hendrick will often visit each of the four teams' pit boxes, joining the crew chiefs, car chiefs and engineers for varying periods of time throughout the race. When the green flag finally falls, he's poised atop the No. 24 box of Elliott, standing in the background and watching the action unfold. Team owner Rick Hendrick, center, speaks to all of his drivers before a race -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . (left) is one of four. WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT "I just tell them good luck," Hendrick says of the pre-race conversations with his drivers. He offers words of encouragement to those who might be struggling, as well those who aren't. Staying out of trouble, making good adjustments and driving smart can pay off, he tells each one. Do that "and then you're going to be there," he says. "We've won a lot of races that way." Johnson, who has driven exclusively for Hendrick at the Sprint Cup level, calls his boss "a great motivator." "He can say a lot in a few words," the six-time champion said. "Here it would be, 'You know I won my first race here.' And just smile at you. "Yes sir. Message delivered. Let's go win another." RELATED: Top moments from Martinsville Of course, conversations can sometimes take a delightfully unexpected turn. "I can think back to my rookie year at Charlotte for qualifying," Johnson said. "There was some cool car I wanted to buy. He knew that I had ordered it through his dealership; I was going to lease it, and he stuck his head in (the window) just as I was getting ready to roll off for qualifying, and said 'You know how much I love to win the pole at home,' and I said 'I'm sure you do.' "He goes 'You won't have to worry about paying for that car if you win the pole.' " Johnson indeed wound up winning the pole for the 2002 Coca-Cola 600 . It was his first pole at a non-restrictor plate track. It wasn't until he was headed home, he said, that he remembered the owner's comments. "I was like 'Damn! I got a car out of this!' " Johnson said. "So I call him and go 'Hey what about that car?' and he goes 'No problem. A deal's a deal.' " There have been similar deals, some that paid off and some that didn't. But the primary message on Sunday for each team was straightforward and simple. "I'm here to support you," Hendrick said. "Give them that moral support and acknowledge how hard they work. "It's easy to be positive when you're winning every week, but when you're not, to come back with the right attitude to work together, figure it out and not point blame. We're a team. Drivers are going to make mistakes, crew chiefs are going to make a bad call, and pit stops are going to be bad. Nobody's perfect. Just keeping them all motivated. That's it." THE TRIP THAT NEARLY WASN'T Winning at Martinsville is special for Hendrick. At only .526 miles, it is the smallest venue on the Sprint Cup Series circuit. From an emotional standpoint, it might well be the biggest for him. As a kid, Hendrick traveled with his father, Joe, from their home in South Hill, Virginia, to watch the races. The younger Hendrick got Richard Petty's autograph "in Turn 4 down there," he said. "I don't remember how old I was. "I used to pull for Rex White here in the convertible (division)." Martinsville eventually became the launching pad for Hendrick Motorsports , known as All-Star Racing in 1984 when a former Modified driver from Chemung, New York, named Geoff Bodine put the team in Victory Lane for the very first time. "Had we not won this race in 1984, I wouldn't be here today," the car owner said. "That's how close it was. We had made the decision to close the shop until we got a sponsor. You know, usually when you do that, you never come back. "But Harry (Hyde, crew chief) talked me into coming up here and Bodine won the race. The rest is history. We owe the track a lot." There have been 22 more wins at Martinsville for the organization since Bodine’s victory. Most were celebrated. Jimmie Johnson' s win in the Subway 500 on October 24, 2004 was not. It was Johnson's first short-track victory. It was the day Hendrick, feeling under the weather, chose to stay home. And it was the day a company plane carrying 10 passengers, including son, Ricky, and brother, John Hendrick, president of the company, crashed while attempting to land at Blue Ridge Airport in nearby Stuart, Virginia. There were no survivors. Saturday, the day before this year’s STP 500 , was Ricky Hendrick's birthday. He would have been 36. "It was kind of one of those days where -- I really thought about this morning just not coming," said Hendrick, adding that returning to the spring race each year is difficult but that "it's really hard to come back in the fall. "Once I'm here with the guys, that's what those guys would have wanted me to do," he said. "When you come back and fly in you think about that." He returned for the spring race in 2005, and the reception from fans, officials and other competitors "just blew me away," Hendrick said. Skipping the fall race, he learned that "sometimes it's harder not to be here than to be here. "As tough as it is, at home it's worse. You're watching it or maybe you don't want to watch it. It's hard to explain," he said. "But I think I've learned that it's going to be tough because it was so much of a loss that day. But being here is easier than being at home thinking about it." 'LET'S GO TO TEXAS' A constant, cool breeze eventually pushed Hendrick inside one of his team's haulers for the completion of Sunday's race. It had been a trying day, and while a glimmer of hope remained in the closing laps, it turned out to be a rare un-Hendrick-like day in the series' first of two annual stops at Martinsville. Johnson finished ninth, Earnhardt Jr. 14th, Elliott 20th and Kahne 22nd. "When you have days like this, I do more trying to console them than anything else," Hendrick said, removing the radio headset that had kept him in contact with each of his four teams throughout the day. "I always just try to tell them, 'Let's go to Texas.' " The teams will gather Tuesday to go over what worked and what didn't, filing it away for later in the year when the series returns. But the focus will be on the upcoming race this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway . "We've been good on the mile-and-a-half stuff," he said. "They'll just have to decipher where they think they were off here." The man whose teams have won 11 premier series titles and 242 races -- including nearly two dozen here -- headed back outside into the fading light and growing shadows. "This is," he admitted, "a humbling sport." MORE: Key takeaways from Martinsville
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