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Rudd reflects on NASCAR career, time spent with Childress
Ricky Rudd was a youngster in NASCAR at a time when the term described anyone under 30 that drove around in used equipment and hoped someone noticed their talent before the wheels fell off. Richard Childress was a 36-year-old independent, an owner/driver with a potential sponsor that wasn't interested in 36-year-old owner/drivers, independent or otherwise. Brought together by nothing more than necessity -- Rudd needed a ride and Childress needed a driver -- the pair spent just two years together. But in two years' time, a stellar driving career and a legendary ownership role were launched. "Even today I can't thank Ricky enough for what he did for RCR," Childress said recently during an unveiling of throwback paint schemes to be run by two of his organization's three cars later this year in the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . "Those were the breaking points that we needed to get both of our careers jump-started. I think it was a great time for both of us." Austin Dillon , grandson of the team owner, will drive a No. 3 Chevrolet bearing the likeness of Rudd's No. 3 Piedmont Airlines entry at Darlington. "I'd been talking to Piedmont prior to that," Childress said of the 1982 sponsorship agreement. "Even talked to them back when Dale (Earnhardt) was running … races (for us). "They said, 'We're an up-and-coming airline, we want an up and coming driver.' I said, 'Well I know exactly the person.' I convinced Ricky to run for us. We didn't even have it done when he came over to drive for us." Childress had gone the independent route for roughly a dozen years, earning 76 top-10 finishes but never a victory in 285 career starts as a driver. Rudd had begun to climb the racing ladder, but saw his career stall at the end of '81 when he was replaced at DiGard Racing by veteran Bobby Allison. "About that time I got a call from Richard," Rudd said. "He said, 'Hey, nothing concrete but I've got some good equipment that I'm going to Daytona with, would you be willing to drive our car?' That's how it started. "That phone call didn't take place until late December, maybe early January. ... I didn't have anything going that was better than what Richard had to offer. I went to the car that I thought gave me the best chance to win races. Even though the prior half season Dale Earnhardt was driving the car and everyone knows Earnhardt's capabilities but they never really performed that well. There were reasons for that, but Richard was in a major rebuild during that time." Earnhardt drove for Richard Childress Racing for the final 11 races of '81, but departed to spend the next two years with Bud Moore where he won three times. Meanwhile, the RCR organization was beginning to make strides. "Before we went to Daytona, things had started happening. Piedmont Airlines had stepped on board as a sponsor. Goodyear came on board and helped us out with some tires ... there were a lot of people that got on board and liked what they saw," Rudd said. "The team just continued to snowball in the right direction after I was asked to join it, not because of me, but the timing was perfect for me as a driver and was perfect for Richard as an owner, through all the hard work and people he had. It came together and worked." Rudd and Childress went winless in their first season together, but the driver did finish ninth in points. The following year, Rudd began the season with three consecutive poles -- at Daytona, Richmond, Virigina, and Rockingham, North Carolina -- career win No. 1, for Rudd and for Childress, came in the season's 13th race, at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. Rudd led 57 laps of the 95-lap race, including the final 41. The victory came in his 161st start in the series. "It gave every one of us confidence," Childress said. "It gave him confidence to progress in the sport, gave us confidence that we could win as a team and as a company and we just had to keep digging." "It wasn't a road-race car," Will Lind, now Business Director of Competition for RCR, said. "It was our Martinsville car with the gas hole moved and the oil cooler for the transmission. The only thing specialized about it was him ( Rudd )." Afterward, as Childress and crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine began the long trek back to the Carolinas, the team owner said he pulled off on the side of the road. "Kirk and I looked at each other and Kirk said, 'You know what we just did?' "I said, 'Yeah, we won.' " "He said, 'No, you won right outside of LA, with all the big sports going on ... we just won a major race here in Riverside, California.' " Rudd won once more that season, at Martinsville Speedway , and again finished ninth in points. The following season, he moved on to join Bud Moore Engineering; Earnhardt, meanwhile returned to RCR where he went on to win six premier series titles for the former owner/driver. Rudd retired from driving after the 2007 season, with 23 career wins and 374 top-10 finishes in 906 starts. He finished fifth or better in points five times, including second in 1991. He is one of five new nominees on this year's 20-person ballot to be considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame for 2017. The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel will meet Wed., May 25 to decide next year's five-member class. "It's an exciting time for me," Rudd said. "It would be great if I make it but there are some guys that are probably better qualified than me. I'd love to be elected this year but hopefully that day will come. At least I'm in the pool anyway; you've got to get in the pool before you can be elected. We'll see how it turns out. But there are some guys that deserve to be in there before I do." It is Childress' eighth year on the Hall of Fame ballot. In addition to six premier series titles and 105 victories, RCR teams have also XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series titles. "You could tell early on that there was something special about it," Rudd said of the organization. "Richard was more than just being a car owner ... it was family. They live, eat, sleep and breathe racing. ... "At the time there were no victories here but as a group it all started happening. And it was just a neat time to be a part of it." MORE: Cast your NASCAR Hall of Fame ballot
Gordon ties Ricky Rudd for most consecutive starts
RELATED: Watch Gordon's first Chicagoland win JOLIET, Ill. -- Jeff Gordon made his 788th consecutive start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sunday, equaling the series record established by former driver Ricky Rudd . Barring some catastrophic occurrence, a week from now at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , the 44-year-old will break Rudd's longstanding mark. From his first start on Nov. 20, 1992 through this weekend's myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway , Gordon has been one of the few constants in the series. Primary sponsorship of the series has changed -- what was Winston Cup is now Sprint Cup ; tracks have been added and subtracted; cars have evolved, rules have been re-written. Champions have come and champions have gone. Gordon, however, has persevered. Since his first start in Sprint Cup , he has always driven the No. 24 Chevrolet and he has always driven for owner Rick Hendrick. "That's one of those things I feel strange talking about because I do appreciate and respect the safety of this sport and the side that it can be taken away from you at any time," Gordon said of the milestone. "I want to break that record. I think it's a huge accomplishment because it's not that easy to do. It's easier today I think because the sport is safer. "I look at Ricky Rudd ; what he went through to make it is pretty extraordinary so I can't quite compare to that, but I've been in this sport a long time, I've been in every single race and that is definitely a stat that I will look back on and be very proud of when we accomplish that at New Hampshire." NASCAR Hall of Fame member and 1988 series champion Bill Elliott won the race at Atlanta in which Gordon made his first Sprint Cup start. In an unusual twist, Chase Elliott , Bill's son, will take over the driving duties of the No. 24 entry beginning next season as Gordon steps aside to begin a career outside the car that will include a stint in the broadcast booth with FOX Sports. "How old is Jeff, 50?" fellow driver Clint Bowyer quipped earlier this week during a break in testing at Kansas Speedway . "It seems like he ought to be 60 as long as he's been in this sport. "When you think about the bruisers, the tough guys of this sport, Ricky Rudd was always that guy, you know? For Jeff to be in it as long as he has, and to stay safe as long as he has, it says a lot about the cars he is driving, the people that are working on those cars, the safety innovations in this sport; that's the reason that you can do those things and he can continue to do it at the age he’s doing it. Stay sharp and on top of his game like he has." RELATED: Rudd and other drivers who have raced injured Six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson , Gordon's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports , couldn't resist a playful dig when asked about Gordon's record-equaling accomplishment. "He's old," Johnson said with a laugh. "I can't believe it. It's amazing how fast the time goes. I'm sure Jeff would say the same." When Johnson moved into Cup fulltime in '02, Gordon was coming off his fourth championship and was already a winner of 58 races. "It's crazy to think that in 270-some races (before '02) … I can't believe what he had accomplished in that window of time," Johnson said. "He's had an amazing career and I hate to see him go. I wish he was still going to be around but I know he's fired up about for what's next in life. He's been doing it a long time. "The success he's had, and especially right off the bat, is really impressive." Rudd's streak began Jan. 1, 1981 at Riverside (Calif.) Raceway with a DiGard team owned by Bill Gardner. It didn't end until Sept. 20, 2005 at Homestead-Miami Speedway while paired with Wood Brothers Racing . Rudd , Gordon and Bobby Labonte (704) are the only drivers with more than 700 consecutive starts. Matt Kenseth , with 538 consecutive starts, is next in line among those drivers still competing fulltime in the series. "I look at Ricky Rudd , what he went through to make it is pretty extraordinary so I can't quite compare to that, but I've been in this sport a long time," Gordon said. "I've been in every single race and that is definitely a stat that I will look back on and be very proud of when we accomplish that at New Hampshire." There were times, he said, when the possibility of missing a race existed, but they were few and far between, due to health concerns rather than performance-based issues. One that quickly comes to mind, he said, was a blown right-front tire at Texas Motor Speedway in 1999 that sent Gordon's Chevrolet hard into the outside wall and left the driver with a rib injury. "No SAFER barrier, no HANS device, seats were not what they are today, seat belts were not what they are today," Gordon said. "That could have been a very serious injury. It ended up being bruised ribs and I was hurting but we had a weekend off so I was able to recover enough to go to Bristol the next race." "Of course the back issue that I had last year at Charlotte -- I wasn't prepared for that. When I got back in the car on Saturday and it hurt as bad as it did, I was scared that I might not make it into that race … the next day. "Luckily I had some great doctors that got me through it, we did the injections and I was able to make it through that race." Week after week, year after year, Gordon has continued to show up, suit up and race as hard as he did that first Sunday at Atlanta more than two decades ago. "What are mine?" Bowyer asked of his own number of consecutive starts. Told 351, Bowyer seemed stunned. "Three fifty one to 787? Whoa! I'll be 60 (by then)," he said. "No, it really is a hell of an accomplishment; what a career and he’s done a lot for our sport and everybody involved in it. It really is crazy to think next year there will not be a Jeff Gordon (on the track)." No other full-time driver competing today was also in the field that day in Atlanta. So Bowyer not only spoke for himself but for the other 41 drivers in today's race. "He's been in every single ( Sprint Cup ) race that I've ever been a part of."
RCR honors Rudd with Darlington throwbacks
Richard Childress Racing drivers Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman will be sporting paint schemes for throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway that honor the first win for RCR and Ricky Rudd . The victory came in 1983 at Riverside International Raceway.
From The Vault: Gordon edges Rudd in Michigan
Relive Jeff Gordon’s 55th career victory that came in 2001 at Michigan International Speedway. Gordon would hold off a hard-charging Ricky Rudd to earn Hendrick Motorsports its 100th win in NASCAR’s top series.
Cain: Junior's decision to sit out is absolutely right
RELATED: Dale Jr. to miss Sunday's Loudon race There should be no debate. No second-guessing. The decision for NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. to sit out this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire was actually an easy one. The absolute right one. Doctors are concerned that Earnhardt has suffered another concussion, or at least concussion-like symptoms and have recommended his body must heal. He may even miss next week's race at one of the sport's most legendary venues, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Should he need to do so, his former Hendrick Motorsports teammate and longtime friend Jeff Gordon has graciously offered to step out of retirement and drive Earnhardt's famous No. 88 Chevrolet -- allowing Earnhardt another week of healing. Should the 41-year-old need to sit out the rest of the season, that's fine, too. And should NASCAR's reigning 13-time Most Popular Driver ultimately find out that he needs to unstrap for good, how admirable and inspiring that he could make that decision, too. Collective gasp. That's right. At only 41 years old, Earnhardt still has a lot of wonderful, memory-making days ahead -- perhaps on the race track and certainly off the race track. How good and fortunate that he is driving in an era when his symptoms could be properly diagnosed and addressed. And that both his boss, Rick Hendrick, and "Junior's" massive legions of fans, would fully understand and support his healing outside the cockpit of a race car. "The most important thing in this whole process is for Dale to get better and feel better; and we're going to let that happen on the timeline it's going to happen on," Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Doug Duchardt said Thursday. RELATED: Hendrick, NASCAR officials speak to Junior's injury, protocols Ricky Rudd may have raced with his eyes taped open in the good 'ol days. And in the good old days, Tim Flock drove with a monkey in his car. But this is NASCAR in 2016 -- with digital dashboards, million-dollar paychecks and best of all, the very tops in modern medical treatment. Thankfully, Earnhardt doesn't have to feel compelled to drive when he is not right, when he is suffering from concussion-like symptoms. It's not only best for him to heal up, but also best for the entire starting field that he heal up. "For him to step out of the race car, it must be something serious," driver Carl Edwards said Friday at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "I hope he recovers quickly and, second, I have a lot of respect for making the decision. I can't imagine how tough that decision would be. "Right now with the format, you do have the opportunity to take care of yourself, do what you think is right and still have a shot at the championship." RELATED: Drivers react to Junior's health news Beyond his massive NASCAR superstardom, Earnhardt is a rather "regular" guy. He drinks beer with his buddies and loves to spend time with his family. He's engaged to Amy Reimann, and they are set to be married soon. And who knows if a Dale Earnhardt III might follow in the near future. The right decision this week -- and next week, and the next week -- is vital not just to his racing career, but for his life. It's good that Earnhardt is listening to doctors, even when their news is troubling to hear and their instructions are tough to swallow. This isn't the first time Earnhardt has been sidelined because of concussion-like symptoms and that makes the current situation even more significant. In 2012, Earnhardt missed races in Charlotte and Kansas because of a concussion likely suffered in a hard crash during a test at Kansas Speedway. This time, he's not even sure where exactly he may have been injured. He crashed hard at both Michigan and Daytona in the past month. This past week Earnhardt thought he was fighting a severe sinus infection, but returned to the doctors when medicine seemed ineffective. "When that didn't help, I decided to dig a little deeper," Earnhardt said. "Because of my symptoms and my history with concussions, and after my recent wrecks at Michigan and Daytona, I reached out and met with a neurological specialist. After further evaluation, they felt it was best for me to sit out." WATCH: Smith, who filled in for Junior in 2012, weighs in on news And with the new "waiver" rules, Earnhardt potentially could miss races and still be eligible for the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs. He's currently 13th in points. Racing is and has always been such an important, defining part of Earnhardt's life. But, it is not his life. So again, he is serving as an inspiring and fabulous example in times of hardship -- going back to the admirable way he handled his seven-time champion father's death. Not only did he somehow make everyone else feel better then, he had the gumption to get back behind the wheel and continue winning NASCAR's biggest races and the sport's heart. I've known Earnhardt since his very first entrance in NASCAR's big leagues -- from the bleached-blond hair days. And I remember talking to his father about him often. Of course, today, people always ask me about Earnhardt when they find out I report on NASCAR. And the truth is, I have always found him to be someone who speaks from the heart. He seems to find it quite amazing himself, the influence he wields and the people drawn to his every move. He is authentic and modest and seems to be as happy as he's ever been. FULL STORY: Timeline of Junior's injuries So many stories in sports are about an athlete who has fallen from grace or made bad choices. This story is about a hugely popular superstar smart enough to heal up properly. The hard decision is absolutely the right decision. It is impressive and important. And we all wish him well. "It takes a lot to come out and address some of the health concerns that he had," Duchardt said. "I really commend him for that. The whole time it's not about who are we going to get to back fill, what we are going to do when he does come back it's all about him getting better on a timeline that is satisfied to him. Not anything to do with the Chase, not anything to do with points or anything like that. "Our team supports him 100 percent. We have a relationship that goes beyond driver. That is something that is more important than anything." &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Ricky Rudd
See how one of the toughest men of iron in NASCAR earned his right to be considered for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
RCR reveals Darlington throwback schemes
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes WELCOME, N.C. -- It seemed almost appropriate that on the day that Richard Childress Racing unveiled its retro paint schemes for this year's throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway , one of the team's drivers would arrive in a "Dukes of Hazzard" Dodge Charger. Ryan Newman said his vehicle choice wasn't an intentional nod to the historic track's nostalgia movement. "My truck is hauling hay right now," Newman said. "It was basically the only thing I had that I could take my kid to school with that had a car seat in it and then drive here and get here pretty quick." Sure enough, the bright orange No. 01 General Lee was equipped with a child seat, something that Bo and Luke Duke never really had during the television show's seven-season run. Newman's version, however, made for a popular addition to the carpool lane. "There's quite a few pictures that get taken at that school," Newman said. "You'd be surprised." Cameras were front and center Wednesday morning at Childress' shop, capturing images of Newman and teammate Austin Dillon driving up in eye-catching cars with overtures to the organization's rich NASCAR pedigree. Newman's No. 31 Chevrolet will carry period-style Caterpillar logos for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at the historic South Carolina track, and Dillon's No. 3 Chevy will be trimmed out in American Ethanol livery evocative of the Piedmont Airlines scheme that adorned RCR's flagship car for its first victory back in 1983. Ricky Rudd , RCR's driver at the time, was in attendance Wednesday at the organization's sprawling campus, helping Childress spin tales of when the operation had just four full-time employees and cashed checks for as little as $200 in contingency prize money. Today, the payroll number tops 500 and the winner's purse has more zeros on the checks. . @RCRracing paint schemes for @TooToughToTame revealed. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/uGuJBOjW3j — Zack Albert (@zack_albert) May 11, 2016 . @austindillon3 & @RyanJNewman with their @RCRracing rides for @TooToughToTame . #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/T3tsZ6dK94 — Zack Albert (@zack_albert) May 11, 2016 Besides the heritage colors and logos, Childress' design team also captured the spirit of the team's early 1980s growth through typefaces. Both cars unveiled Wednesday will feature numerals from the time period before Dale Earnhardt made RCR's stylized No. 3 famous. "I think we just tried to play within the years that Darlington gave us," Dillon said, referring to the track's focus on the 1975-84 era for its Labor Day classic, "and I think there's no better way than to celebrate RCR's first win with this scheme. American Ethanol allowing us to do it, Ricky Rudd coming today -- that was really cool and special just talking to him and hearing a little bit of what was going on back in the day and how RCR's grown." Few teams invested more into the NASCAR throwback initiative's debut last year that Richard Childress Racing . All three of its teams turned back the clock not only with paint schemes, but also with their garage attire, which featured ringer T-shirts, white work pants and red Converse Chuck Taylors to round out the look of the No. 3 crew. Wednesday's program re-positioned RCR as an active participant for Darlington's retro encore, with the No. 27 Chevrolet's look for driver Paul Menard to be revealed at a later date. "It's a lot of different connections that tie in together into one weekend," Newman said. "I'm a big, as I think you guys know, fan of the history of our sport and it's pretty cool to see the way it all came together last year. I'm even more excited to see what's going to pop up this year." So is Chip Wile, who has left a compelling legacy of embracing stock-car racing tradition during his nearly three-year run as Darlington Raceway track president. Wile, in his second week as the newly tapped president of Daytona International Speedway , took in Wednesday's unveiling with a contingent from NASCAR's first superspeedway. Wile said Darlington's communications team had continual contact with its stakeholders before last year's first throwback weekend, almost needing to sell the concept to teams and sponsors alike. "Now that we've had a year under our belts and people have actually seen it, it's a heck of a lot easier to have these conversations," Wile said. " Richard Childress Racing , since Day 1 since we came to visit them at the end of 2014, they said, 'We're in.' They along with Stewart-Haas and a number of others have really helped champion this program for us." MORE: See the 2015 Darlington throwback schemes
Five legends unveiled as 2017 NASCAR Hall Of Fame Class
RELATED: See all of the nominees DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 25, 2016) – NASCAR announced today the inductees who will comprise the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017. The five-person group -- the eighth since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 -- consists of Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons. In addition, NASCAR announced that Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles won the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met today in a closed session at the Charlotte Convention Center to debate and vote upon the 20 nominees for the induction class of 2017 and the five nominees for the Landmark Award. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton announced the class and Landmark Award winner, respectively, this evening in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's "Great Hall." The Class of 2017 was determined by votes cast by the Voting Panel, including representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, retired competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and, for the third year, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion ( Kyle Busch ). In all, 54 votes were cast, with four additional Voting Panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction ( Ricky Rudd , Robert Yates, Waddell Wilson and Ken Squier). The accounting firm of EY presided over the tabulation of the votes. Voting was as follows: Benny Parsons (85%), Rick Hendrick (62%), Mark Martin (57%), Raymond Parks (53%) and Richard Childress (43%). The next top vote-getters were Robert Yates, Red Byron and Alan Kulwicki. Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in alphabetical order, were Buddy Baker, Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Benny Parsons and Larry Phillips. The five inductees came from a group of 20 nominees that included, in addition to the five inductees chosen: Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Ron Hornaday Jr., Harry Hyde, Alan Kulwicki, Hershel McGriff, Larry Phillips, Jack Roush, Ricky Rudd , Ken Squier, Mike Stefanik, Waddell Wilson and Robert Yates. Nominees for the Landmark Award included Earles, Janet Guthrie, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier. Class of 2017 Inductees: Richard Childress Long before he became one of the preeminent car owners in NASCAR history, Richard Childress was a race car driver with limited means. Childress, the consummate self-made racer, was respectable behind the wheel. Between 1969-81 he had six top-five finishes and 76 top 10s in 285 starts, finishing fifth in the NASCAR premier series standings in 1975. Having formed Richard Childress Racing in 1972, Childress retired from driving in 1981. He owned the cars that NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt drove to six championships and 67 wins between 1984-2000. In addition to Earnhardt’s championships, Childress drivers have given him five others. Childress was the first NASCAR owner to win owner championships in all three of NASCAR’s national series, and his 11 owner titles are second all-time. Childress also owned the vehicles driven by NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champions Clint Bowyer (2008) and Austin Dillon (2013), as the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver champion Austin Dillon . Rick Hendrick The founder and owner of Hendrick Motorsports , Rick Hendrick’s organization is recognized as one of NASCAR’s most successful. Hendrick Motorsports owns an all-time record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championship titles -- six with Jimmie Johnson , four with Jeff Gordon and one with NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte . Hendrick also has 14 total NASCAR national series owner championships, most in NASCAR history. Gordon and Labonte combined to win four consecutive titles from 1995-98. In 2010, Johnson won a record-extending fifth consecutive championship. Hendrick also owned the car driven by 2003 NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champion Brian Vickers . Hendrick’s 242 owner wins in the premier series rank second all-time. Mark Martin He is often described as the "greatest driver to never to win a championship," but Mark Martin 's legendary career is so much more than that. He came incredibly close to that elusive title many times -- finishing second in the championship standings five times. Over the course of his 31-year premier series career, Martin compiled 40 wins (17th all time) and 56 poles (seventh all time). Martin saw success at every level of NASCAR. He won 49 times in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, holding the series wins record for 14 years. He retired with 96 wins across NASCAR’s three national series, seventh on the all-time list. In 1998, Martin was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. Raymond Parks Raymond Parks is one of stock-car racing’s earliest -- and most successful -- team owners. Funded by successful business and real estate ventures in Atlanta, Parks began his career as a stock-car owner in 1938 with drivers Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall. His pairing with another Atlantan, mechanic Red Vogt, produced equipment good enough to dominate the sport in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Red Byron won the first NASCAR title (modified, 1948) and first premier series title (1949) in a Parks-owned car. Parks’ team produced two premier series wins, two poles, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 18 events. Benny Parsons Benny Parsons won the 1973 NASCAR premier series championship and could be called an everyman champion: winning enough to be called one of the sport’s stars but nearly always finishing well when he wasn’t able to reach Victory Lane. He won 21 times in 526 career starts but finished among the top 10 283 times -- a 54 percent ratio. One of Parsons’ biggest victories came in the 1975 Daytona 500 . He was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. Parsons also was known as a voice of the sport making a seamless transition to television following his NASCAR career. He was a commentator for NBC and TNT until his passing in 2007, at the age of 65. Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR: H. Clay Earles One of the original pioneers of stock car auto racing, H. Clay Earles played an integral role in the early years of NASCAR's development. Earles built and opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947, and the short track remains the only facility to host NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races every year since the series’ inception in 1949. The speedway held its first race on Sept. 7, 1947 -- three months before the creation of NASCAR. That initial race drew more than 6,000 fans to the track, which had just 750 seats ready. In 1964, Earles decided it was time for a "different" type of trophy for his race winners. He gave winners grandfather clocks, a tradition that continues today.
1987 Winston: Where Are They Now?
RELATED: Elliott will 'never forget' Earnhardt move The starting grid for the 1987 Winston All-Star Race looked a lot like an exhibit befitting the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This was The All-Star Race for the ages. Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliott all competed. Greats such as Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Ricky Rudd , Buddy Baker, and Benny Parsons were on the 20-driver starting grid, too. A young Davey Allison and a new Daytona 500 winner Geoffrey Bodine lined up alongside these iconic names. The fast and famed Tim Richmond was on the grid, too, in what was his final season of NASCAR competition. And don't forget about Kyle Petty, Bobby Hillin Jr. and Greg Sacks. The only driver on that famed All-Star lineup still NASCAR racing today is Morgan Shepherd, who drove a car fielded by drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein -- and his seventh-place finish that day in his first All-Star Race remains his best showing. That starting lineup was a true convergence of NASCAR's best -- sentimental favorites, crusty veterans, future Hall of Famers and young stars out to make their big names. It had personality. It had top-line credentials. In only its third running, the 1987 race showed exactly the pizzazz that would help forge the All-Star Race into the can't-miss annual event that will be on full display Saturday in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway . For all its historical allure, amazingly in that famed 1987 race only four drivers even led a lap -- the winner Earnhardt (10), the day's dominant driver Elliott (121), Bodine (3) and Kyle Petty (1). The great seven-time Cup champ Richard Petty crashed with the late superstar Neil Bonnett on Lap 66. As dominant and successful as Petty was, it's easy to forget he never won an All-Star Race. Among the most memorable aspects of this race will undoubtedly be the day's winner Earnhardt's "Pass in the Grass" of Elliott. It wasn't actually a pass at all, but Earnhardt maneuvering to hold onto his late race lead over Elliott in the day's most dominant car. It was the first of three All-Star wins for Earnhardt. And the gritty, hard-nosed final laps racing launched this -- then still young -- event into a bona fide can't-miss rite of spring. The above photo itself has become quite a piece of NASCAR lore. When this group of 20 drivers came together for this indelible image, these are the numbers they would leave behind: 812 premier series victories, 26 premier series championships, 11 All-Star Race wins ... and one urban legend.