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Forgotten NASCAR Greats

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Sara Christian, Marshall Teague, Wendell Scott, Cale Yarborough, Tim Richmond, Alan Kulwicki
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Forgotten NASCAR Greats

Bill Crittenden
June 17, 2006

NASCAR history is full of legendary names, from Dale Earnhardt (7 championships) to Richard Petty (7 championships, 200 wins) to Bill Elliott (NASCAR speed record, Winston Million).

Some great drivers' memories fade as the years and decades pile up.  Young fans and fans new to the sport don't remember many of NASCAR's best.

I've compiled a list of some of NASCAR's greats whose stars have faded over time.  Of this list, I only recognized the names Cale Yarborough and Alan Kulwicki, and knew nothing of either man's accomplishments until I started doing research for this web site.

So I wanted to share with everyone else some drivers whose accomplishments certainly make them names to know for NASCAR fans.

1940's:  Sara Christian

For NASCAR, the 1940's consisted of only one year:  1949.  The Strictly Stock series name was changed to Grand National in 1950 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Believe it or not (I initially thought Sara an odd name for a man until I read a little more) women in the NASCAR driver's seat date all the way back to its first year.

Sara Christian raced in 6 of 8 races that year, finishing 13th in points.  That 13th place was ahead of future NASCAR stars and Hall of Fame drivers Buck Baker (46th), Herb Thomas (25th) and Jack Smith (58th).

1950's:  Marshall Teague

Marshall raced in the very early days of NASCAR, back in the Stricly Stock series and the first years of Grand National.

He only raced in 23 races, but amassed a record of winning 30.4% of the races he started.  That is well ahead of Richard Petty's 16.9% and Dale Earnhardt's 11.4%.

He left NASCAR to race Indy cars after 1952, accounting for his short NASCAR career.

He died at the new Daytona International Speedway in 1959 attempting to set a speed record.

1960's:  Wendell Scott

Wendell Scott had 495 starts in NASCAR's top level, and only one win.

It is that one win, Jacksonville Speedway Park in December of 1963, that made his career legendary.

Wendell Scott is the first (and so far, only) African-American to win in NASCAR's top series.

He was originally scored third, but protested the finish and the win he had earned was acknowledged hours after the finish.

His story would be immortalized in the movie Greased Lightning, where Scott was played by Richard Pryor.

1970's:  Cale Yarborough

The only driver to win three consecutive championships in NASCAR's top series (1976, 1977, 1978) was also the runner-up in 1973, 1974, and 1980.

Cale won 14.8% of his 559 lifetime starts in a career from 1957 to 1988.

Likely due to his lack of continued presence in current NASCAR competition (Richard Petty is an owner, DEI promotes Dale Earnhardt), he is quickly fading to an unknown among NASCAR fans with the influx of new and young fans.

1980's:  Tim Richmond

Like Wendell Scott, Tim Richmond is another whose career has been material for big-screen scripts.

In this case, it is Days of Thunder, and some of the funnier antics of his short but spectacular career were made into scenes for the movie.  Remember the ice cream in the pits?  Classic Harry Hyde and Tim Richmond.

On the track, Tim's 1986 season was the peak of his career, winning 7 races and finishing third in the standings.  It was his last full season, racing only 8 times (and winning twice) in 1987 and then retiring.

1990's:  Alan Kulwicki

An engineering graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Alan raced his own cars when he couldn't find a NASCAR ride.

Another career tragically cut short, Alan Kulwicki won the 1992 Winston Cup and then died just months later.

He won just five Winston Cup races (2.4% or his starts), but had 24 poles.

He is remembered as "the people's champion" for his self-made success.

©2006 Bill Crittenden

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