'Legends of Racing' Features Cars
The history of motorsports in North Carolina makes for one winning racing story.
Nine men have entered the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame for achievement in motorsports: Buck Baker, Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Herb Thomas and Humpy Wheeler.
The small exhibit, “Legends of Racing,” which opened Wednesday at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, highlights major moments from the inductees’ racing careers and feature three race cars. Admission is free, and the exhibit will be on view for an extended period.
Cars include a 1937 Ford Coupe that Ned Jarrett raced in the 1950s at tracks such as McCormick Field in Asheville, Charlotte Fairgrounds Speedway and Hickory Speedway. The car has a V-8 flathead 100 hp Ford motor. Early stock car drivers often favored 1930s Ford coupes with V-8 engines, and these vehicles became fast racers with a little tinkering.
Ned Jarrett, of Newton, started his racing career in 1952. He captured Sprint Cup titles in 1961 and 1965 and won 50 Sprint Cup races. His 14-lap (17.5-mile) victory in the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington stands as the largest margin in series history. Jarrett retired from racing in 1966 and became a longtime radio and television broadcaster.
The No. 3 car was driven by Dale Earnhardt Sr., a legendary figure in NASCAR history. The Richard Childress Racing No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet has a 2000 Monte Carlo body style.
At the time of Earnhardt’s death at the 2001 Daytona 500, he was sixth in NASCAR career victories, with 76; seventh in races started, with 676; and first in career earnings, with more than $41 million. He finished in the Top 10 of the Sprint Cup competition 20 times. He and Richard Petty share the record for championships at the highest level of NASCAR competition, with seven Sprint Cups apiece.
Sam Beam drove the Legends Car to victory up and down the East Coast. He captured the state championship in it at Ace Speedway at Altamahaw, Alamance County, and won the first Legends race held at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1996. The car has a 1937 Ford Coupe body style and a Yamaha 1200cc engine.
Legends Cars are 5/8th-scaled, steel- or fiberglass-bodied vehicles based on the 1930s coupes of early NASCAR racers. In 1992 Charlotte Motor Speedway officials, including Humpy Wheeler, felt that NASCAR was becoming too expensive and that its cars required too much maintenance time for many drivers. Legends Cars were created as a lower-cost racing option.
To see more artifacts from NASCAR history, visit the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame on the museum’s third floor. For more information, call (919) 807-7900 or go to ncmuseumofhistory.org. The museum is located at 5 E. Edenton St., across from the State Capitol.
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