Hollywood stuntman, former NASCAR owner dies
October 26, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR.com
Hal Needham, a Hollywood stuntman and director who also won nine races as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner, has died at the age of 82.
Needham's business managers told the L.A. Times that he died Friday in Los Angeles.
From 1981-1989, Needham entered 250 races as an owner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, winning nine races from 1982-1985 with Harry Gant. His first win came at this weekend's venue, Martinsville Speedway, with Gant in the 7-Eleven/Skoal Bandit Buick. Stan Barrett, Morgan Shepherd and Rick Mast also piloted cars for Needham.
In 2012, Needham received an honorary Oscar for a legendary career as a stuntman, breaking 56 bones on the job. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he directed starring vehicles for Burt Reynolds, including "Smokey and the Bandit," "The Cannonball Run" and "Stroker Ace," which included NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Cale Yarborough and former drivers Neil Bonnett, Gant, Terry Labonte, Benny Parsons, Kyle Petty, Tim Richmond and Ricky Rudd.
For the current NASCAR Hall of Fame exhibit, "Lights. Cameras. NASCAR," Hall historian Buz McKim had hoped to secure a famous car from the stock car movie.
"Everybody would have loved to see the 'Stroker Ace' car," McKim told NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce. "We called the guy who built it; he didn’t know where it went. We called the studio, they didn’t have it. We beat the bushes for three months.
"The great thing about exhibits is they have an opening date. Eventually at some point, a month or two before the opening date, we have to say 'stop looking for the chicken car.' "