Hall of Fame election crowns White's career
May 22, 2014, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rex White doesn't have all the trophies he accumulated over the course of his career as a NASCAR driver. Some he gave away to friends and fans. Others were kept in a shed and ruined by moisture. But Wednesday, the sport's 1960 champion received an honor which will remain with him forever.
White was elected as part of the 2015 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which will be formally enshrined Jan. 30. The short-track specialist won 28 times over a nine-year career in what is now called the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, beating a young Richard Petty for the championship in 1960 and finishing as runner-up to Ned Jarrett the following season.
"I kind of thought I'd go in, that eventually I would get in this Hall of Fame," said White, a North Carolina native who today lives in Fayetteville, Georgia. "Pretty good stats, if that means anything. I was pretty confident I'd get in. If they overlooked me and didn't put me in, I think that would be kind of an injustice, if I didn't get in at all. A NASCAR champion should be in the Hall of Fame."
White was one of three former champions elected Wednesday, along with Bill Elliott and Joe Weatherly, in a class that also includes drivers Fred Lorenzen and Wendell Scott. White appeared on 43 percent of the votes cast by a selection panel comprised primarily of NASCAR executives, track operators, media members and former competitors. But he was unsure if he'd have enough support given that eligibility requirements were recently changed to allow the nomination of more modern competitors such as Elliott and Terry Labonte.
"I didn't feel like I would beat the guys who were nominated this year," White said. "I was hoping, but anyway -- made it."
White, now 84, was a force on short tracks in a car he co-owned with Louis Clements and raced out of Spartanburg, South Carolina. He won five races in 1959, six during his championship season, and seven the next year. His best victory total came in 1962, when he won eight times and finished fifth in final points. Famous for his consistency, White finished in the top five in his nearly half of his 233 career starts, and outside the top 10 only 30 percent of the time.
"A lot of people deserve credit for getting me where I'm at," he said. "If it wasn't for free help in those days, I couldn't have raced. People didn't get paid anything. They even bought their own pit passes to come and work."
For big races, White said he'd have five or six people helping him out. That lack of manpower didn't show on the race track -- White's 28 career victories are good enough for 22nd all-time among premier series competitors. His biggest win might have been his last one, the 1962 Dixie 400 at what is now known as Atlanta Motor Speedway, one of just two career triumphs he recorded on tracks longer than a mile in length.
"It's kind of like a ladder," White said of his career. "… I feel like I'm almost about to the top of the ladder."
When he slips into his blue Hall of Fame blazer in January, he certainly will be.