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Former driver/owner Ed Negre dies at age 86

June 05, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Former driver/owner Ed Negre dies at age 86
As owner, Negre gave Dale Earnhardt his first Cup start

Ed Negre, the NASCAR owner/driver credited with giving a young Dale Earnhardt his first Cup ride, died Wednesday.

Negre, 86, made 338 starts in NASCAR's premier series between 1955 and 1979.

A resident of Longview, Washington, Negre earned three of his four career top-five finishes while racing out west.

In 1956, he finished a career-best fourth at the 0.5-mile Portland (Oregon) Speedway and then fifth at the same track just less than one month later.

The following year, he scored another fifth-place finish, this time at Eureka Speedway in Eureka, California.

It would be more than a decade before he earned his final top-five, finishing fifth in the Nashville 420 at the old Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

Negre, one of several independent drivers of his era, relocated to the Charlotte, North Carolina, area and began running the majority of the races by the late-1960s.

By the end of his racing career, his top-10 total had reached 26 -- on tracks from Bristol, Tennessee, to Riverside, California.

In 1975, he fielded a second car for the series' longest race, then known as the World 600, at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt, 24, drove the No. 8 Dodge to a 22nd-place finish in his Cup debut; Negre, driving a No. 2 Dodge whose listed owner was fellow owner/driver Dave Marcis, finished 32nd.

(Side note: That year's World 600 weekend also saw driver Joe Frasson attack his own car with a jack handle after failing to qualify. He was subsequently fined $100 for his conduct.)

"I wasn't going to put him in my car," Negre told the (Longview) Daily News in a 2002 interview. "People said I was crazy. But the more they talked against him, the more determined I was to let him drive.

"I knew that he was going to be a good driver. He'd fall behind, but kept charging to the front."

Earnhardt went on to win 76 races and become the second driver to capture seven NASCAR Cup championships.

Negre left racing at age 50 and returned to the Longview area with his wife, Faye, where he operated a trucking business until 1999.

A military veteran, he served two years in the South Pacific during World War II.