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Inside NASCAR: HOF class of '11 shares long history with Ford

May 26, 2011, Mark Aumann,

Class of 2011 shares its history with longstanding auto manufacturer

If the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class could be considered the "the founders year" -- the men who laid the groundwork for what the sport would become -- how best to label this year's five inductees?

With Ford Motor Co. celebrating its 110th year in racing, due in no small part by the combined efforts of men like Bud Moore, Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison and David Pearson, perhaps this class should be known as "the Ford year."

"Racing was a way to advance the pace of technology that made its way into street cars. There's no reason any racing series can't be a platform for advancing technology. "


The fifth member of the Class of 2011 -- Lee Petty -- also played a minor role in Ford's racing history. Even though he was best known for his association with Plymouth (and Oldsmobile), Petty drove a Lincoln to a ninth-place finish on the Daytona beach course in 1952, and finished 17th in Fred Frazier's Ford in the 1956 Southern 500 at Darlington. And the company Petty founded, Petty Enterprises, now competes under the Ford banner.

"All of these inductees have connections with Ford," said Jamie Allison, Ford North America motorsports director. "Bud Moore, an American hero being a part of Ford history; Bobby Allison, winning the 1978 Daytona 500; Ned Jarrett, the winningest Ford driver in NASCAR and of course, David Pearson."

According to Ford Racing's 110th Anniversary website, it was a race won by founder Henry Ford in October of 1901 that literally set the wheels in motion. Facing possible bankruptcy and needing both publicity and an influx of cash to realize his dream of low-cost, mass-produced vehicles for a wider market, Ford built a race car which he called "Sweepstakes."

He challenged the faster car of Alexander Winton to a head-to-head duel in Grosse Pointe, Mich., that fall, and despite being a heavy underdog, he finished first -- and never raced again. Two years later, Ford introduced the Model T. And 110 years later, Trevor Bayne shocked the sport of stock car racing by scoring Ford's 600th Cup victory in the Daytona 500.

With two exceptions -- the 1958 Automobile Manufacturers Association ban on racing and the decision by Henry Ford II to pull manufacturer support in 1970 -- Ford has been an integral part of NASCAR, right from the very first Strictly Stock race at Charlotte in 1949. Jim Roper, who drove a new Lincoln from Kansas to compete in the race, wound up the winner and $2,000 richer when Glenn Dunnaway's '47 Ford was disqualified for having non-stock rear springs.

Perhaps Ford's history in NASCAR is best told by the men who lived it.

Ned Jarrett

Gentleman Ned won 43 races in a Ford before his retirement in 1966. More than four decades later, he remains the winningest Ford driver in NASCAR history. Jarrett's association with the brand came at an early age:

"I grew up in a Ford family. My dad had a sawmill, so he had a Ford truck and a Ford family car. A lot of people might not know that Ford came out with a farm tractor and my dad bought one of those early on. It eventually became Ferguson. While I started my racing career, the car we were running in the Sportsman division was a Ford -- the 1937 through 1940 model coupe. Ford was the only one then that had a V8 engine. Chevrolet came out with its V8 engine in 1955. I just had an allegiance to Ford and when I got an opportunity to buy the car that I won my first race in, it was a 1957 Ford. I doubt I would have bought that car had it not been a Ford."

Two-fold talents

From his first championship in 1961 through a broadcast career of more than two decades, Ned Jarrett became a legend in more ways than one.

Just like General Motors and Plymouth, Ford dropped its manufacturer support of NASCAR in 1958. But four years later, Jarrett said Ford came back into the sport in a big way:

"In September of 1962, Ford came to Darlington at the Southern 500 and announced to the world that they were coming back into racing and they would sponsor four teams. They contacted me and asked if I would be interested in being one of those teams, and naturally I jumped at the opportunity. I drove the rest of my career for them in Ford cars and was pleased to win Ford's first championship for them in 1965."

In the early '60s, purse money was small, and sponsorship deals were even smaller. So Jarrett said manufacturer support was vital to keep teams in operation:

"The deal was that they would pay us $2,000 per race for every week that was 250 miles or longer. There were 17 of those races on the schedule back then. That included Martinsville and North Wilkesboro, Nashville, Asheville-Weaverville. Then they would give us the cars. They had an affiliation with Holman-Moody, which was their performance arm. So they built the cars up to a certain point -- basically a rolling chassis with a body on it. The bodies were stock back then, so you couldn't monkey around with them like you can now. Of course, we didn't have templates back then, either.

"Then we would take them and tweak them customized to me. Ford built the engines, so they furnished all of that, and basically all of the parts. It was a good plan back then. It still was not enough money to entice anybody to run the entire schedule, because a 100-mile race paying about $1,000 to win just wasn't worth it. It cost you sometimes more to run a 100-mile race on a dirt track than it would to run 500 laps at Martinsville. I was able to get a partner and worked it out to where I could run all the races, so we made it work."

David Pearson

The Silver Fox was known as a big money racer. He was more likely to enter races where the purse money and prestige was at its greatest, and most likely to be the favorite. He ran the full NASCAR schedule just three times, and won the championship all three seasons, including two with Ford factory team Holman-Moody:

"We had a good time and ran all the races and ended up winning the championship in 1968 and 1969. The reason I left Holman and Moody, we were in California and Ford quit the racing business. [Ford director of racing] Charlie Gray called me and said, 'Well, we might as well load up. Ford just called me and said they're out of racing. They just quit.' At that time, we just loaded up and left.

Best of the best

Perhaps the greatest measure of David Pearson's talent was his mastery of racing at Darlington.

"When Ford quit, John Holman took over the team and wanted me to stay on. At the time, I was getting 50 percent [of the purse]. Everywhere I went, I got 50 percent. John wanted me to drive for 40 percent. I said, 'John, if that 10 percent is all that's keeping you in the racing business, you might as well quit anyway.' I never drove for 40 percent and wasn't going to start now. He wouldn't budge and I said I'd better think of something else to do."

For Pearson, that meant looking for another ride. And when the Wood Brothers were looking for a teammate to A.J. Foyt for the 1971 Daytona 500, Pearson was in the right place at the right time:

"I knew they had a good car. I tried it out one time at Daytona. They asked me to shake the car down for them. The car handled so good, I just kept running and made quite a few laps. They said, 'You were out there an awful long time in that car.' And I said, 'It was just so good, I thought I'd stay out here and run awhile.' That's when I was still with Holman and Moody.

"Anyway, when [Glen Wood] called me, he said he was thinking of running two cars and I said, 'Sure, I'd like that.' Of course, I went to them and ran real good with them. They asked if I wanted to run for them the next year and they asked if I wanted to run with Foyt or run it by myself. Well, they felt like they could do a better job with one car instead of two, and I did, too."

Pearson won 43 races for the Woods between 1972 and 1979, including the 1976 Daytona 500. And he credits much of that to his association with Leonard Wood, whom Pearson calls the smartest man in the world:

"I think Leonard knew what I wanted for the car. He knew what I thought about him, as far as that goes. If we ever went to a race track, when we left there, he knew exactly what we had. If I run good enough, when I go back to that next race track, I didn't worry about the car or anything else, I knew it would be close. We might would have to change air pressure a little bit during the race or something, which we done that a lot. In fact, we measured the tires and stuff before anybody even thought about doing it, I believe, because I happened to be sitting on the tires one day. I looked down and seen pencil marks on it. They didn't even tell me what size it was or why it was done that way.

"The Woods [were] secretive about what they do. They didn't let anybody knew exactly what they was doing. It was something. Like I say, I could be a little bit loose or something like that. They would change the car, air pressure, stuff like that. They could change things in the car while the tire was off, reach up and turn it a little bit. They was good people to work for. They was real secretive. They wouldn't let nobody know what was going on. They accused me of being that way on the race track, which I did. I did different things. When you go out and practice, I wouldn't run like I would run during the race. I'd run different places on the race track, anything else to keep anybody else from knowing where I did run."

Bud Moore

Spartanburg, S.C., not Charlotte, was the center of the stock car universe in NASCAR's early days. And Bud Moore Engineering was consistently at the top of the heap. Moore was the chief mechanic for Buck Baker's 1957 championship, then wrenched Joe Weatherly's 1962 and 1963 title-winning cars. When Ford returned to the sport, Moore readily switched allegiances:

"I was very fortunate to have major companies sponsor me throughout the years. Ford Motor Company, for 37 years, stood beside me. With their assistance, we developed fast and durable race cars capable of winning many races. Along with the relationship with Ford, came a lasting relationship with Edsel Ford, who I thank for his help for so many years. Looking back, I feel like I had a hand in a lot of contribution to our sport, whether it was running the first small block motor, the first two-way radio, tire testing for inner liners, or just trying to build a safe race car."

Larger than life

Through 85 years of life, Bud Moore has seen it all -- and then some.

The names of the drivers who piloted Bud Moore's Mercurys and Fords over the years reads like a Who's Who of NASCAR:

"I never had a driver that I didn't really love to work with. We all got on real well. I remember Dale Earnhardt, the couple years he drove for me. I had a good relationship for Bobby Allison for three years. Geoffrey Bodine, I would say he was awful good. He was a little bit hard to get along with at times, but we won a lot of races and all this. Still we got along real well. Biggest thing, you know, we had so many drivers drive for me and all this, I was real thrilled to have all of them that did drive for me.

"It's a great honor knowing all the guys that drove for me, how we worked together. The biggest thing is, like I told Buddy Baker, when he was driving for me, he got on me because he didn't get to qualify too good. [I said,] 'Buddy, I come down here to win the race, I didn't come down here to qualify good. The only thing on Monday morning, they don't say a word about who qualified good, they just tell you who won the race, that's what we're here for.' "

And when it comes to future Hall of Fame classes, Moore has a list he'd like to see join him someday:

"I think one of the oldest ones we don't want to leave out on this is Raymond Parks. You know, he died this past June. I really hoped he would have got around on the first round. I don't think we need to overlook him in this next round. You got Joe Eubanks ... Cotton Owens, who helped get NASCAR started in 1947. I think he'd be deserving going in. He won two championships. David Pearson, he drove for him for about three years. I think Owens being a driver like he was and all, he and Pearson, they did quite a bit together.

"You have Herb Thomas, Fireball Roberts. You got quite a few back there that you have to look at. One of them I have to bring up is Joe Weatherly, who drove for me for three or four years and won two championships. He was always the clown of NASCAR with all of the stunts he pulled on everybody. The biggest stunt he pulled them on was [Curtis] Turner. Anyway, he was a heck of a race driver. I really enjoyed having him, all the stuff he did do, winning the championships, all the races we won. It was great. I'm hoping he has a good shot going in on the next round."

Bobby Allison

When it came to racing, the leader of the Alabama Gang would drive anything, anywhere, anytime. But some of his greatest victories -- including the 1978 Daytona 500 -- came behind the wheel of a Ford. Even his disputed 85th victory at Winston-Salem's Bowman-Gray Stadium in 1971 involved a Ford Mustang. Back before he broke into NASCAR -- and even in his early career -- Allison had ties to Ford:

"My second car was a '37 Ford coupe with a flathead engine in it. Way, way back in the early days of my career, I ran that car, but pretty soon moved to other things. I actually ran a Holman-Moody Ford in 1965, but it was a year old car that they sold off. They sold it to a guy in Baton Rouge, La., and I drove it for him a few times. Then in 1967, I started the season driving with Bud Moore in his Mercury Cyclones. We were running a part-time deal and Cotton Owens called up and said if I started driving for him, he'd go to every race. David Pearson had quit and gone somewhere else."

But Allison and Owens soon had a personality clash and parted ways before the end of the 1967 season. About that time, Allison got his first taste of factory invovlement in a very clandestine way:

Self-made champion

Bobby Allison didn't just superbly turn a steering wheel. He built race cars equally as well as he drove them.

"I was working on my own car in the shop one day and I got a phone call. The voice on the other end said, 'You're going to get a phone call in two minutes and the answer is yes.' So I hung up. I'm hot and sweaty down in Alabama and wondering, 'Why is Ralph Moody aggravating me?' It rang again. The voice said, 'This is Fred Lorenzen. Ford gave me a car for Rockingham. Would you drive it?' Well, I already had the answer: Yes.

"So I went to Rockingham with Freddy as the crew chief and Ralph Moody as the owner and backer. And I got my first 500-mile win and my first factory Ford ride. Two weeks later, I won Asheville-Weaverville and that was in a duel with Richard Petty. He knocked me out of the way on a restart, and when I knocked him back out of the way, everybody was upset that I was roughing up the King. And then they let us go to Macon and we won there. Then we went to Montgomery, a half-mile track where I won my first race in 1959, but right at the very end I had a problem and finished second. And then John Holman fired me."

Moody would hire Allison later, only to have Holman fire him a second time. By 1978 and stuck in the middle of a two-year winless streak, Allison wondered if he'd ever find his way back to Victory Lane:

"I wore myself out struggling, decent finishes but no wins. I was really down in the dumps. Then Bud Moore called and said Buddy Baker had resigned to go over to M.C. Anderson 'and would you come drive the Thunderbird?' And I said, 'Yep, I will.' And we won Daytona. The wins I had in Bud Moore's cars were the only Ford wins for about three seasons. Bud really gave me a good car every week, week-in and week-out. I agreed to drive for Bud and our first race was Riverside. And I really liked Riverside. We had only run a few laps there and had engine failure. I let this trouble me and I got a sick feeling because Buddy had said the cars had not been as reliable as he had hoped. I leave Riverside and I'm really feeling bad. And here I've started this brand-new deal and we go to one race and have an engine failure.

"So we get to Daytona with the Thunderbird and that thing is really good. The qualifying races on Thursday were rained out, so they were run Friday morning. We're in the second qualifying race and I'm leading the race right at the very end. And Buddy Baker dives under me, gets to some debris and wrecks me so bad that this deal is over. In my mind, I'm done. I go back to the hotel and laid around there and tossed and turned all night. Finally I said, 'I'm going to go over and tell Bud I'm done, I'm going home.' And I walked down there and those guys had rebuilt that car and painted it and lettered it, fresh engine, fresh chassis, and it was sitting there ready to go. It stunned me. I said, 'Man, if these guys have done this for me, I've got to give them one more day.' I started 33rd and drove that baby into the lead and won that race."


Henry Ford's 1901 victory still resonates at the company's Dearborn headquarters. The company provides more technical support to the teams now -- engine dynos, wind tunnels, computer aided design -- than it does in monetary payouts, but the bottom line is the same as it was 110 years ago.

"We race today for the same reason he did," Jamie Allison said. "He was trying to attract attention, and in this case, trying to start the company. We race today to reach out to our fans and showcase our products."

And for Allison, the numbers validate Ford's commitment to the sport.

"When it comes to NASCAR, the racing program -- although it's a part of the DNA, the foundation of the company -- ultimately after 110 years, the data does show that race fans love Ford more than non-fans, and race fans buy more Fords," Allison said. "It is unequivocal. It is empirical.

"And the biggest motorsports affinity that exists in the U.S. is NASCAR. We have research that goes out quarterly among all new vehicle intenders and the first question they're asked is 'Are you a motorsports fan?' And roughly 40 percent say yes. And then we ask 'What form of motorsports do you follow?' and 84 percent say they follow NASCAR."

With NASCAR working with the manufacturers to create styling that looks more like the street versions in time for the 2013 season, Allison would like to see things taken a step further.

"The more correlation between street car technology and race car technology makes the fans connect with what they see," Allison said. "As a series, there's no reason why the pace of technology that exists in NASCAR can't keep up with the pace of innovation that exists in the marketplace, and sometimes lead it.

"That's what racing started out to be. Racing was a way to advance the pace of technology that made its way into street cars. There's no reason any racing series can't be a platform for advancing technology."

While Ford celebrates its racing past -- and it's connection with the newest NASCAR Hall of Fame class -- the manufacturer continues to remain focused on the future, according to Allison. And that future will continue to be connected to NASCAR.

"NASCAR fans are car buyers, which is why we -- as a car company -- are very interested in what happens in NASCAR."