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Spotlight: Green brothers build impressive legacy

October 05, 2011, Dave Rodman,

Generation of drivers came from series that regularly visited smaller venues

When you've got 1,021 career starts, 187,550 miles, 168,534 laps, 25 wins, 161 top-fives, 45 poles and 286 top-10 finishes -- not to mention two series championships -- between you, that's quite a family legacy in one NASCAR national touring series.

It's why the Green brothers -- David, Mark and Jeff -- could easily stake a claim as the "first family" of what's currently the Nationwide Series.

The three brothers have had an impact to the point where all three are still fully involved in the Nationwide Series today in some fashion. They represent a whole generation of drivers that came from the series when it regularly visited smaller venues, where local heroes could test themselves against NASCAR's best.

"It's real special to me that three brothers from a small town like Owensboro, Ky., from just a regular family could all have the same interest and have all succeeded at it," David said. "I would have been happy if one of us had made it -- but two of the three brothers are NASCAR champions, and only a few individuals get to do that."

"I would have been happy if one of us had made it -- but two of the three brothers are NASCAR champions, and only a few individuals get to do that."

--David Green

All three brothers have been involved as spotters and test pilots for some of the best organizations in the sport. David and Jeff have totaled 347 starts in the Cup Series and all three brothers have dabbled in the Truck Series.

But their real stake has been in what's now the Nationwide Series. David Green, who today spots for Bobby Labonte's Cup team, won the 1994 Busch Series championship for Labonte Racing.

Jeff Green drove some high-profile cars in the series. He drove for Dale Earnhardt, went through a stunning three-year stretch with ppc Racing in which he was second twice and won the 2000 championship by a then-record 616 points and for Richard Childress Racing. He says his career highlights include "winning five or six inaugural races," along with winning the last two series events at both South Boston Speedway and Myrtle Beach Speedway.

But Jeff's time with ppc and crew chief Harold Holly, when he won 13 of his career 16 victories, was truly the most special -- especially the championship season.

"The 2000 season, I think every week was a highlight, because every time that we went to the race track we had a chance to win," Green said. "And we couldn't wait to get there the next week, to have that opportunity again. Harold and those guys put me in great equipment and they were on cue every week when we went to the race track."

David Green has a young son who's exploring racing via the Bandolero division, and Mark Green's son Tyler has done well in Legends and Late Models. Despite never winning a championship, Mark -- whom David says was "the one we all chased growing up" -- is as highly-regarded as his brothers are in the NASCAR garage.

But David, the oldest brother, probably facilitated everything by moving to Nashville and going to work for Wayne Day, who had businesses and a racing operation based outside that racing hotbed. David had been racing and winning for Day in the NASCAR All-American Challenge Series before his uncle Tom Robertson, advised him "if racing was going to be my career, I ought to do it full time." So he moved to Nashville.

Mark Green's first airplane trip in a career that has zigzagged he and his family from coast-to-coast was to work at Phoenix with Dale Earnhardt's Truck team with Ron Hornaday; at the same time that Jeff Green was gearing up for his first season driving Earnhardt's Busch car.

"Once you get your foot in the door is the biggest thing, and I know I never would have been able to do this if it hadn't been for David," Mark said. "It's like the old saying, 90 percent of it is who you know, sometimes."

But the fact is, the trio couldn't have lasted this long without a lot of ability, such as the night at Myrtle Beach in 1996 that was one of Mark's best series memories.

"I sat on the pole until the last car went out, and it was David that knocked me off the pole. So we started on the front row and Jeff started [sixth]," Mark said. "David led most of the laps, and I was right there with him. David and Jeff actually led every lap that night, so that was a real family highlight, for me."

Other individual events also stick out, like Jeff's win at Pikes Peak in his Busch championship season, 2000.

"David and I raced right down to the last lap for the win, and I was able to win and he finished second," Jeff said. "You can't script days like that. Getting down to the last few laps I knew he was gonna do all he could do to win and so was I, but we weren't gonna do anything to hamper either one of us, and I think that's pretty cool, to pull that off."

Almost as cool as the fact that three brothers from a small city like Owensboro, Ky., have been able to make high-profile careers at NASCAR's national level.

"We've been lucky to get with the right people, whether it was racing Late Models in Nashville, right through to the Busch Series," Jeff said. "To have the right crew chiefs and the right people working on your race cars makes all the difference in being able to make the next step -- we were blessed to get with the right people to have success and move to the next step."

David, 53, and Mark, 52, grew up racing head-to-head in karts and on short tracks. Jeff, 49, took advantage of what his brothers had learned before him but one of Mark's stories from the karting days tells all you need to know about the Green brothers and competition.

"David and I grew up racing the same classes because Jeff was a few years younger," Mark said of what actually kept the three brothers from ever racing each other until they were all in the Busch Series. "There was one race where David didn't give and I didn't give and it involved a curb, and he ended up breaking his ankle. I think that was the only thing any of us ever broke in racing, was in a go-kart. That's how competitive we were.

"It was pretty bad. It was a timed race, they put out a red flag for our accident and the time ran out, they went back a lap and David won, with a broke ankle."

On-track scuffling aside, all three agreed they wouldn't trade their experiences.

"It was definitely a bonus to have those two guys there," Jeff said. "Because I knew I could go to 'em and get an answer. Three heads were definitely better than one [because] when you're trying to get the most out of your race cars and you can lean on people you know are shooting you straight, that's pretty awesome."

It worked for Mark as recently as last weekend at Dover, where Jeff's TriStar Motorsports car was working much better than Mark's from Jay Robinson Racing until they swapped notes and Mark easily qualified.

"If it's a brother you'll get a straight line," Mark said. "From a teammate you might get a straight line and if it's just another competitor, you might as well be talking to the wall."

"We came up through the system as it was meant to be used," David Green said. "And we ended up with some hardware to show for it. Even today, to think about it gives me goosebumps."