News & Media

Rush, '57 NASCAR rookie of the year, dies at 80

October 23, 2011, Mark Aumann,

Ken Rush, the 1957 NASCAR rookie of the year and 1969 Grand American series champion, died as a result of a stroke Monday in his hometown of High Point, N.C. He was 80.

Ken Rush, circa 1969.

Rush grew up in rural Randolph County and eventually became friends with Bob Welborn and Jim Paschal -- who both went on to successful careers in NASCAR's premier division. He made his racing debut in 1955 at Bowman-Gray Stadium in nearby Winston-Salem.

Rush made 56 Cup starts between 1957 and 1972, recording 16 top-10 finishes. That included a second-place finish at Bowman-Gray. Rush never ran a full season, but with six top-10s in 1957, he earned rookie of the year honors.

In 1958, Rush won the convertible division race at the half-mile Charlotte Fairgrounds dirt track. With 10 top-five finishes in 17 starts that season, Rush finished sixth in the standings behind Welborn.

When NASCAR developed its Grand American division -- showcasing the "pony car" class -- Rush was in his element. He won the inaugural Grand American races at Talladega, Michigan and Dover, and was the only other driver other than Tiny Lund to win a championship over the four-year span of the series.

Ken Rush

Career Cup Statistics
YearRacesWinTop-fiveTop-10PoleLapsLedAvg. StAvg. Fin.
195811 of 5100311625013.617.5
195912 of 4402302388012.516.8
19616 of 5201201586022.220.8
19621 of 530000463031.018.0
19648 of 620120768010.217.2
19711 of 48000011705.014.0
19721 of 310000149031.029.0

Rush's career was cut short by a savage crash at Flemington, N.J., where he suffered a broken sternum, broken jaw and lost 12 teeth when his car slammed head-on at full speed into one driven by Stan Styers.