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Bud Moore, NASCAR Hall of Famer, passes away at age 92

RELATED: See Moore’s Hall of Fame speech in 2011

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Walter “Bud” Moore Jr., a decorated member of America’s “Greatest Generation” who went on to win NASCAR championships as car owner and crew chief, has died at the age of 92.

Moore, a Spartanburg, South Carolina, native who won the NASCAR premier series title in 1957 as crew chief for Buck Baker and car owner titles in 1962-63 with Joe Weatherly, had been the oldest living member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 2011.

After graduating from high school, Moore joined the military in 1943 at the age of 18 as a machine gunner, assigned to the 90th Infantry Division which landed on Utah Beach in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His unit was attached to General George W. Patton’s “Third Army,” which pushed to liberate Europe. In recognition of his heroism, Moore was decorated with five Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars (the second with clusters).

Auto racing was a destination for many returning veterans. NASCAR was born in 1948 and Moore, as a South Carolinian who enjoyed fixing cars, would make the organization his life’s work. Referring to himself as “a country mechanic who loved to make ’em run fast,” Moore stood more than six feet tall and couldn’t be missed in the garage – or in Victory Lane where his cars won during parts of four decades beginning in 1961. In all, Moore won 63 times as an owner.

Moore and Weatherly proved to be a virtually unstoppable combination. The duo won eight times in 1961 and 12 times during their back-to-back championship seasons. Weatherly died in early 1964 during a race at the old Riverside (California) International Raceway, ending what could have been a dynasty rivaling that of Petty Enterprises and other top teams of the era.

RELATED: Bud Moore’s journey through NASCAR

Moore’s team would not win another title but came close with such top drivers as NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Allison, and NASCAR Hall of Fame nominees Buddy Baker and Ricky Rudd. Each managed to finish among the top 10 in the championship standings at least once, with Allison the runner-up in 1978.

“Bud was special,” Buddy Baker told The Gaston (N.C.) Gazette in 2000. “He’s kind of like Bill France. He’s been here since day one. The first time they threw up a handful of dirt, Bud ran through it. Of all the people I ever drove for, he was the boss more so than anybody.”

Allison won the 1978 Daytona 500, a feat not previously accomplished by Moore or Allison.

Moore’s final NASCAR premier series victory came in May 1993 at Sonoma Raceway.

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France issued a statement following news of Moore’s passing: “Many choose the word ‘hero’ when describing athletes who accomplish otherworldly sporting feats. Oftentimes, it’s an exaggeration. But when detailing the life of the great Bud Moore, it’s a description that fits perfectly.

“Moore, a decorated veteran of World War II, served our country before dominating our sport as both a crew chief and, later, an owner. As a crew chief, Moore guided NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker to a championship in 1957. As an owner, he captured consecutive titles in 1962-63 with another Hall of Famer, Joe Weatherly. Those successes, along with many more, earned him his own spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.

“On behalf of all of NASCAR, I offer my condolences to Bud’s family, friends and fans. We will miss Bud, a giant in our sport, and a true American hero.”

RELATED: NASCAR community expresses sympathy

The NASCAR Hall of Fame echoed France’s sentiments, in a statement issued by its executive director, Winston Kelley.

“Walter ‘Bud’ Moore was truly a hero in every sense of the word. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes a hero as: ‘A person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.’ Many may fit one of these categories but very few fit into each,” Kelley’s statement read. “Bud left an indelible mark on NASCAR. We are humbled that he considers his crowning achievement as his induction in the second class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, one of our first 10 inductees. That alone speaks to the magnitude of his accomplishments and contributions to NASCAR as both a championship owner and crew chief.”

Moore called his enshrinement with the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s second class an honor. After offering his appreciation during his induction speech for those who supported him during his many years in stock-car racing, Moore recounted his response to his daughter-in-law’s question about how he wanted to be remembered.

“The answer is simple: One who made many contributions to building the sport, one whose handshake was as good as any contract, who always gave a straight answer and would never sugar-coat it, either,” Moore said. “Most of all, to be remembered as a man who loves his family, his country and the sport of racing.”

Moore is survived by sons Daryl (wife Carol), Brent (wife Nancy) and Greg (fiancé Roberta), grandchildren: Melissa Moore Padgett (Tommy), Candace Moore Glover (Tommy), Benjamin Moore (Kristen), Thomas Moore, and Brittany Moore, along with seven great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

He is also survived by brothers, Ralph, William, and Richard Moore and sister, Ann Moore Elder.  He was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Betty Clark Moore, and his brothers, Charles, Cecil and Donald Moore and sisters, Edith Moore Gregory and Helen Moore McKinney.

Services and arrangements will be announced at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to: Victory Junction, 4500 Adam’s Way, Randleman, NC 27317; Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Belfort Road, Suite 300; Jacksonville, FL or Hearing Charities of America, Hearing Aid Project, 1912 East Meyer Boulevard, Kansas City, MO 64132.

Contributing: Staff reports