February 28, 1930 Died: January 5, 1965
Home: Houston, TX
Billy Wade (a.k.a
Wade Lavender) had a brief yet successful stint in
NASCAR. He was the 1963 NASCAR Rookie of the Year for
car owner Cotton Owens. He finished the season with 14
Top 10 finishes in 31 races.
He won four
consecutive races the following year for Bud Moore
Engineering between July 10 and July 19, 1964. He also
accumulated 5 poles and 25 Top 10 finishes in his 35
He died during a
tire test at Daytona International Raceway in 1965.
Allen Madding -
December 27, 2007
Born Feb 28, 1930,
Houston, Texas native Billy Wade began
competing on the Texas short tracks. Ten
years of competition netted him three Texas
Modified Championships driving his No. 53
open wheel modified. He stepped up to
compete in the late model division and won
two late model championships. With his
success on the local short tracks it was
just a matter of time before Billy Wade
would move to NASCAR competition.
Wade’s first NASCAR
Grand National Division event came in the
1962 Daytona 500 driving
No. 01 Ford
starting 45th and finishing 18th. He
returned to the series at North Wilkesboro
driving James Turner’s No. 24 Pontiac
finishing tenth. An eighth place finish
followed at Martinsville and a 19th place
finish at Winston-Salem.
Car owner Cotton
Owens signed Wade to drive his No. 5 Dodge
for 1963 as a teammate to David Pearson.
Wade quickly began to showcase his driving
talent accumulating top-ten finishes. In the
Atlanta 500, he started 40th and drove his
way to a 13th place finish. Wade scored his
first top-five finish in NASCAR when he
finished fourth in the Richmond 250.
When the series
returned to Atlanta for the Dixie 400, Wade
started 18th, charged to the front and waged
war with Junior Johnson, leading 17 laps
before worn tired dropped him back into the
pack to eventually finish eighth. A second
place finish came in the Nashville 400. All
told, Wade recorded four top-fives and 14
top-tens and garnered the coveted 1963
NASCAR Rookie of the Year title.
Wade picked up
where he left off when the 1964 season
He recorded a
third place finish at the Augusta
International Raceway. But after a tenth
place finish at Speedway Park in
Jacksonville, Florida, Wade and Owens parted
company. Bud Moore picked up the hot shoe
and put him behind the wheel of his No. 1
Mercury. The combination seemed to click
right off. Wade recorded third place
finishes at Richmond, Weaverville, and
Then Wade struck
pay dirt in the Fireball Roberts 200 at Old
Bridge Stadium, Old Bridge, New Jersey
qualifying on the pole and winning the race.
In the following event at Bridgehampton, New
York, Wade qualified third and won again.
The series then went to Islip, New York and
again Wade qualified on the pole and won.
Wade made it four
wins in a row at Watkins Glen, New York by
setting on the pole and charging to the win.
He captured his
fifth pole of the season at Harris Speedway
in North Carolina. Competing in only 36 of
the years 62 events, Wade had recorded four
wins, five poles, 12 top-fives, and 25
top-tens finishing fourth in the
racing career seemed to be blossoming when
he was tragically killed during a tire test
at Daytona International Speedway on January
5, 1965. He was 34 years old.
This is the Mercury Billy Wade died in while
testing at Daytona in 1964. Upon impact,
Wade, who was strapped in securely, slid
down and forward, causing his belts to crush
him just below the rib cage. Car owner Bud
Moore was devastated and sought a solution.
That was the beginning of the “jockey
strap,” often now termed the submarine belt.
MOORE – Man and Machine, by Dr.
John A. Craft
(Motorsports Images and Archives Photo)
Three Texas Modified Championships
Two Late Model Championships
71 NASCAR Grand National Division starts, 5
poles, 4 wins, 16 top-fives, & 41 top-tens
1963 NASCAR Grand National Division Rookie
of the Year
and other racing matters in the Prodigys@Speed
contact Allen Madding at ..
Insider Racing News
testing among NASCAR's Cup Series teams will begin
with furious intensity during January, mainly at
Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
tedious--and often boring--work for both the drivers
and their crews. Also dangerous.
One of NASCAR's
most promising drivers lost his life while testing
at Daytona on Jan. 5, 1965.
That was Texan
the 1963 rookie of the year with 14 top 10 finishes
in 31 races.
legendary South Carolina team owner Bud Moore, Wade
had won four races--all consecutively--during the
1964 season. In 34 starts he posted seven other top
five finishes and wound up in the top 10 a whopping
19 times overall. He took five poles.
Some rated the
35-year-old driver a solid threat for the '65
championship in what NASCAR then called its Grand
But it wasn't to
be. Wade didn't survive a hard crash at the 2.5-mile
Daytona track, leaving a wife and two young
The First With Four Straight
by David Green
The first driver to win four
straight had to be a bit of a
surprise. To that point, he had
never won. Not that
was an unknown quantity; the 1963
rookie of the year stepped into Bud
Moore's Mercury as the replacement
for two-time defending Grand
National champion Joe Weatherly
after Weatherly's fatal accident in
January 1964 at Riverside, Calif.
Fred Lorenzen won five straight
starts earlier in the year, but not
in consecutive races.
rides don't go to just anybody, and
Moore's eye for talent had locked
onto Wade as a prospect. Wade put
Moore's #1 1964 Mercury into victory
lane for the first time on July 10
at Old Bridge, N.J., in a 100-mile
race on a half-mile paved oval.
Then, as the GN
circus continued on what was then
referred to as the Northern Tour,
Wade won again on the Bridgehampton,
N.Y., road course July 12. The
second victory in his streak came
when David Pearson, Wade's teammate
in 1963 in a part-time two-car team
fielded by Cotton Owens, dropped out
another short-oval event, a scramble
on the 1/5-mile Islip (N.Y.)
Speedway, on July 15, prevailing in
a fender-banging battle with Ned
Jarrett, to equal the three-victory
streak first established by Thomas.
Then, on July 19,
Wade roared into NASCAR history at
Watkins Glen International, where he
won his fourth straight victory. He
went on to finish fourth in driver
points that year, behind Petty,
Jarrett and Pearson.
The races were
the only ones Wade would win. He was
killed in January 1965 -- the second
tragedy for the Moore team in a
12-month period (Joe Weatherly was
killed at Riverside a year before) -- when he crashed
during a tire-testing session at
Daytona International Speedway.
several drivers have come close to
the magical fifth straight victory,
most recently Jeff Gordon in 1998.
Billy Wade wheels his Mercury to his
fourth straight win in the 150-miler at Watkins Glen. Wade,
the 1963 Rookie of the Year, is the first driver to win four
consecutive NASCAR Grand National races.
Fred Lorenzen won
five straight starts earlier in the year, but not in
driver Billy Wade, driving Bud Moore's #1 Mercury, runs just
ahead of #25
Paul Goldsmith and #43 Richard Petty in the
March 22 Southeastern 500 at Bristol International
Speedway. While the Fords were spanked on the wind-whipped
banks of Daytona, they rebounded nicely on the short
1/2-mile tracks. Fred Lorenzen won in a Ford, as Ford
products took six of the top 10 places. Wade finished 10th,
Goldsmith came in third, and Petty was eighth.
Wade and the Modern Seatbelts of Today
went to work for Bud Moore Engineering in Spartanburg as a chief
mechanic and engine builder. Fielding cars for drivers Carl Balmer
and Darel Dieringer, Rossi's reputation as an innovator and
engine wizard grew.
"Mario was a gifted and talented
human being who at the age of nine could take a tractor apart and put it
together in running condition," his sister said proudly. "His automotive
skills were partly self-taught and partly taught by the best of the
One of Bud Moore's drivers at the
time was 1963 Rookie of the Year Billy Wade.
A close friend of Rossi, Wade won four consecutive races for Moore
between July 10 and July 19, 1964, and notched five poles along with 25
top-10 finishes in 35 starts.
Sadly, Wade died after crashing
during a tire test at the Daytona International Speedway in early
Wade's crash came close on the
heels of another race-related death for a Bud Moore driver.
Joe Weatherly, who won two
successive championships for Moore in 1962 and 1963, was killed in a
crash at Riverside International Raceway in California a year before
Mario took both deaths hard, but
was especially haunted by that of his buddy Wade, and he made it his
mission to improve driver safety. "Billy Wade
died because of his seatbelt," Rossi said in a 1965 interview. At that
time, doctors concluded that the lap belt compressed Wade's intestines
and caused them to rupture -- the only fatal injury he suffered. "Under
the impact, the belt became a lethal weapon," noted Rossi back then.
"Maybe it was a freak [accident], but I don't want that to happen again
Determined to find a better
solution, Rossi investigated other high-speed collision data, including
the results of U.S. Army rocket sled testing. He eventually developed an
improved driver restraint system for stock cars, which included the
first use of a driver headrest, along with the addition of a third belt
to the existing shoulder harness/seat belt configuration.
The extra belt pulled down on the
lap belt and fastened to the floor, preventing the horizontal belt from
riding up and compressing the diaphragm or intestines during a hard
crash in the same manner that killed Wade.
While fulfilling a personal
conviction to his departed friend, Rossi's efforts also earned him a
prestigious safety award, and led to the installation of a bust in his
likeness at the Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum located on the grounds of
historic Darlington Raceway.
Racers Past by Alan Porter on
January 5th, 2007
Texas born Billy Wade
made an early name for himself
around the various tracks of The
Lone Star State. In 10 years of
competition he won several state
championships as well as trying
his hand in both open wheel and
He made his
NASCAR debut in 1962 driving in
just three “Grand National”
races. In 1963 he landed a full
time NASCAR drive as the second
driver in the Cotton Owens team.
He easily won the “Rookie Of The
Year” award with 14, top 10
year he drove for Bud Moore
winning 4 consecutive races in
the July of that year. His
season ending tally included an
additional 25 top 10 finishes
and 5 pole awards.
was killed tire testing at
Daytona International Speedway
on the 5th January, 1965. He was
testing the, then new, inner
liner race tires, that are still
used in NASCAR today.
Daytona 500 (Daytona)
Jaycee 300 (Augusta
Fireball Roberts 200 (Old
The Glen 151.8 (Watkins
Billy Wade in the # 53 Modified
Grand National DRIVER Statistics
Copyright © 2003
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
03/04/15 11:12:18 -0500.
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