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Junie Donlavey
Born:   April 8, 1924      -    Home:  Richmond, Virginia

1950s-1960s

Junie Donlavey made his debut as an owner in 1950 at Martinsville Speedway, where Runt Harris drove Donlavey's Oldsmobile to a nineteenth place finish after suffering mechanical failures. Donlavey's next race as an owner came in 1952 Southern 500, fielding the #53 Hudson Hornet for Joe Weatherly. He started 38th and finished 16th. He did not field a car again until 1957, when Emanuel Zervakis drove Donlavey's #90 Ford at Raleigh Speedway, finishing 24th. Zervakis ran two more races for Donlavey that year, at Langhorne Speedway and Martinsville, finishing 26th and 22nd respectively. Harris ran another race for Donlavey as well, finishing 39th at the Southern 500. Zervakis returned to run Donlavey's Chevys the next season, but did not a finish a race all season. Donlavey only ran one race in 1959, at the Capital City 200. Harris had a fifth place finish in that race.

Harris ran three more races for Donlavey the following season, but struggled with mechanical problems, and could only manage a best finish of 30th. Speedy Thompson took over for three races, his best finish being a 12th at the Dixie 300. Tiny Lund drove for Donlavey at the Atlanta 500, but finished 36th after suffering engine failure early in the race. Johnny Roberts drove one race for Donlavey in 1961, finishing 21st at Richmond after suffering a blown head gasket.

Donlavey did not field a car until 1965, when Sonny Hutchins took over the ride. Making ten starts, he had a fifth place run at Moyock, and a tenth at Martinsville. After going 1966 without a top-ten, Hutchins came back in 1967, and had two top ten finishes. He finished 34th in points. He made four starts in 1968, but they all ended in DNFs. He made eight starts in 1969, and had two second-place finishes, at Dover and Richmond, respectively.

1970s

Hutchins returned in 1970, and had a fifth-place at Richmond, but was soon removed from the ride. LeeRoy Yarbrough drove for Donlavey in one race at Trenton Speedway, but his engine expired several laps into the race. Bill Dennis finished the year with Donlavey. Dennis would run with Donlavey in his first full season the next year. He had ten top-tens, one pole position, and finished eighteenth in points. Dennis started 1972, with a fifth at Richmond, but resigned after that race. Max Berrier, Butch Hartman, Bobby Isaac, David Pearson, Johnny Rutherford, and Fred Lorenzen were among those who shared the ride for the rest of the year. Donlavey also fieled a second car for the first time in his career, when he field the #98 at Martinsville for Isaac, who finished 35th as a teammate to Jimmy Hensley, and again two races later at the National 500 for Richard D. Brown, who finished 41st.

Rookie Driver of the Year Jody Ridley snagged Donlavey's only victory at Delaware's Dover Downs International Speedway in 1981.In 1973, Donlavey secured his first full-time sponsor, signing Truxmore Industries. Brooks began the year with Donlavey, and ran part of his season with him. Other drivers included Harry Gant, Charlie Glotzbach, and Ray Hendrick. He also fielded the 98 for Brooks and Richie Panch. Then next season, Dennis returned for three races, before being replaced by multiple drivers. Glotzbach ran eleven races with him, the most by any driver that year. In 1975, Donlavey decided to run full-time, and hired Brooks as driver. Brooks ran 25 races, had six top-fives and finished 10th in points. Donlavey also fielded a second car, the #93, for Kenny Brightbill, Dick May, Earl Ross, and Jody Ridley. In 1976, Brooks had eighteen top-ten finishes and finished tenth in points again. The #93 ran in two races for Buck Baker and Gene Felton, with Donlavey also fielding the #99 for Dick Trickle at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The next season, Brooks finished sixth in points, with Donlavey fielding the #93 for Belgian racer Christine Beckers. She finished 37th. Brooks began 1978 by finishing fifth in two out of the first three races of the season, but despite an eighth-place points finish, Brooks departed the team.

1980s

In 1979, Donlavey signed Ricky Rudd to drive the #90. Competing in 28 races, Rudd had 17 top-ten finishes and finished 9th in points. Donlavey also fielded the #77 Sunny King Mercury for Jody Ridley, who had two top-tens in three races. After Rudd left at the end of the season, Ridley signed to drive the 90 for the full season. He had eighteen top-ten finishes, finished seventh in points, and was named Rookie of the Year. The next season, he finished fifth in points and won the Mason-Dixon 500, the only points win Donlavey would have during his career. After losing the Truxmore sponsorship, J.D. Stacy sponsored the car in 1982, but after he failed to post a top-five, Ridley left the team. Brooks returned to the team, where he posted two top-fives and finished 14th in points with sponsorship from Chamelon Sunglasses. After just one top-five in 1984, Brooks departed the team for the final time.

The next season, Donlavey signed rookie driver Ken Schrader to pilot the #90, with new sponsorship from Ultra Seal. Schrader had three top-tens and finished sixteenth in points. In 1986, Red Baron Frozen Pizza, signed as primary sponsor, and in 1987, Schrader won one of two qualifying races for the Daytona 500, as well as picking up a pole at Darlington Raceway, finishing tenth in championship points. At the end of the season, Schrader left, and was replaced by Benny Parsons with Bull's Eye Barbecue Sauce. Running what turned out to be his last season, Parsons competed in 27 starts and grabbed an eighth-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway. He was replaced for one race at North Wilkesboro by Jimmy Means, who finished 24th. After the season, Bull's Eye left the team, and Donlavey signed rookie Chad Little to his ride. However, Little struggled and was released after the Coca-Cola 600. Donlavey cut back to part-time schedule for the rest of the season, with Stan Barrett and Lennie Pond running selected races for him.

1990s

In 1990, Donlavey signed True Cure as sponsor, and at the advice of Schrader, signed Ernie Irvan as driver. Unfortunately, True Cure did not meet their financial expectations, and Donlavey cancelled the contract. Despite the financial setback, Donlavey fielded a second car, the #91, at GM Goodwrench 500 for J.T. Hayes as a teammate to Irvan. After three races, Donlavey granted permission for Irvan to seek other opportunities, and Irvan signed with Morgan-McClure Motorsports. Buddy Baker and Charlie Glotzbach ran nine races between the two of him for the rest of the season. The next season, Donlavey signed Robby Gordon for the first two races of the season. He finished 18th and 26th, respectively. At the Motorcraft Quality Parts 500, Donlavey fielded a car for Wally Dallenbach, Jr., who would run eleven races for him that season.

Dorsey Schroeder started off 1992 driving for Donlavey, before Glotzbach took over for two races. Other drivers who raced for Donlavey that year were Glotzbach, Kerry Teague, Pancho Carter, Bobby Hillin, Jr., and Hut Stricklin. Hillin returned to run the full season for Donlavey the next year, with sponsorship from Heilig-Meyers. Hillin posted a best finish was eleventh and he finished twenty-seventh in points. Hillin ran just three races in 1994, before he was replaced by Mike Wallace. Wallace made 22 starts and had a fifth-place finish at the season-ending Hooters 500. He returned in 1995 but dropped to 34th in points.

After making ten starts in 1996, Wallace was released in favor of Dick Trickle, whose best finish that season was a thirteenth at Michigan. Trickle signed the next season. He posted two top-fives and finished 31st in points. He improved to 29th in points in 1998, but he, along with Heling-Meyers and crew chief Tommy Baldwin, Jr., left the team at the end of the year. During the season, Donlavey missed attending his first race in years, when he had to undergo heart surgery.

Final years

After the loss of personnel in 1998, Donlavey announced that for 1999, he would field the #90 Big Daddy's BBQ Sauce Ford Taurus driven by rookie Mike Harmon. During the lead-up to the Daytona 500, rumors began spreading that Big Daddy's was not paying its sponsorship checks. Originally, those rumors were denied by Donlavey, but questions continued to swirl when the team practiced for the 500 without Big Daddy's sponsor decals on the car. Eventually, it was revealed that Big Daddy had not been paying its checks on time. Before long, tensions became so high that Harmon was fired for the ride before the race and replaced by Wallace. The team ran the 500 with sponsorship from Accu-turn and Kodiak (a one-race deal after Kodiak's regular team missed the race). The Big Daddy's contract was cancelled, and Morgan Shepherd took over the next week at Rockingham, and Stanton Barrett at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Those two drivers, along with Hut Stricklin and Ed Berrier, shared the driving duties of the 90 for the rest of the year.

In 2000, Berrier signed to drive the 90 from sponsorship from Hills Brothers Coffee, competing for Rookie of the Year honors. Berrier struggled during the course of the season, DNQ-ing nine times, before he was released. Brian Simo took over at Watkins Glen, before Stricklin took over the rest of the year. He signed to drive the 90 full-time in 2001, and had a sixth-place run at Michigan, but the team continued to struggle. At the EA Sports 500, Donlavey fielded the #91 for Rick Mast, but did not make the race. More trouble began brewing when Sara Lee asked Donlavey to move his team from Richmond to North Carolina. When Donlavey refused, they announced they were leaving for Bill Davis Racing, taking Stricklin with them.

Mast signed with Donlavey for 2002 with sponsorship from the C.F. Sauer Company. Mast had a best finish of 24th at Darlington when he began feeling anemic. He took several races off, and was replaced by Hermie Sadler, and Gary Bradberry. When Mast became too ill to return and Sauer left, Donlavey cut back his racing schedule, and planned to retire, but came back to field the Lucas Oil Ford for Lance Hooper at Bristol, as well as a car for team manager Jason Hedlesky at Lowe's. Hooper finished 31st and Hedlesky started 41st and finished 43rd. In 2003, Kirk Shelmerdine drove Donlavey's car at the Daytona 500, but missed the field. Hedlesky drove the car at the Winston Open, but Donlavey did not field an entry for the rest of the season. Donlavey hoped to revive his team in 2004 by announcing Kevin Ray would drive a limited schedule that season with sponsorship from Boudreaux's Butt Paste. Unfortunately, the deal ended up running only one ARCA race at Pocono.                                         

Late in the year A.J. Henriksen, began running races for Donlavey, but did not make a race. Donlavey did not field a car in 2005, but continued to stay involved in NASCAR. During a gathering at Richmond in September 2006, Donlavey stated that he still had several cars in his race shop, but was in the process of selling them and had no plans to return to racing.
 

1999 - Hall of Fame Inductee – Stock Car Hall of Fame

Oceanside Rotary Club of Ormond Beach

Junie Donlavey - Team Owner

  • 1949 Owned and built race cars competing in the Modified Division
  • 1950 Entered cars in first Southern 500
  • 1950-1960 cars competed in both Grand National (Winston Cup) and Modifieds
  • 1970 Earned NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year (driver Bill Dennis)
  • 1971 Began running exclusively in Winston Cup division
  • 1972-1973-1974 three wins in Busch Grand National Permatex 300 at Daytona International Speedway
  • 1980 Earned NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year (driver Jody Ridley)
  • 1981 Won Mason Dixon 500 at Dover Downs International Speedway
  • 1985 Earned NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year (driver Kenny Schrader)

Throughout his career as a car owner has had more than 150 different drivers including 65 in Winston Cup division

Jeanne Barnes PaintingInternational Motorsports Hall of Fame Seventeenth Annual Induction (2007)

Junie Donlavey (1924 - )

In his entire career as a stock car racer and owner, Junie Donlavey never strayed far from his Richmond, Va., home, but his influence and reputation for giving drivers a chance to compete at NASCAR’s highest level were known far and wide. The number of famous drivers that have wheeled Donlavey’s No. 90 car would fill a record book, including Joe Weatherly, Tiny Lund, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Dick Brooks, Bobby Isaac, Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson, Johnny Rutherford, Harry Gant, Buddy Baker, Charlie Glotzbach and Ricky Rudd. It was, however, Donlavey’s willingness to turn his car over to rookie drivers that gained him the most notoriety. Bill Dennis in 1970, Jody Ridley in 1980, and Ken Schrader in 1985 took Rookie of the Year honors in Junie’s No. 90. Ridley finished fifth in the Winston Cup points in ’81, and also gave Donlavey his only Cup win at Dover. In all, 60 different drivers drove in Cup races for Donlavey before he closed his shop in 2005.

Junie Donlavey -
2007 International Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee

Former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey will be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (IMHOF) on Thursday, April 26, 2007.

Much of Donlavey's notoriety comes from the conduit he developed giving young drivers a chance to compete at the top level in motorsports.

In Donlavey's 50 years of ownership, he has placed 150 drivers in the seat of a stock car - 60 of those in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. The Richmond, Va. native may have only one NEXTEL Cup Series win as a team owner, but the various yet-to-be discovered drivers he hired early in their careers went on to claim a total of 50 wins, 323 top-5's, 653 top-10's and 61 poles.

Donlavey first entered the sport in 1950 when he drove for his own team. He later hired fellow Virginian Runt Harris for the 17th race of the 1950 season at Martinsville Speedway. Harris was the first of 19 drivers to whom Donlavey would give a debut in the NEXTEL Cup series.

Three of Donlavey's drivers won Rookie of the Year honors in NASCAR's top series, which demonstrates his recruiting expertise. Among his Rookie of the Year Award recipients is Fenton, Mo. native Ken Schrader. In 1985, Donlavey appointed Schrader to drive his No. 90 Ford full-time.

"There was simply no place where it was better for a rookie to get hooked up," Schrader said in his biography, Gotta Race!

Jody Ridley won Rookie of the Year honors in the NEXTEL Cup Series driving for Donlavey Racing in 1980. Ridley raced a total of seven seasons with Donlavey, but only three full-time. The next year, he captured a win at Dover International Speedway, race 12 of the 1981 season. That victory uniquely was the first and only NEXTEL Cup Series win for both Ridley and Donlavey.

Multi-series champion Joe Weatherly also drove for Donlavey as a rookie, but not on a full-time basis. Donlavey hired Weatherly in 1952 to make his first Cup series start at the Southern 500 in Martinsville. After Donlavey opened the door, Weatherly furthered his career in the NEXTEL Cup series with other teams, eventually winning the 1962 and 1963 championships.

Over the years, the motorsports industry has recognized Donlavey's efforts and dedication to the sport and has awarded him many honors, including the 1998 STP Richard Petty Achievement Award, the 1999 Ford Motor Company Spirit of Ford Award and the 2001 H. Clay Earles Award from Martinsville Speedway.

In 2002, the EMPA formed the Junie Donlavey Spirit of the Sport Award which is presented each year to individuals who best represent independent spirit of the sport and perform numerous tasks behind the scenes to make the sport better. The EMPA named Donlavey the first recipient of the award. Recipients of the award in years since include Kenny Brightbill (2003), Butch Tittle (2004), Morgan Shepherd (2005) and James Hylton (2006).

And now, Donlavey will add to his list of accomplishments this most prestigious title of "International Motorsports Hall of Fame Member" when he is inducted this April. Other 2007 IMHOF inductees are Jack Ingram, Wayne Rainey, Ray Hendrick, Warren Johnson and Bruton Smith.

About the International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum
Opened in April of 1983, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of motorsports. Each year, the annual International Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is held on the grounds of the museum to honor those men and women chosen for induction from among the greatest names in all of motorsports. This year's black-tie ceremony consists of a reception, banquet and awards ceremony and is set for Thursday, April 26, 2007. Individual tickets are $125 and a table for eight may be reserved for $1,000 by calling (256) 362-5002. Visa, Mastercard and Discover are accepted. The IMHOF and Museum and Pitshop Retail Store are open from 9 to 4 p.m., 7 days a week with the exception of major holidays. Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $5 for kids age 7 to 17 and free for kids age 6 and younger. Tours of Talladega Superspeedway are also available at a cost of $5 for adults, $4 for kids age 7 to 17 and free for kids age 6 and younger. A discounted combo tour of both facilities is also available.

Where is . . .  Junie?   By Ryan Smithson, NASCAR.COM          January 18, 2007

The sport eventually outgrew him, but the friends he made along the way never did.

Junie Donlavey is 83 now, and he still can be found at the Richmond-area shop that he used to field cars for 45 years in the Cup Series. Eventually, his single-car operation was priced out of the sport after decades of memories and countless chassis, but Donlavey feels like he won the battle. For many of his seasons on the circuit, Donlavey raced for the friendships, not flair, and those relationships are what keep him busy today.

Other than a heart ailment in 1998, his health has been sound. "Life has really been fast, I can tell you, but it has been pleasant," Donlavey said. "I didn't regret one minute of it even though we ran against heavy-backed teams. We still had fun."

Donlavey might be the easiest person in the world to find. Except for a hitch in the Navy during World War II, he has lived in Richmond all of his life. When a sponsor asked him to move his race team from Richmond to Charlotte in 1998, he refused.

Easily reachable by his shop phone, Donlavey spends a lot of time talking to a roster of friends, men who served as the backbone of the sport in the 1960s: Bud Moore, Charlie Glotzbach, Cotton Owens, A.J. Foyt. Donlavey went out of his way to find Foyt last summer when the Indy Racing League came to Richmond.

"Anytime I can get to A.J., I will do it; he was a real friend," Donlavey said. "We discussed some of the things that happened when he ran Cup cars. He is one fine gentleman. You would think he is really tough, but he is a nice, nice man." Donlavey may have found Foyt, but the fans usually find Donlavey. Many of them still stop by his shop to see his collection of cars. Donlavey joked that he and his handful of employees don't eat breakfast in the shop, because "none of them cook."

"We seem to stay busy even though we are not really busy," Donlavey said. "We are always fooling with this car and that car and then we have a show car that we take to a lot of church functions. "We have a lot of fans that come by. They will have their picture taken with the car. Time always seems to roll on and you always have something to do."

Donlavey perhaps is best-known as the owner who would give young drivers a shot, as well as employ veterans nearing the finish line of their careers. He employed 22-year-old Ricky Rudd in 1978 ... and 57-year-old Dick Trickle in 1997. Trickle nearly won the Bristol night race in 1997, finishing third after a dramatic charge in the final laps. "He was coming up to [the field] and I can tell you, that was very good," Donlavey said. "That is what I got out of it. I gave a lot of young drivers a chance and I gave a lot of the ones who were on their way out a chance. Everything worked good out of it."

A lack of major funding was always a problem for Donlavey's team. In 1990, he had to release promising Ernie Irvan because Donlavey lacked a sponsor, but he says there are no regrets. "I didn't let it get me down and didn't let it get my love of racing down," Donlavey said.

Benny Parsons, who died Jan. 16 of lung cancer, took a turn driving Donlavey's No. 90 Ford, running 27 races in 1988. "He was a terrific driver, and he did a beautiful job for us," Donlavey said.

Donlavey smiles when he thinks of Ken Schrader, who drove for him from 1985-87. Donlavey Racing didn't enjoy a lot of success -- one victory in 863 starts -- but Schrader won a Daytona 500 qualifying race with the team in 1987.

Donlavey still goes to work every day in his shop, where he keeps a half dozen Fords around. "We piddle around with them, and I am restoring one that Ken Schrader drove in 1987," Donlavey said. "We have got that one about ready to paint. It'll bring back a lot of memories for the three years that Schrader drove for us."

When Donlavey gets home from the shop on a weekday, he immediately turns on the television, specifically SPEED. "TV is so good now it takes you wherever you want to go," Donlavey said. "I watch the SPEED channel in the summer months and watch those programs. Schrader is on one of them and I enjoy listening to him. I find out what the teams are doing."

In recent years, Donlavey has spent a lot of time building a vacation home outside Richmond, where he and wife Phyllis spend a lot of weekends. The two will celebrate their 65th anniversary this summer. Phyllis also accompanies Donlavey to a handful of races each year, usually the Pocono, Dover and Richmond weekends. Donlavey also tries to attend the Daytona 500 every year, but he says it is almost impossible to catch up with old friends in the garage, especially while they are working.

"I really enjoy coming and seeing the guys, but today most of them are so busy that they have to stay in the ball," Donlavey said. "You don't want to take up any of their time."

Start Me Up!

Drivers who made their first Cup Series start with Junie Donlavey

Driver

Debut

Track

Finish

 

 

 

 

Runt Harris

Oct. 15, 1950

Martinsville

19

Joe Weatherly

Sept. 1, 1952

Darlington

16

Jimmy Hensley

April 30, 1972

Martinsville

33

Ron Hutcherson

Oct. 22, 1972

Rockingham

40

Yvon DuHamel

April 8, 1973

North Wilkesboro

10

Richie Panch

April 15, 1973

Darlington

17

Eddie Pettyjohn

June 3, 1973

Dover

40

Jody Ridley

July 22, 1973

Atlanta

5

Harry Gant

Oct. 7, 1973

Charlotte

11

Paul Radford

Sept. 29, 1974

Martinsville

30

Gene Felton

Nov. 7, 1976

Atlanta

16

Christine Beckers

July 4, 1977

Daytona

37

J.T. Hayes

March 4, 1990

Rockingham

38

Wally Dallenbach

March 18, 1991

Atlanta

26

Robby Gordon

Feb. 17, 1991

Daytona

18

Steve Perry

Sept. 15, 1991

Dover

27

Stanton Barrett

March 7, 1999

Las Vegas

30

Brian Simo

June 25, 2000

Sonoma

36

Jason Hedlesky

Oct. 13, 2002

Charlotte

43

 


Junie's Car number(s)  #53, #77, #90, #91, #93, #98, #99
 

Richmond's Rocket

Local racing legend Junie Donlavey has launched the career of many a NASCAR driver behind the wheel of his No. 90 Ford.

Tom Netherland     Richmond.com

Champs, chumps and everybody but your favorite uncle Charley has driven for local NASCAR Winston Cup car owner W.C. "Junie" Donlavey. Drivers on their way up and down and those who scaled little more than a concrete wall number among the nearly 100 hearty souls to sit behind the wheel of his familiar No. 90 entry.

For the 2001  Pontiac Excitement 400 at the Richmond International Raceway, it'll be Hut Stricklin. With a quick qualifying run, that is. See, Donlavey's Hills Bros. Coffee-sponsored Ford seems stuck on hard times. Missed a few races. Finished even fewer.

But that hasn't dimmed the Richmonder's love of racing.

"It's the only reason why I got into it. It's the only reason why I've stayed in it. Because it's fun," Donlavey, 76, says from his shop in South Richmond. "To waste just one day of your life on doing something that you didn't want to do is terrible because you can't never get it back."

Donlavey first fielded a Modified Division car in 1949 and entered a car in the first Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C. for Bob Apperson in 1950.

"Junie was there at the very beginning of NASCAR," says announcing great Joe Kelly. "He's seen 'em all, known 'em all. There's no better man than Junie Donlavey."

Today, Donlavey dons a positive attitude as comfortably as most pull on their shoes, with his hands crossed across his chest, a smile on his face and a past that extends back to NASCAR's beginnings. This is the steel-haired car owner's 52nd year in a racing career that boasts more than 800 starts divided among more than 70 drivers, three of whom (Bill Dennis, Jody Ridley and Ken Schrader) won Rookie of the Year.

"I called Junie in the winter of 1984 to ask him for the opportunity to run for Rookie of the Year," Schrader told the Oneonta, N.Y. Daily Star last August. "And he decided to take a chance on me. I can't tell you how thrilled I was."

Schrader became Donlavey's third Rookie of the Year the following season. Today, with four career wins and wholesale respect among his fellow competitors, Schrader drives the No. 36 M&M's-sponsored Pontiac.

Yet though he's spun a number of future winners, Donlavey has but one notch in his tool-belt. Yep, only one win. That came back in 1981 in Delaware at Dover's monster mile in the Mason-Dixon 500. With short-track terror Jody Ridley strapped in, Donlavey's Truxmore-sponsored Ford surprised the field by snaring the checkered. That trophy features prominently in Donlavey's office.

"We had a lot of races where we were leading where we could have won," Donlavey says. "In '79, at Talladega, I took two cars but neither one of them had sponsorships. Had Ricky Rudd in one of 'em and Jody in the other one. And unsponsored, they finished third and fifth. The guy who was in fourth was Richard Petty. That shows you how good Jody was."

The next season, 1980, Ridley won NASCAR's Rookie of the Year. In 1981, he notched a solid fifth place in NASCAR's year-end points race -- despite driving for Donlavey's dough-deprived team. But that win at Dover still stands out.

"Jody was as good as anybody out there. He was that smooth. But then the third year he wanted to take what we had and try to run with the factory cars," Donlavey recalls. "We couldn't have done it. You know, pulling more gears, extending the engine and then we had a lot of problems finishing the races."

Ridley left. But the checkereds never again flew. Low funds led to inadequate equipment which led to woeful finishes.

"He run maybe four or five races," Donlavey says.

"He came over one day and said, 'I want to apologize to you.' I said, 'For what?' He said, 'For the way that I thought and now I've found out how right you were. You can't extend your equipment. You can only do but so much with what you've got.'"

No one knows that better than Donlavey. He's the penny-pinching king. For years his crew was all-volunteer. Yet week-in and week-out, NASCAR's stalwart made the race. Each week. Every track. And with enough drivers to fill two fields.

Behind No. 90's Wheel

Check the list. More than 70 drivers have warmed the seat inside Donlavey's No. 90 Ford, from legends to lowlights. Greats such as David Pearson, the late Joe Weatherly, Fred Lorenzen, Benny Parsons and Charlie Glotzbach all took its wheel.

"He is a class act and well-respected among the guys in the garage area," Schrader says of Donlavey. "I feel like sometimes I owe it all to Junie for taking the chance on me."

Current concrete cowboys such as Mike Wallace and Chesapeake's Ricky Rudd also piloted Donlavey's Richmond rocket.

"Back in the '50s and early '60s, Virginia had some of the toughest Modified drivers in the country. People like Ray Hendrick, Sonny Hutchins, Runt Harris -- just all them racers," Donlavey says. "Sonny was one of the first drivers we ever had. We got the car in '49, a Modified. He was driving for another guy down in Norfolk and I think they blew the engine. He drove our car then and that was in '49."

Now, for the uninitiated, Modifieds were stripped-steel speed demons. Today's Modified division pales when compared with the days of Hutchins, Al Grinnan and Ralph Earnhardt, the daddy of the late Dale. Each driver was an Earnhardt. Intimidating. Nasty. Win in a modified, boy, and you could call yourself a driver.

"[Sonny Hutchins was the] toughest driver who ever stepped on a short track," Donlavey said. "We took him to Daytona and he run as good as any rookie that ever run down there. We had him there in '64 and he was leading the race in '70 when we were down there."

Ricky Rudd at Talladega

Through the years, Donlavey's known 'em all -- the Pettys, Earnhardts, Bakers. And he's seen 'em fall -- Weatherly, Tiny Lund, Dale Earnhardt.

I don't know how you can take everything out of it that can hurt you. There's no way they can take that sudden shock away from you because the body can keep going forward. Then if your body doesn't go, the parts in you are trying to go forward. And that's what kills 'em."

Donlavey should know. Dial back to the 1950s and Charlotte, N.C. A young Richmonder named Hank Stanley came to the track that day to drive for Junie. He never made it home.

"Had his wife and two children with him. He got out and was walking around and I told him, 'Hank, I'm not real comfortable having a family man driving out there. It bothers me.' And he said, 'Well, I do heating work and I can be blown out of a building at any time. If I get killed in this, it's because I love to do it.' In the race, the car stopped on the backstretch one time on the mile dirt track. By the time we got over there, he'd gotten it started and back running again. It backfired one time going down the straightaway and it caught on fire."

Stanley died several days later.

"Back in those days, they were very dangerous," Donlavey says. "They don't realize how fast life goes by."

Yet, as he's done since 1949, Donlavey races. It's his life. Though the names and faces of his drivers have changed through the years, Richmond's rocket remains a fixture.

"In all the years that I've been in racing, it's been the best bunch of competitors and people that you could be around," Donlavey says. "And the fans are first class. The reason why they draw so many people is that people like to be with good people. It is a family sport.

FORD MOTOR COMPANY HONORS WOOD BROTHERS, JUNIE DONLAVEY WITH SPIRIT OF FORD AWARD -- SEPT. 9

RICHMOND, Va., -- For their lifetime contributions to the world of auto racing, Ford Motor Company today awarded the Wood Brothers and Junie Donlavey its prestigious Spirit of Ford Award in a special ceremony at the Virginia World Building on the grounds of the Richmond International Raceway.

The Spirit of Ford Award (formerly known as the Ford Special Achievement Award) is Ford’s highest honor in auto racing, given to those who have made a significant lifetime contribution to the world of auto racing, both on and off the track. The awards, beautiful Steuben crystal eagles, were presented to Glen Wood, on behalf of the Wood family, and Donlavey by Edsel B. Ford II, the great-grandson of Henry Ford and a member of the company’s board of directors.

"It’s an honor for us to make this special presentation the Wood Brothers and Junie Donlavey, people who represent the best aspects of NASCAR Winston Cup racing, " said Ford.

"Junie has been fielding teams in NASCAR for 50 years, the last 40 exclusively with Ford products," Ford said. "One of NASCAR Winston Cup’s true gentlemen, he has won over the entire NASCAR family with his dedication, his honesty, and the opportunities he has provided for more than 160 drivers during the years.

"When you think of the Wood Brothers, you think of success at NASCAR’s highest level," Ford added. "As a team, they have raced Ford Motor Company products for 50 years, and have won more races than any other team to compete with Ford. As people, they showed the racing world that you can win with dignity and perseverance, and the respect they have earned in the NASCAR garage is enormous."

The Woods and Donlavey are the 12th and 13th recipients of the Spirit of Ford Award.


 

Gober Sosebee OWNER- Strictly Stock / Grand National / Winston Cup Statistics

Year Driver Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn Miles
1950 Runt Harris 1 0 0 0 0 41 0 0 129   19.0 20.5
1952 Joe Weatherly 1 0 0 0 0 376 0 150 51 38.0 16.0 470.0
1957 Runt Harris 1 0 0 0 0 50 0 100 158 24.0 39.0 68.8
1957 Emanuel Zervakis 3 0 0 0 0 892 0 675 140 19.0 24.0 668.5
1958 Emanuel Zervakis  6 0 0 0 0 457 0 465 161 12.5 32.8 377.7
1959 Runt Harris 1 0 1 1 0 193 0 250   5.0 5.0 96.5
1960 Runt Harris 3 0 0 0 0 391 0 350 109 28.0 27.3 233.4
1960 Tiny Lund 1 0 0 0 0 52 0 2,440 32 10.0 36.0 78.0
1960 Speedy Thompson 3 0 0 0 0 589 0 18,035 25 17.3 25.3 869.8
1961 Johnny Roberts 1 0 0 0 0 113 0 75 167 15.0 21.0 56.5
1965 Sonny Hutchins 10 0 1 2 0 2272 0 3,780 50 12.1 19.6 1332.1
1966 Sonny Hutchins 4 0 0 0 0 222 0 2,190 83 23.2 29.5 318.0
1967 Sonny Hutchins 7 0 0 2 0 998 0 6,385 34 18.7 20.6 1711.0
1968 Sonny Hutchins 4 0 0 0 0 420 0 2,810 62 24.2 33.2 528.0
1969 Sonny Hutchins 8 0 2 2 0 1694 0 9,565 44 15.4 20.0 1640.3
1970 Bill Dennis 3 0 0 0 0 385 0 15,670 25 13.7 26.0 521.0
1970 Sonny Hutchins 2 0 1 1 0 722 0 2,575 78 14.5 15.5 611.7
1970 LeeRoy Yarbrough 1 0 0 0 0 22 0 61,980 43 10.0 30.0 33.0
1971 Bill Dennis 26 0 4 10 1 5349 47 29,420 18 11.8 18.6 6576.6
1972 Max Berrier 1 0 0 0 0 349 0 740   7.0 18.0 218.1
1972 Dick Brooks 4 0 0 1 0 334 0 14,146 49 19.5 28.8 784.8
1972 Richard D. Brown 1 0 0 0 0 48 0 20,233 29 18.0 41.0 72.0
1972 Bill Dennis 2 0 1 1 0 570 0 10,949 42 9.0 14.0 475.4
1972 Butch Hartman 1 0 1 1 0 326 0 3,570   26.0 5.0 489.0
1972 Jimmy Hensley 2 0 1 1 0 548 0 1,900 99 9.5 19.0 287.8
1972 Ron Hutcherson 1 0 0 0 0 29 0 550   20.0 40.0 29.5
1972 Bobby Isaac 1 0 0 0 0 19 0 133,257 19 8.0 35.0 10.0
1972 Fred Lorenzen 1 0 1 1 0 197 0 19,505 39 7.0 4.0 295.5
1972 Jackie Oliver 7 0 1 1 0 1034 0 11,575   18.4 29.0 1485.5
1972 David Pearson 1 0 0 0 0 86 1 142,440 20 11.0 24.0 46.6
1972 Johnny Rutherford 1 0 0 0 0 224 0 1,280   9.0 26.0 448.0
1972 Ramo Stott 2 0 2 2 0 674 3 19,655 66 11.5 2.5 986.1
1972 LeeRoy Yarbrough 2 0 1 1 0 334 2 40,705 34 14.0 22.0 506.5
1973 Dick Brooks 8 0 1 5 0 2073 0 55,369 27 19.4 13.5 2632.1
1973 Yvon DuHamel 1 0 0 1 0 381 0 800 109 15.0 10.0 238.1
1973 Harry Gant 1 0 0 0 0 307 0 2,260 85 17.0 11.0 460.5
1973 Charlie Glotzbach 1 0 0 1 0 483 0 6,451 43 13.0 8.0 491.2
1973 Ray Hendrick 2 0 0 0 0 613 0 1,950 88 11.0 18.5 324.4
1973 Jimmy Hensley 1 0 0 1 0 485 0 1,550 103 15.0 7.0 254.6
1973 Bud Moore 1 0 0 0 0 174 0 1,225 110 31.0 29.0 237.7
1973 Richie Panch 4 0 0 0 0 510 0 4,510 70 23.2 31.0 653.7
1973 Eddie Pettyjohn 2 0 0 1 0 491 0 2,145 76 21.5 25.0 491.0
1973 Jody Ridley 2 0 1 1 0 396 0 7,120 59 23.5 21.0 690.3
1973 Ramo Stott 2 0 0 1 0 202 0 8,440 52 14.5 26.0 506.4
1974 Bill Dennis 3 0 0 2 0 1118 0 7,775 60 23.0 12.0 1147.3
1974 George Follmer 1 0 0 0 0 50 0 53,780 29 16.0 32.0 125.0
1974 Harry Gant 1 0 0 1 0 387 0 4,784 64 11.0 9.0 241.9
1974 Charlie Glotzbach 11 0 3 4 0 2731 116 34,172 26 9.3 17.8 2851.8
1974 Jimmy Hensley 1 0 0 1 0 489 0 2,260 83 4.0 6.0 256.7
1974 Bobby Isaac 1 0 0 0 0 59 0 22,642 33 8.0 33.0 80.6
1974 Richie Panch 1 0 0 0 0 96 0 52,712 14 18.0 27.0 51.2
1974 Eddie Pettyjohn 2 0 0 0 0 297 1 2,885 94 13.0 28.0 297.0
1974 Paul Radford 1 0 0 0 0 20 0 750 136 9.0 30.0 10.5
1974 Jody Ridley 2 0 0 0 0 163 0 2,935 88 9.5 31.5 205.2
1975 Kenny Brightbill 1 0 0 1 0 480 0 2,000 77 13.0 7.0 480.0
1975 Dick Brooks 25 0 6 15 0 7344 60 93,001 10 9.2 13.5 8052.4
1975 Dick May 1 0 0 0 0 8 0 11,525 41 20.0 37.0 8.0
1975 Jody Ridley 2 0 0 0 0 410 0 3,000   11.0 20.0 624.0
1975 Earl Ross 1 0 0 0 0 372 0 2,965   31.0 13.0 558.0
1976 Buck Baker 1 0 0 1 0 360 0 12,655 48 13.0 6.0 491.8
1976 Dick Brooks 26 0 3 18 0 7479 16 111,880 10 11.1 13.2 8511.0
1976 Gene Felton 1 0 0 0 0 308 0 1,635 88 36.0 16.0 468.8
1976 Dick Trickle 1 0 0 0 0 142 0 1,225 105 15.0 32.0 213.0
1977 Christine Beckers 1 0 0 0 0 33 0 695   37.0 37.0 82.5
1977 Dick Brooks 27 0 7 20 0 7833 8 151,374 6 12.7 12.3 9117.2
1978 Dick Brooks 27 0 5 17 0 8124 24 137,590 8 11.3 12.9 9325.8
1979 Jody Ridley 3 0 1 2 0 787 0 11,245 47 29.3 13.7 1403.3
1979 Ricky Rudd 28 0 4 17 0 8836 22 150,897 9 11.5 12.1 9916.7
1980 Jody Ridley 31 0 2 18 0 9579 2 204,883 7 17.0 12.4 10975.6
1981 Jody Ridley 30 1 3 18 0 8528 28 267,605 5 17.6 12.4 10077.1
1982 Jody Ridley 30 0 0 10 0 7983 4 308,663 13 19.2 17.9 8789.4
1983 Dick Brooks 30 0 2 6 0 7866 108 180,555 14 15.5 19.1 8871.5
1984 Dick Brooks 30 0 1 5 0 8157 185 192,407 15 19.6 18.5 9319.8
1985 Ken Schrader 28 0 0 3 0 7786 4 211,522 16 21.3 18.4 9363.8
1986 Ken Schrader 29 0 0 4 0 8047 2 235,904 16 23.5 19.5 9696.8
1987 Ken Schrader 29 0 1 10 1 8162 154 375,918 10 11.9 16.2 9900.2
1988 Jimmy Means 1 0 0 0 0 394 0 139,290 30 32.0 24.0 246.2
1988 Benny Parsons 27 0 0 1 0 7420 82 210,755 24 23.5 23.0 8752.6
1989 Stan Barrett 4 0 0 0 0 391 0 11,500 61 34.5 32.0 612.6
1989 Chad Little 8 0 0 0 0 1936 0 44,690 38 29.9 29.2 2594.0
1989 Lennie Pond 1 0 0 0 0 394 0 3,475 64 25.0 11.0 295.5
1990 Buddy Baker 8 0 0 0 0 1326 1 40,085 41 29.5 29.6 2352.7
1990 Charlie Glotzbach  1 0 0 0 0 394 0 15,355 70 32.0 22.0 295.5
1990 J.T. Hayes 1 0 0 0 0 10 0 2,700 101 38.0 38.0 10.2
1990 Ernie Irvan 3 0 0 0 0 983 0 535,280 9 17.0 21.3 1191.5
1991 Wally Dallenbach, Jr 11 0 0 0 0 2070 0 54,020 38 31.8 30.0 3244.4
1991 Robby Gordon 2 0 0 0 0 584 0 27,265 55 35.0 22.0 781.0
1991 Steve Perry 1 0 0 0 0 244 0 4,150 77 37.0 27.0 244.0
1992 Pancho Carter 1 0 0 0 0 297 0 3,735 82 31.0 32.0 445.5
1992 Charlie Glotzbach 7 0 0 0 0 1528 0 48,060 41 26.9 26.1 2563.6
1992 Bobby Hillin, Jr. 1 0 0 0 0 235 0 102,160 34 31.0 30.0 357.7
1992 Dorsey Schroeder 1 0 0 0 0 196 0 12,990 60 31.0 19.0 490.0
1992 Hut Stricklin 4 0 0 0 0 1734 0 336,965 27 24.2 24.8 1266.2
1992 Kerry Teague 1 0 0 0 0 15 0 26,235 67 37.0 38.0 20.5
1993 Bobby Hillin, Jr. 30 0 0 0 0 8343 3 263,540 27 26.2 24.2 9768.3
1994 Bobby Hillin, Jr. 3 0 0 0 0 1044 0 125,340 44 29.0 27.7 1251.2
1994 Mike Wallace 22 0 1 1 0 6672 13 265,115 33 28.5 21.3 8629.3
1995 Mike Wallace 26 0 0 1 0 6819 1 428,006 34 31.0 26.6 8808.3
1996 Dick Trickle 17 0 0 0 0 4336 2 404,927 36 20.8 28.6 5441.0
1996 Mike Wallace 10 0 0 0 0 2677 3 169,082 41 31.6 30.4 3226.9
1997 Dorsey Schroeder 1 0 0 0 0 89 0 11,630 62 19.0 31.0 218.4
1997 Dick Trickle 28 0 2 2 0 8476 0 656,189 31 21.2 23.2 10901.6
1998 Dick Trickle 32 0 0 1 0 8671 4 1,208,771 29 25.6 26.6 11433.7
1999 Stanton Barrett 2 0 0 0 0 454 0 98,896 56 36.0 30.5 876.0
1999 Ed Berrier 4 0 0 0 0 1050 0 120,325 52 32.8 32.0 1587.0
1999 Morgan Shepherd 1 0 0 0 0 388 0 69,303 65 39.0 32.0 394.6
1999 Hut Stricklin 1 0 0 0 0 391 0 378,942 43 31.0 33.0 586.5
1999 Mike Wallace 1 0 0 0 0 199 0 135,261 53 42.0 23.0 497.5
2000 Ed Berrier 10 0 0 0 0 2086 0 417,144 47 33.3 33.4 3797.0
2000 Brian Simo 1 0 0 0 0 95 0 37,110 66 34.0 36.0 189.0
2000 Hut Stricklin 7 0 0 0 0 1248 0 255,200 50 33.6 33.6 1617.5
2001 Rick Mast 3 0 0 0 0 871 0 680,321 45 36.0 30.3 1019.2
2001 Brian Simo 2 0 0 0 0 113 0 72,175 61 28.5 39.5 263.4
2001 Hut Stricklin 21 0 0 1 0 5890 0 1,006,021 42 30.0 28.4 8622.6
2002 Gary Bradberry 1 0 0 0 0 72 0 40,399 86 43.0 43.0 144.0
2002 Jason Hedlesky 1 0 0 0 0 31 0 39,160 87 41.0 43.0 46.5
2002 Lance Hooper 1 0 0 0 0 488 0 51,840 74 43.0 31.0 260.1
2002 Rick Mast 9 0 0 0 0 3033 0 469,843 47 37.7 33.0 3364.5
2002 Hermie Sadler 2 0 0 0 0 589 0 473,290 45 41.5 29.0 1076.5
45 years 863 1 60 218 2 224435 896 13,019,619   20.3 20.9 270624.1


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