Born: November 11, 1937 Died:
January 3, 2009
Home: Columbus, GA
DIS forever linked
by Godwin Kelly - Daytona
Beach News Journal 1/5/09
is the men of racing, such as Sam
McQuagg, and their unusual successes
that give Daytona International
Speedway its motorsports mystique.
McQuagg, 71, died Saturday after
battling cancer, but he will forever
be linked to the track that helps
make and break driving careers.
McQuagg was Daytona’s ultimate
spoiler, since he was the first
driver to use the aerodynamic
device on a stock car in a race over
the 2.5-mile trioval. A spoiler is
just a strip of metal attached to
the rear of the trunk lid and
produces downforce on the rear of
It all sounds simple, but it took
Chrysler engineers months of work to
come up with the idea, which McQuagg
used to his advantage on the No. 98
Dodge for the 1966 Firecracker 400.
‘‘We were down there for two or
three weeks in the month of June,’’
McQuagg said last summer in the
weeks leading up to the 50th
running of the Coke Zero 400. ‘‘The
car wouldn’t run at all.
‘‘You start down the backstretch
at about 180 (mph) and it would
start lifting. The back end started
spinning the back wheels. The
engineers came up with this little
spoiler. It was an inch and half
tall across the back of the car and
the car immediately picked up about
five or six mph.’’
The car was owned by Ray
Nichels, who was a part-time car
owner with a lot of racing
connections. Nichels won 10 races
over the years as a car owner, but
none was more unanticipated than
McQuagg’s run on that July 4.
McQuagg, from Columbus, Ga.,
dominated the day by leading 126 of
160 laps, beating runner-up Darel
Dieringer by 66 seconds.
Dieringer ran out of gas on the last
lap and coasted under the checkered
‘‘It was a very good car,’’ said
McQuagg, who was the 1965 NASCAR
Rookie of the Year.
‘‘We lost an engine in the car the
day before the race. We put another
one in it and we didn’t know how it
would run and it ran better than the
other one. It was just a very good
car that day.’’
It looked like the start of a
brilliant career. McQuagg was only
26 years old when he conquered
Daytona, whipping the likes of
Mario Andretti, Richard Petty,
Curtis Turner and David Pearson.
But the 400 would be McQuagg’s
first and only NASCAR Cup Series
triumph. The following season,
he drove for some of the top car
owners in the business, a roster
that included Bud Moore, Nord
Krauskopf and Cotton Owens.
He produced some top fives, but
could not reproduce the magic he had
at Daytona in 1966, and rapidly
disappeared off the NASCAR radar.
Unlike many drivers, who continue on
a path of fruitlessness, McQuagg
went to school and got a license to
fly private planes.
He was a successful corporate
pilot for more than 25 years.
McQuagg retired happy, rich with
memories of his brief NASCAR career.
As he told the media last summer,
‘‘It meant awful lot to win at
Daytona. It’s the Taj Mahal of
Thought you would be interested
in this. In is from the Columbus
In July 1966, Sam McQuagg made a
memory for his two sons that
will last a lifetime.
Driving a Dodge Charger, the
Columbus born and bred racer won
the Firecracker 400 at Daytona
Sam McQuagg Jr., now 51,
remembers what it was like being
a kid in victory lane at
“I remember getting to climb all
over that car in victory lane,”
McQuagg Jr. said. “I was all
over it and through it. And my
brother, Mark, was up on the
McQuagg Sr., 73, died Saturday
morning at St. Francis Hospital
from cancer. Visitation will be
Monday from 6-8 p.m. at McMullen
Mortuary. The funeral will be at
11 a.m. Tuesday at McMullen.
McQuagg raced mostly on the
short tracks of Georgia, Alabama
and Florida and spent the later
part of his life as a corporate
He ran a total of 62 NASCAR
Grand National (Sprint Cup)
races between 1962 and 1974,
with 21 Top 10 finishes.
His lone Grand National win came
in Daytona. McQuagg earned
$21,000 for the victory, but the
real bonus came when he returned
to Columbus, McQuagg Jr. said.
“We went down to Daytona that
year in ‘65 Chevrolet station
wagon,” McQuagg Jr. remembers.
“We drove it back to Columbus
and went to Chuck Hutton Dodge.
He and mother drove off that lot
that day with two new 1966 Dodge
It looked like that win was
going to land McQuagg in the
seat of an established team. He
got an offer in 1967 to drive
for the Wood Brothers.
“But there was a hitch,” McQuagg
Jr. said. “They told him he
would have to use Firestone
tires. My dad was a very loyal
man. He said he would only run
When McQuagg started racing and
was running short on cash,
Goodyear gave him tires.
“He just said he couldn’t do
it,” McQuagg Jr. said.
NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough
ended up with the ride.
McQuagg also played a big role
in one of NASCAR’s most famous
wrecks. In 1965 -- the year he
was Grand National Rookie of the
Year -- he was leading the
Southern 500 at Darlington.
Yarborough tried to get past
McQuagg’s yellow No. 24 car.
Yarborough’s car flew over the
guardrail, rolled six times, and
ended up in the parking lot.
For several year’s ABC’s Wide
World of Sports showed the clip
during its intro.
“That was the agony of defeat,”
McQuagg Jr. said.
Though McQuagg never found
stardom in the big leagues, he
was a well-known local
short-track racer who played a
role in bringing brothers Bobby
and Donnie Allison and Red
Farmer to Alabama.
McQuagg told his story to the
Ledger-Enquirer in 1996.
He was at a North Florida
Championship race when he ran
into the men who later formed
the famed Alabama Gang.
“It was about 1958, 1959, and
they were asking me what racing
was like up here and I told them
we were racing three or four
nights a week,” McQuagg said.
“And they came up here and run
some races with us and then
decided to move here. But they
liked the Birmingham area better
McQuagg was inducted into the
Jacksonville (Fla,) Speedway
Hall of Fame and the Georgia
Automobile Racing Hall of Fame
But when McQuagg walked away
from racing, he never looked
Late in his racing career he
became a pilot. In 1973, he went
to work for the W.C. Bradley Co.
as head of the aviation
department and retired 24 years
The last 10 years of his life,
McQuagg and his wife of 54
years, Joy, traveled the United
States in a motor home.
“They went from Alaska to South
Florida, New England to
California,” McQuagg Jr. said.
“They put 450,000 miles on three
different motor homes and had a
real good life.”
He is survived by his wife,
Joy Baggett McQuagg and three
children, Sam McQuagg Jr., Mark
McQuagg and Rita Renfroe, all of
Contact Chuck Williams at
McQuagg is a former NASCAR Rookie of the Year
driver. He was named NASCAR Rookie of the Year in
1965 after achieving 5 top-10 finishes in 16 races.
McQuagg was a major player in an incident in one of the
wildest NASCAR races ever. McQuagg was leading the 1965
Southern 500, when Cale Yarborough tried to muscle past
McQuagg for the lead. Yarborough flew over the
guardrail, rolled around six times, and ended up at the
end of the parking lot by a light post. Yarborough waved
to the crowd as he walked back to the pits. A video clip
of the wreck was used on ABC's Wide World of Sports for
several years. The race was eventually won by 14 laps by
Dodge noticed his
accomplishments in his small Ford team, and Dodge hired
him to their factory team. He was the first driver to
use a spoiler. He used the spoiler to win the
Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway; the
flag from the Firecracker 400 now hangs on his
grandson's wall. His Dodge Charger was sponsored by a
newlywed Georgia couple. McQuagg was also the first
driver to bring a motorhome into the Daytona garage
In 1967 he was
hired to drive Cotton Owens's Dodge. He ran 14 races,
and had 3 top-5 finishes. On lap 81, he tangled with
another driver at Darlington, went over the guardrail,
and flipped numerous times before coming to a rest. The
wrecks frustrated McQuagg, and he scaled back his
schedule to mainly local tracks. He retired from racing
to become a commercial pilot, which was a skill he had
learned to travel quickly between races.
His last start came in World 600
Posted on May 12, 2006
Born November 11,
1937, Columbus, Georgia native Sam McQuagg began racing in
1956 buying half interest in a 1934 Ford. McQuagg quit his
construction job and began competing on the local dirt
tracks becoming almost unbeatable on the dirt at Valdosta 75
"We went to a
half-mile dirt track over here in Auburn-Opelika, Ala., and
I won the heat race and ran second in the feature. Liked to
have won the feature in the first race I ever run in my
life," McQuagg would later recall.
In 1962, McQuagg
entered his first NASCAR Grand National Division events
driving his own No. 62 Ford at Valdosta. McQuagg qualified
9th for the event, but a blown motor dropped him to a 12th
place starting position.
McQuagg returned to
NASCAR Grand National competition in 1963 driving J.
L. Thomas’s No. 71 and
72 Ford in 5 events. He was plagued with mechanical trouble
recording 4 DNF’s and a best finish of 12th. But 1963 was a
successful year for McQuagg running local short tracks. He
won 37 of the
39 events he entered
at Valdosta that year.
In 1965, McQuagg made
15 starts in the NASCAR Grand National Division (later to be
renamed the Winston Cup Series) driving James Thomas’s No.
71 Ford at Riverside, Betty Lilliy’s No. 24 Ford in 10
events, Bob Cooper’s No. 60 Ford at Atlanta, and Kenny
Myler’s No. 06 Ford at North Wilkesboro and Dog Track
Speedway, Moyock, North Carolina. He recorded a 3rd place
finish at Bristol recording 2 top-5s, 10 top-10s, and
winning the NASCAR Grand National Division Rookie of the
Year title. In 1966, McQuagg began driving Ray Nichels’ No.
98 Dodge in the NASCAR Grand National Division making 16
starts and won the Firecracker 400 at Daytona and received
the $13,500 winning purse.
In 1967, McQuagg drove
Bud Moore’s No. 15 Mercury, Don Robertson’s No. 25 Ford, J.
D. Bracken’s No. 2 Chevrolet, Nord Krauskopf’s No. 37 K&K
Insurance Dodge, and Cotton Owen’s No. 6 Dodge making 15
starts in the 49 event season recording 3 top-5s and 3
top-10s. McQuagg drove Krauskopf’s No. 37 K&K Insurance
Dodge in 3 Grand National events in 1968 scoring a 9th at
Atlanta, and he drove A. J. King’s No. 1 Dodge in two
events. In 1969, McQuagg made 3 starts in Bill Ellis’s No.
14 Plymouth finishing 8th at Langley Field Speedway,
In the late 1960s,
McQuagg was hustling to race at Valdosta, Georgia,
Jacksonville, Florida, and then get to Atlanta for the
Sunday night feature race. He eventually elected to get his
pilot’s license to ease the strain. After being injured in a
racing crash in 1969, McQuagg decided to accept a position
as a fulltime pilot. In 1970, he became the company pilot
for the W. C. Bradly Co. in Columbus, Georgia.
After a 4 year
absence, McQuagg returned to NASCAR Winston Cup Series in
1974 driving Hoss
Ellignton’s No. 28 Pylon Wiper Blades Chevrolet in 3 events.
He finished 7th in the Rebel 450 at Darlington and 8th in
the Winston 500 at Talladega.
In 8 years of
competing in the NASCAR Winston Cup ranks, McQuagg garnered
62 starts, 1 win, 9
top-5s, and 21 top-10s. He retired as a corporate pilot in
1997 after 27 years.
THE YEAR 1965
Sam McQuagg won
the Nascar Winston Cup Rookie of the year in 1965 with just 15 starts
where he finished with 2 top fives and 5 top tens in a car owned by
Betty Lilly. His total winnings were $10,555.
TINY LUND: HARD
A documentary that showcased the stock car
driving career of Dewayne
"Tiny" Lund featuring some of the racing greats, Darel Dieringer,
Jim Hurtibuise, Dick Hutcherson, James Hylton, Bobby Isaac,
Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Sam McQuagg,
Marvin Panch, David
Pearson, Richard Petty, Curtis Turner and Cale Yarborough.
Most of the major tracks were featured.
November 11, 1935
Rookie of the Year
in the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame
NASCAR Cup Statistics
run over 8 years
Best Cup Position:
15th - 1966 (Grand National)
1962 Valdosta Speedway
1974 World 600 (Charlotte)
Firecracker 400 (Daytona)
Firecracker 400 (Daytona)
"Eke" Brown suggested the inclusion of Sam McQuagg. Rev.
"Eke" asked, "Please add Sam McQuagg, the 1965 Rookie of the year, to
your list of Legends. He is still alive and lives in Columbus, GA..
Brown also sent along a couple of
personal photos given to him by Sam McQuagg. Here's the story:
Thanks for adding Sam to your
site. I will contact Sam Jr. and see if they have the pictures you
want. I will also pass along your email in case Sam wants to share a
story or two. He's always got a great story to tell about the days
he ran the Grand National circuit.
I have two pictures to
add. They are personal pictures that came from Sam himself.
The first one is him with
Eddie McDonald, Sr. It was taken after a win in Valdosta,
Georgia. Sam and Eddie drove team cars. Sam drove the coupe pictured
and Eddie drove a sedan. This picture was taken around 1960.
The second one is the #98 G&M
Auto Parts special that he ran in the early 70's. The two boys
pictures are his sons, "Little" Sam on the left and Mark on the
right. Sam Jr. was crew chief and mechanic from the time he was 13
or 14. This picture was taken at East Alabama Motor Speedway in
Phoenix City, Alabama. Sam ran this car on dirt and asphalt. In fact
I remember watching him win a race in this car on dirt on a Friday
night at Tri-County Speedway in Phoenix City, then win again on dirt
at Lagrange Raceway in Lagrange, Georgia on Saturday night. He then
went to Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron, Georgia and ran an All Pro
race on Sunday afternoon against the likes of Mark Martin, Rusty
Wallace, Dick Trickle, Bob Seneker, and Jody Ridley. He finished
third, loaded up and went to Rome, Georgia for a dirt race Sunday
night. He finished 2nd to Bud Lunsford.
Two wins, a 2nd, and a 3rd, all within 72 hours of each other, with
the same car! It was pretty impressive.
Sam McQuagg Used
First Spoiler for Dodge Win
May 20, 2002
Fla., - For a driver with only one NASCAR Grand National
Series win, Sam McQuagg had a lot of firsts in his career.
He used the first spoiler in NASCAR Grand National history
to win the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway
driving a fastback Dodge Charger in 1966. Rookie-of-the-Year
Award winner in 1965, McQuagg was the first driver to bring
a motorhome into the garage area at Daytona, and he was the
first - and maybe only - driver to retire from racing and
make a living as a commercial pilot, a skill he learned as a
race car driver.
He is one of several Dodge drivers who won only one NASCAR
Grand National Series race during their careers. The others
are John Soares (5/30/54, Gardena, Calif.), Royce Haggerty
(8/26/56, Portland, Ore.), and Jim Cook (9/11/60,
Sacramento, Calif.). Haggerty and Cook also won a pole award
each - 9/23/56, Portland, Ore., and 9/10/60, Sacramento,
McQuagg's career was perhaps the most noteworthy among that
group because of his Rookie-of-the-Year Award and a crash
with Cale Yarborough at Darlington in which Yarborough's car
went over the guard rail, flipped a half-dozen times and
ended up against a light pole at the edge of the parking
lot. The spectacular crash was included in the ABC Wide
World of Sports highlight reel for many years.
The wreck started when Yarborough tried to force his way
past McQuagg, who had led the previous 31 laps. "Cale went
down on the apron to try to get around me and his car came
up the track and squeezed mine into the guardrail," he said.
"I had been leading the Southern 500 a long time when that
McQuagg got his start on the short tracks of South Georgia
and north Florida. He had some success there and a woman by
the name of Betty Lilly told him if he ever wanted to
move up to the NASCAR Grand National Series, she would like
to participate. Like most young drivers, McQuagg jumped at
the opportunity and Mrs. Lilly sponsored him to the tune of
about $45,000 - a princely sum in those days. McQuagg bought
a car, painted "Lilly" on the trunk lid and started running
the major races.
The first event for the No. 24 Betty Lilly Ford was the 1965
Daytona 500. McQuagg placed fifth in the second 100-mile
qualifying race so he started 10th on the grid. He finished
two laps behind the leader in eighth place, his first of
five top-10 finishes that season. McQuagg also earned two
top-five finishes in his 15 starts that year, beating many
of the factory Fords in the process. His performance as an
independent caught the eye of the factory supported Dodge
teams and McQuagg was signed to drive the No. 98 Nichels
Engineering Dodge Charger in 1966.
McQuagg finished 15th in the NASCAR Grand National Series
championship standings that year with 16 starts, one win,
four top-fives and seven top-10s. His winnings totaled
$29,529.09. The highlight, of course, was winning the
Firecracker 400 on July 4 at Daytona International Speedway.
In the early part of the season, Dodge drivers found that
their aerodynamic fastback Chargers were very slippery but
tended to "lift" at high speeds. "You would spin the tires
at 180 mph going down the backstretch," said McQuagg. The
solution was a small strip of metal along the trunk lid -
the first spoiler in a NASCAR Grand National Series race.
"We tested spoilers at Daytona for about 30 days in June,"
said McQuagg. "When I won the race at Daytona in July, that
was the first race that was ever run in NASCAR with a
spoiler on the car. It was a little spoiler that was
probably about an inch-and-a-half high and it was contoured,
you know, to give it a little sweeping effect. It really
worked, too. It made a lot of difference in that car; it
kept the car from flying. That little spoiler disturbed the
air enough that it kept it down."
McQuagg's Firecracker 400 win came in his 31st Grand
National Series start. The Columbus, Ga., native was 29
years old at the time.
In 1967, McQuagg switched to the Dodges of Cotton Owens and
ran 14 races. He scored three top-five finishes but
unfortunately, the most notable aspect of the season was
another spectacular crash at Darlington. During the 81st
lap, McQuagg banged fenders with Dick Hutcherson, sending
McQuagg's car into the concrete pit wall. The car flipped
end-over-end and side-over-side about eight times before
coming to a stop. A groggy McQuagg climbed out of the car,
walked away and then collapsed. He was treated and released
from a local hospital.
McQuagg continued to race for a time after the second big
wreck at Darlington but found the sport getting too
political for his taste. He scaled back to local short track
racing and ultimately gave that up, too, when his new career
as a pilot began to conflict with his racing schedule.
McQuagg had learned to fly as a stock car driver. He wanted
to move quickly from race track to race track, so he decided
to get a pilot's license. "We used to run in Jacksonville,
Fla., on Sunday afternoons," explained McQuagg. "They always
had an afternoon race on Sunday, like at 1 or 2 o'clock in
the afternoon. When that race would be over, like at 3:30 or
4, we'd get in the car and try to get to Atlanta, Ga. in
time to run a Peach Bowl Sunday night, which was starting
like at 7:30 or 8. This would have been 1958 or 1959, along
"So I told my wife, 'I'm going go learn to fly an airplane,
buy me an airplane, then I won't have to fool with these
cars all the time.' I did that and started flying, and some
of the drivers started traveling with me. Some drivers had
airplanes earlier, but at that time I was about the only
person that had one that was racing. We would even we go up
to run in the northeast and I had a lot of the drivers that
always rode in the airplane with me. It worked out real good
and turned out to be a very good job after I retired from
McQuagg eventually ran the corporate flight department for
the W.C. Bradley Co. of Columbus, Ga. The company had four
airplanes and about a dozen pilots and mechanics. McQuagg
retired only a few years ago.
Another innovation credited to McQuagg is the use of a
motorhome at the track. He was the first driver to bring a
motorhome into the paddock area at Daytona International
Speedway. At first, there was resistance from NASCAR
officials. McQuagg overcame that by having a talk with "Big
Bill," NASCAR founder and Chairman Bill France Sr.
"I talked to Mr. France and told him what the deal was, that
it was a place for the drivers, and my wife made sandwiches
for everybody and everything. So he said we could, 'go tell
Norris (competition director Freel) I said it was all
right.' I don't remember if it was the 500 or the 400. I'm
almost certain it would have been 1967, maybe 1968, right
along there, but we brought it in and it worked out real
well. And after that, you know what's happened since. The
only difference is we had cheap Winnebagos and they got
these luxury motorhomes. A lot of difference in the money."
McQuagg still watches the races on television and is happy
to see the Dodges back in the thick of the battle.
"That brings back old memories," said McQuagg. "I was real
happy to see them run up front again; I certainly was." He
also admits to having a favorite among today's Dodge
drivers. "I really like Ward Burton a lot. He is my kind of
person. He just kinda tells you what he thinks about stuff
and he's very honest about it. I think a lot of a fellow
that does that, rather than the people that talk about their
sponsors and, you know, how great their crew is. Ward kinda
tells what he thinks about stuff and I respect that in a
McQuagg also admires the work of Ray Evernham. "He is, to
me, kind of a soft-spoken hero," he explained. "Anybody that
would shoulder the responsibility that he has and make it
work as well as he has, has all the admiration in the world
from me, I'll tell you. He's obviously a genius, a
mechanical genius, to do the things he's done with the race
cars, but the job that he took over is still the biggest one
from the Bill Elliott News Website
Sam McQuagg Grand National / Winston Cup DRIVER Statistics
Nascar Nextel Cup Series Tickets
Copyright © 2003
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
06/08/12 08:11:17 -0400.
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