Lloyd "Sonny" Hutchins
Born: May 17, 1929 - Died
November 22, 2005
Home: Richmond, VA
Ernest Lloyd "Sonny" Hutchins,
76, of Richmond and Urbanna,
passed away November 21, 2005. He is survived by his loving wife of 36
years, Connie Tinsley Hutchins; their children, Richard Bradley Jr. and
Cynthia Hall; a grandson, Anthony Hall and his wife, Mariah; a brother, Carl
W. "Piggy" Hutchins and a sister-in-law, Lottie L. Hutchins; and numerous
nieces, nephews, and friends. Sonny was well known in the Richmond area as a
local restauranteur and up and down the east coast as a NASCAR driver. His
family will receive friends Tuesday (today) at the Bliley Funeral Homes'
Central Chapel, 3801 Augusta Ave. from 5 to 8 p.m., where funeral services
will be held 2 p.m. Wednesday. Interment will follow in Greenwood Memorial
Gardens. Memorial contributions may be made to Victory
Junction Gang, 4500 Adam's Way, Randleman, N.C. 27317.
Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch
Guest Book •
Funeral home info
Local racing legend Sonny Hutchins dies
champion on short tracks, driver competed with flair, success for more than
RYAN AND RANDY HALLMAN -
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITERS - Nov 22, 2006
Lloyd "Sonny" Hutchins, one of the greatest drivers in Richmond history and
a member of the famed "Strawberry Hill Mod Squad," died from heart failure
Monday. He was 76.
charismatic competitor with a lead foot and a clever tongue, Mr. Hutchins
raced with great success for more than 30 years, competing in Late Models,
Modifieds and Winston Cup.
driving for the city's two greatest car owners, Junie Donlavey and Emanual
Zervakis, Mr. Hutchins won several track championships. Racing historian Joe
Kelly estimated that Mr. Hutchins won more than 300 races despite a
nine-year retirement in the prime of his career.
made only 38 starts in NASCAR's premier series, he had many fierce battles
with Cup champions such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip.
interview last year, Mr. Hutchins re- called his favorite part of racing was
"showing up at someone else's racetrack and beating them." He said with a
devilish grin that Waltrip called him "the dirtiest driver he ever knew"
after trumping the three-time champion at a Tennessee short track.
He also had
a few run-ins in the mid-1970s with Earnhardt, infuriating "The Intimidator"
by bumping him into the wall at back-to-back Late Model races at Richmond
and Martinsville. The seven-time champion hadn't forgotten when they crossed
paths again in 1990.
"I walked by
and said, 'Who's the dirtiest driver you know now?'" Mr. Hutchins said, "Earnhardt
said, 'Well, look at the teacher I had.'"
Hutchins, who made his Modified debut with a sixth-place finish at the old
Fairgrounds track known as Strawberry Hill in 1950, also was a boyhood hero
to Rick Hendrick, who has won six championships and more than 100 races as a
Nextel Cup car owner.
01 Sonny Hutchins
Sonny Hutchins and Ray Hendrick are the ones who put the bug in me to get
into [racing]," said Hendrick, a Virginia native who watched Mr. Hutchins at
South Boston Speedway and Southside Speedway. "Sonny was fearless. He wore
glasses thicker than a Coke bottle, and I don't think he could see. But he
was unbelievable. To watch him run those Modified cars with all that power
and actually spin the tires all the way down the straightaway. He was quite
was one of the "4-H Boys" along with Ray Hendrick, Runt Harris and Ted
Hairfield. The foursome was a promoter's dream, drawing crowds wherever they
built a large fan following in Virginia and was a four-time season champion
at Southside Speedway, according to Kelly. In Mr. Hutchins' last full season
in 1980, he won Late Model titles at Southside and South Boston.
wanted to be near him," said Neil Culley, a member of Mr. Hutchins' crew
when he drove for Zervakis from 1970 to 1980. "He made you feel that you
were important. He made fans feel that way, whether he knew them or not."
Tommy Ellis, a two-time Busch Series champion, said Hutchins went from
mentor to fierce rival to friend during his career.
"He was the
greatest driver I ever raced against in any series, at any level," Ellis
said. "I had the utmost respect for him. He understood a car in a way that
not many drivers do and that set him apart."
Hutchins spent many hours at Donlavey's Southside shop working on the No. 90
chassis he drove from 1965-70. With Donlavey, Mr. Hutchins finished seventh
in the 1967 Daytona 500 and a career-best second twice in 1969 (Dover and
that made Sonny so good was that he was always so good to get along with,"
Donlavey said. "He drove the car to the edge and never held anything back.
But what really made him great was the way he made the team feel. If
something went wrong, he didn't come out of the car complaining. He enjoyed
the sport, and he made sure you enjoyed it, too."
once said he "never made never a nickel in my life racing." During a 1954-63
absence from the sport, Mr. Hutchins became a restaurateur with his older
brother and stayed in the family business when he returned to race cars. Mr.
Hutchins retired in 2002 after closing the last of five restaurants he had
"I gave the
money back to the car owners and said give me a better car," Mr. Hutchins
said last year. "I just loved automobiles. I spent my whole life in racing,
and I don't know anything I'd trade for it."
include his wife of 36 years, Connie Tinsley Hutchins; son Richard Bradley
Jr. of Richmond; daughter Cynthia Hall of Williamsburg; brother Carl W.
"Piggy" Hutchins of Richmond and a grandson.
The Wood Brothers #21 Modified was driven to
Victory Lane by Sonny Hutchins & Donnie Allison
NASCAR Cup Statistics:
38 races run over 9
Best Cup Position:
34th - 1967 (Grand National)
Ran his first Beach race in a Modified
1974 Old Dominion 500 (Martinsville)
7 (No Poles, No
- Posted on November 23, 2005 -
Sonny Hutchins, born May 17, 1929 in
Richmond, Virginia, began his stock car racing career on March 18, 1950, at
the Richmond Fairgrounds when he entered the Hank Stanley Memorial Race.
Hutchins managed to finish second in his qualifying heat and finished
seventh in the feature. He managed a restaurant fulltime for a living and
raced when he could afford it.
1951, Hutchins began competing in the NASCAR Modified Division including the
old beach course at Daytona. In 1955, Hutchins made his first NASCAR Grand
National Division start at Richmond Fairgrounds half-mile dirt track driving
J. M. Fitzgibbons #97-A Oldsmobile. Overheating problems 15 laps into the
event dropped him to a 26th place finish after starting 13th.
Hutchins did not get an opportunity again to drive in NASCAR’s elite
division for 10 years. He continued to compete in Late Models and Modifieds.
In 1965, Hutchins convinced Junie Donlavey to let him drive his #90 Ford in
10 Grand National events. He recorded a 5th place finish at the .333-mile
asphalt Dog Track Speedway, in Moyock, North Carolina. And a 10th place
finish in the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville, Virginia. He also drove in
the NASCAR Modified Division campaigning cars for Donlavey.
1966, Donlavey put Hutchins in his #90 for 4 events. Mechanical problems
dropped him from competition in 3 of the 4 events, and he failed to record a
top-10. In 1967, the two teamed up for 7 NASCAR Grand National events.
Hutchins recorded a 7th place finish in the Daytona 500. In 1968, Hutchins
and Donlavey paired up for 4 events but mechanical failures sidelined them
in every event. Hutchins enjoyed success in the Late Model ranks capturing
the 1968 Late Model Division Track championship at Southside Speedway in
Midlothian, Virginia near Richmond.
1969, Hutchins drove Donlavey’s #90 Ford in 8 Grand National events. He
finished second in the Mason-Dixon 300 at Dover and in the Capital City 250
at Richmond. In 1970, the two teamed up for two Grand National events.
Hutchins finished 5th in the Capital City 500 at Richmond.
1973, Hutchins drove the #82 Harraka Enterprises Chevrolet in the NASCAR
Winston Cup Series Richmond 500. He qualified 12th, but a crash on lap 254
put him out of the event early and relegated him to a 21st place finish.
Hutchins returned to Winston Cup Series competition for his final time in
1974 driving Emanuel Zervakis’ #01 Dominion Oxygen & Supply Chevrolet in the
Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville. He qualified second, but was taken out of
the event by a crash on lap 150 and finished 21st.
years of competition in NASCAR’s elite division, Hutchins made 38 starts
recording 4 top-5s and 7 top-10s.
1980, Hutchins won his second Late Model Division Track Championship at
Southside Speedway. In 1981, after a race at Southside, Hutchins
suffered a heart attack and promptly retired from racing, ending a
31-year racing career. He and his brother “Piggy” continued to operate
the Attaché restaurant on West Broad in Richmond until his death on
November 22, 2005 at the age of 76.
Hutchins - Racing Legend
Richmonder Sonny Hutchins has
battled, and beaten, the best
Thursday, May 02, 2002
NASCAR's Winston Cup and Busch Grand National divisions come to town this
week for the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway, let's
pause and look at a Virginia racing legend.
Meet Sonny Hutchins. One of NASCAR's
best drivers of all-time, he hails from Richmond and still lives in the
area, operating with his brother "Piggy" The Attaché restaurant on West
Yet in 32 white-knuckling years, Hutchins won about 400 races and competed
against the best drivers of the past half-century.
Name a great. Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, Ray
Hendrick – they all battled door-to-door with Hutchins. Several current
Winston Cup drivers including Jimmy Spencer, also matched driving
skills with Richmond's rim-rider.
Now 73 and gray of beard, Hutchins says he doesn't miss driving. But mention
the sport and his bespectacled eyes twinkle like tinseled stars. Maybe
that's because when he drove, this one-time pedal-pummeling charger drove
"I was an aggressive driver and, of course, I had a reputation for spinning
people out, knock 'em out the race, but these people don't understand. When
you're racing, you're racing to win," Hutchins says. "I wanted to win every
race I went to."
That was no easy task. Fellow lead-foots the late Ray Hendrick, Al
Grinnan and Ted Hairfield sure didn't want to finish second, either. In
those days drivers did not settle and were not happy with second place.
So many a bent fender and tall tempers ensued. Though Hutchins was known as
a nice guy off the track, on the track he did all that he could to win. If
that meant spinning a guy out, then so be it.
Not surprisingly, fights followed rather often.
"Hundreds. Every time I turned around I was fighting," Hutchins says,
NASCAR no longer looks the other way. Today when drivers make contact on the
track, NASCAR frowns. When one driver wrecks another, as Winston Cup's
Kevin Harvick did to Coy Gibbs in a Craftsman Truck Series race
at Martinsville recently, NASCAR acts swiftly. Harvick was suspended for the
following week's Cup race.
But that sort of rough driving was commonplace in Hutchins' day.
"Yeah, and then we'd get out and fight afterwards. It didn't make any
difference back then," Hutchins says. "There wasn't as many people and there
wasn't as much money involved, television. I don't agree with all that
NASCAR does, but I gotta agree with them here. They did the right thing.
It's the greatest sport in history, automobile racing."
career started on March 18, 1950, in Richmond at the Fairgrounds
for the Hank Stanley Memorial Race. Stanley, who drove for Richmond's
Junie Donlavey, burned to death in a race in Charlotte and the race
was devised to help raise money for his family.
Well, 19-year-old Hutchins, always a car enthusiast,
managed to wrangle a ride for the race. Longtime NASCAR announcing legend
and fellow Richmonder "Jolly" Joe Kelly was there.
"Sonny placed second in the heat race and seventh in
the main that night," he says. "That started one of the greatest careers in
In those days, and for years to follow, Hutchins
drove modifieds, drastically altered late-model hot rods that sizzled
speedways. Hit the gas, hold tight and tear 'em up. That's the way it was in
those mostly 1936 and '37 Fords and Chevrolets.
"I've loved cars all my life, but I always made my
own living," Hutchins says. "There was no money in racing. Hell, as much
money as it cost me to race, it's a wonder I ain't in the poorhouse."
Hutchins supported himself by running a restaurant.
Though drivers with his success now make millions, in those days a win could
bring a few hundred bucks. Finish out of the Top 10 and you were fortunate
to bring home $50.
"When I started racing, if we had $400 in a car, that
was a lot of money," Hutchins says. "Nobody raced for a living back then."
No matter the opponent, Hutchins opened a can of
whip-ass and poured it on when he fired his cars up. He drove anything with
an engine, four tires and a gas pedal.
He was hell on wheels.
Ned Jarrett, two-time NASCAR Grand National
(now Winston Cup) champion and renowned racing announcer, remembers racing
Hutchins quite well.
"I didn't race against him a lot in the modifieds and
sportsmen series," Jarrett says, "but certainly anytime I did I knew he was
the man to beat."
Hot rod Lincolns, Chevys, Fords, Dodges and darned
near anything else that would run marked Hutchins' days of racing. Door to
door with bootleggers, farmers and neighbors alike Hutchins came from an era
when if you had the will and lead foot, why, you could go racing.
There were no image consultants and multi-million
dollar sponsorships. Drive past most gas stations in those days and chances
were there would be a hopped-up race car out back. Racing was an entirely
different world then.
"They used to run Grand National races out at
Southside Speedway (in Chesterfield County)," Hutchins says. "(One time) we
took a car right off the car lot, put a motor in it, fixed the right front
axle and went out there and blew the motor. We brought it back home, put the
old motor back in, fixed the wheel back, took it back over to the lot and
sold it. Everybody used to do all those tricks."
Times sure have changed. Today it's aerodynamics and
wind tunnel testing; back then it was hammer down and get the hell out of
Hutchins held nothing back. When green flags dropped,
he chased checkereds like a bulldog goes after pork chops. Tangle with him,
and he bit back. Hard. Current and longtime Winston Cup team co-owner
Glen Wood of Stuart, Va., fielded modifieds for Hutchins for a time
during the 1960s.
"Sonny was a hard driver, as hard as they come," Wood
says. "Sonny really didn't do it for money. He just loved it."
But many a driver held on tight and wondered 'why
me!' when Hutchins came knock, knock, knocking on their doors. And bumpers.
And fenders. It wasn't personal; Hutchins just wanted to win.
Even the late Dale Earnhardt, the seven-time
Winston Cup champion who was long known as "The Intimidator" for his
aggressive driving style, came fender-to-fender and lost to Hucthins.
Well, Hutchins was the intimidator before The
Intimidator. A bumper-banger who made drivers sweat, the burly Virginian
wore such a name for himself that Earnhardt later told him that he taught
him everything he knew about being an aggressive driver.
"Dale came to Richmond and we ran at the
Fairgrounds," Hutchins says. "He was driving that No. 8 car. He was running
all over the track like he always did and I just knocked him out the way and
went on. Called me a dirty driver. So, the next week we were in
Martinsville. Coming off the second corner he was doing the same thing
and I was leading the race. He's blocking me up so he won't go a lap down.
So I tapped him and he spun and hit the wall. Aww, he cussed and called me
all kinds of names."
Typical stuff, really, in those days.
"Course then he got a break and went on into Winston
Cup. Anyway, Butch Lindley got killed and Earnhardt was signing autographs
to raise some money for his wife. I said, 'Dale, who's the rottenest
driver?' Course, his reputation was just terrible. He said, 'Yeah, but look
who taught me.'"
At that Hutchins rears back his head and laughs
heartily. That was racing for him. It was fun.
"Right up to when Dale died we never were close
friends," he says, "but I went to Charlotte four or five years ago and he
tried to get me to come down to his shop. They had a string of convertibles
that would run around the race track (as a pre-race ceremony for the World
600 race) and he wanted me to ride with him."
Chalk that up as the measure of the men.
Now, don't get the idea that Hutchins raced strictly
locally. He first drove at Daytona in 1965 in a modified owned by
Donlavey. Two years later, he drove a Grand National (Winston Cup) car
at Daytona and finished seventh, one spot ahead of seven-time Winston Cup
champion Richard Petty and behind winner Mario Andretti.
"I ran Talledega, Daytona, Atlanta, Charlotte. I ran
the beach down in Daytona in 1951, ran modifieds," Hutchins says. "You'd run
down the highway, then go off on the sand, then you'd go out to the edge of
the water and then you'd come back up on the highway. It was a mile each way
and a quarter mile in the turns, so it was two and a half miles long. Hell,
I think the first time I went down there I started 77th. They ran a
That said, no one knows for sure how Hutchins would
have fared had he landed a full-time Winston Cup ride.
"You know, practice and experience is what gets you
going in Winston Cup, and Sonny ran well when I saw him," Wood says. "He was
a great race driver. He was as good as they come. On top of that, Sonny was
a great personality. Still is."
Yet through the years, he raced against most of the
sports biggest names. He remembers three-time Cup champion Cale
Yarborough as "tough," Richard Petty as "great," and David
Pearson as "smooth."
And of course, he had some memorable run-ins with
three-time champion and current Fox TV broadcaster Darrell Waltrip.
"Darrell was a great driver. He said I was a dirty
driver, too," Hutchins says, smiling. "We ran a match race at Langley
Speedway one night, Darrell, Ray Hendrick and myself. Ray won, I
ran second and Darrell was third. He said I was a rotten driver."
But gosh could that "rotten driver" just drive the
wheels off a car. Put Hutchins behind the wheel and chances were he'd end up
in first place.
"I thought I was the toughest driver out there," he
And as such, he developed dozens of rivalries through
the years. From Runt Harris to Al Grinnan to Bill Dennis
to Geoff Bodine and Tommy Ellis, if a driver wanted to win
they had to beat Hutchins.
But his No. 1 rival was Ray Hendrick.
"I gave Ray his last party he ever had before he
died," Hutchins says. "Richard Petty was there. Ray and I were never
close, now. We were rivals. We fought. He knew that if he messed with me
that he'd get it back, and I knew that if I messed with him I'd get it back.
They didn't come any better than Ray Hendrick."
Funny, but that's what current Winston Cup driver
Jimmy Spencer says about Hutchins.
"Tell Sonny Hutchins
that I learned everything I know about racing from him," Spencer says.
Hutchins retired in 1981 after suffering a heart
attack shortly after a race at Southside Speedway. Today, he runs his
restaurant, watches races and readily welcomes the opportunity to talk about
the sport he loves so dearly.
"I never played baseball, football, basketball, golf.
I couldn't tell you who is a football player or a baseball player," Hutchins
says. "I just love racing."
Sonny Hutchins Story
his kneecap in a fiery crash at
in 1964. The injury, his business concerns and reluctance of his
insurers to underwrite a race driver led to an early retirement from
driving. Zervakis became a builder/engineer/owner of race cars.
Jarrett, Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd and Ray Hendrick were among his
drivers. His longest-running success was with Richmond restaurateur
the wheel. From 1970 to 1980 they won hundreds of races and several
"Emanuel was always experimenting with the car," said
74. "He would try something that nobody else had and we would be
unbeatable. We'd win 20 out of 30 races. But he was never satisfied, and
the next thing he tried might not work. Then we'd have a hard time
winning anything for a while.
he enjoyed tweaking the ever-serious Zervakis.
be running great, out in front, and I'd start singing to him over the
radio. He'd get on there and tell me, 'Pay attention to what you're
doing before you wreck my car.'
I'd brace the steering wheel on my knees and go by the pits with both
hands in the air, waving at him. You should've seen him."
was ready to limit his driving schedule, he recommended that Zervakis
take on a young Modified driver,
Zervakis and Bodine proved a perfect match with their single-minded
approach to the sport and understanding of the subtleties of race car
suspensions. Bodine moved to Richmond and lived in his recreational
vehicle at Zervakis' shop off Jefferson Davis Highway.
visit my wife and kids in North Carolina when I could," said Bodine,
"but I spent most of my time there, working on the car. It wasn't much
of a home - an RV parked behind the shop with the smell of the tobacco
coming from Philip Morris next door - but it was worth it."
was an immediate winner in Zervakis machinery. Driver and owner
pioneered power steering in the bulky stock cars, now standard
throughout the sport. In two years together they developed a series of
chassis and suspension innovations - so successful and so difficult to
duplicate and master that some of them were soon outlawed by NASCAR.
was a great owner," said Bodine. "He'd let me try anything I wanted on
the car. He'd let me make mistakes, and after the car didn't perform the
want we wanted it to, he'd say, 'Okay, what did you learn?"
Bodine and later
wheel, Zervakis made forays into Winston Cup racing. The efforts against
NASCAR's elite showed promise - qualifying up front, leading races.
qualified on the outside front row in a race at Martinsville and
out-gunned pole-sitter Richard Petty to take the early lead. In another
race at Martinsville, Lindley finished second, narrowly defeated after
making an extra stop for fuel.
the impressive on-track showings never resulted in the major sponsorship
necessary to run a first-class Winston Cup team. Zervakis remained a
background figure in the sport - constructing cars, offering advice,
building a legacy that touched countless teams.
Inspiration for this page:
Hi, my name is Bobby Goode and I have been going to races since
1960. We have a short track here in Richmond, Virginia called
SouthSide Speedway. A lot of big names have run at this 1/3
mile short track.
is a legend in Nascar racing as he has won hundreds of modified
races driving for Junie Donleavy back in the old days.
Sonny has won many Late Model Sportsman races which is called
Busch Grand National driving for the legendary Emanuel
Zervakis in the sky blue 01 car. Thank you, Bobby Goode
Hutchins NASCAR Grand National Statistics
Grand National By Track Statistics
Nascar Nextel Cup Series Tickets
Copyright © 2003
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
06/08/12 08:11:32 -0400.
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