April 8, 1924
- Died: June 9, 2014 Home: Richmond,
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.
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,
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Junie Donlavey -
1949 Owned and built race cars competing in the Modified
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
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
Motorsports Hall of Fame Seventeenth Annual Induction
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
NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey will be inducted into
the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (IMHOF) on
Thursday, April 26, 2007.
Donlavey's notoriety comes from the conduit he developed
giving young drivers a chance to compete at the top
level in motorsports.
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.
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.
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.
was simply no place where it was better for a rookie to
get hooked up," Schrader said in his biography, Gotta
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 . .
By Ryan Smithson,
January 18, 2007
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."
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
Oct. 15, 1950
Sept. 1, 1952
April 30, 1972
Oct. 22, 1972
April 8, 1973
April 15, 1973
June 3, 1973
July 22, 1973
Oct. 7, 1973
Sept. 29, 1974
Nov. 7, 1976
July 4, 1977
March 4, 1990
March 18, 1991
Feb. 17, 1991
Sept. 15, 1991
March 7, 1999
June 25, 2000
Oct. 13, 2002
Junie's Car number(s) #53, #77, #90,
#91, #93, #98, #99
racing legend Junie Donlavey has launched the career of many
a NASCAR driver behind the wheel of his No. 90 Ford.
Thursday, May 03, 2001
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
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
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
Behind No. 90's Wheel
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
Current concrete cowboys such as Mike Wallace and
Chesapeake's Ricky Rudd also piloted Donlavey's Richmond
"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."
Through the years,
Donlavey's known 'em all -- the Pettys, Earnhardts, Bakers.
And he's seen 'em fall -- Weatherly, Tiny Lund, Dale
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
"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
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
Copyright © 2003
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
04/08/20 18:57:46 -0400.
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