Atlanta Journal Constitution Article
Bill Gazaway, 76, ran NASCAR garage with firm, but fair hand
Rick Minter -
Friday, June 30, 2006
When Bill Gazaway ran the NASCAR garage, he did things
his way. He wrote the rules for both the cars and the races,
enforced them and directed events almost single-handedly, jobs
that occupy dozens of people today.
He first went to work for NASCAR in 1963 as
an inspector, and from 1969 to 1987 he held the job of director
of competition, essentially the same position as NASCAR
president Mike Helton holds today.
His style has been described as militaristic,
but most veterans of the sport said that's the way it had to be
at that time.
"I look back and say he was the right man for
the right time and did the right job," said Richard Petty,
who raced in the circuit now known as Nextel Cup in Mr.
Gazaway's era, leads all Cup drivers in victories with 200 and
is tied with the late Dale Earnhardt for most
championships with seven.
"All of us didn't always agree with what he
did or how he acted. But once we look back on it, those were
pretty good times. He kept the competition pretty even. He
wasn't in the show business. He was in the racing business."
Mr. Gazaway, 76, of Newnan died at Newnan
Hospital Thursday of complications from emphysema. The funeral
is at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 1st, at McKoon Funeral Home.
Mr. Petty said even though Mr. Gazaway kept a
tight grip on the garage, he was fair in his decisions.
"He was the rules man," Mr. Petty said. "It
was sort of a loose-leaf book, but he went by it, and I think he
played it pretty dadgum straight."
Ernie Elliott of Dawsonville had many
dealings with Mr. Gazaway when he was crew chief for his brother
"We had our moments, but nonetheless I had
the utmost respect for him," Mr. Elliott said. "And if you look
back on how the competition was then, it was pretty good
Although he was a tough enforcer of the
rules, Mr. Gazaway knew how to deal with people in a positive
"He was a good listener," Mr. Petty said.
"And when he did catch you infringing, he didn't call the
newspaper and he didn't fine you a bunch of money. He just said
'Don't do that anymore or you'll be in a bunch of trouble.'
"And we had enough respect for him that we
knew that if we did come back and try to squeeze that rule we
were going to be in big trouble. Everybody respected that part
of what he was saying."
Mr. Gazaway was well-known for being able to
watch a race from the control tower atop the grandstands and
make accurate decisions on the fly.
Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21
Ford driven by Ken Schrader, told about an incident at
Talladega Superspeedway in the mid-1970s. Mr. Wood, then a
teenaged pit crewman, was sitting on the wall with one leg
draped over into the racing area. Despite having to watch out
for 40 or more drivers on the track, Mr. Gazaway spotted young
Mr. Wood from nearly a half-mile away.
"He called down to the inspector in our pit
and said, 'Tell Eddie to get his leg back over the wall,' " Mr.
Wood said. "That was one of the cool things about him. He could
see everything. ...
"Anybody that didn't know him should have
known him. He was a really cool guy."
Survivors include his wife, Gwen L. Webb
Gazaway; a daughter, Alicia Rainwater of Newnan; a brother,
Joe Gazaway of Sharpsburg; two sisters, Catherine Lane of
Newnan and Rheta Blankenship of Sharpsburg; two grandchildren;
two step-grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and six