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NASCAR Official

Bill Gazaway
Died: June 29, 2006

Bill Gazaway, Longtime NASCAR Official, Dies at 76

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Bill Gazaway, a longtime NASCAR executive during the sport's modern era, died Thursday in Atlanta, NASCAR officials said. He was 76.

Gazaway joined NASCAR in 1960 as a team owner. His cars made seven starts,  four with Tiny Lund as his driver, two with Joe Caspolich and one with Gazaway behind the wheel at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He started 44th at Atlanta Motor Speedway and drove his Oldsmobile one lap before the rear end failed. He was credited with a 45th place finish.

Gazaway moved into NASCAR's front office as a NASCAR technical inspector in 1963, maintaining that job until 1967 when he was given the position of assistant technical director under William O. Taylor. Gazaway assumed the role of competition director in 1968 after Taylor's death. The role of director of racing operations & competition director was assigned him in 1979. He was elevated to vice president of competition in 1984, a position he held until his retirement from NASCAR in 1987.  

In the mid 60's NASCAR official Bill Gazaway to develop a device to check the stock car body's style and height, designing the original template used to measure the outline of a stockcar. That template is still used today at every NASCAR race weekend to ensure a level playing field

 Bill Gazaway was one of those NASCAR pioneers who did a lot of good things during his time with NASCAR," former NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. said.

He was a pretty tough character,"  Mark Martin said. "That's what I remember. I was pretty scared of him."

Gazaway also served in the Marine Corps between 1947 and 1951, teaching motor maintenance. He went on to build engines for Delta Airlines and later opened a competition garage in Atlanta.

Gazaway is survived by his wife, Gwen; daughter, Alicia; and several grandchildren.

Ricky Rudd Story

Ricky Rudd, commenting on the early 80's NASCAR cars' handling problems

"I don't think bigger spoilers are the answer...what we need is a rear wing like you saw on the Dodges in the late 60's."

NASCAR Top Cop Bill Gazaway, answering Ricky Rudd's comment

"Forget that, we're not going back to the Batmobiles!"

(I rather liked them myself)

Atlanta Journal Constitution Article
Bill Gazaway, 76, ran NASCAR garage with firm, but fair hand

Rick Minter - Staff      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 Bill Elliott.

"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 racing."

Although he was a tough enforcer of the rules, Mr. Gazaway knew how to deal with people in a positive way.

"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 step-great-grandchildren.

Bill Gazaway - Grand National Owner Statistics
 
Year Driver Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn Miles LLF
1960 Joe Caspolich 2 0 0 0 0 526 0 1,965 51 22.5 17.0 762.4 0
1960 Bill Gazaway 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 200   44.0 45.0 1.5 0
1960 Tiny Lund 4 0 0 0 0 586 0 2,440 32 40.5 32.2 945.0 0
1 year 7 0 0 0 0 1113 0 4,605   35.9 29.7 1708.9 0
 

Bill Gazaway - Grand National Driver Statistics
(To our knowledge, this is the only NASCAR driver to run only ONE LAP in his career!)
 
Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings AvSt AvFn Miles LLF
1960 25 1 of 44 0 0 0 0 1 0 200 44.0 45.0 1.5 0
1 year 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 200 44.0 45.0 1.5 0
 


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