Chuck Warren, NASCAR Pioneer,
Dies at 78
Died: April 17, 2006
by Buz McKim, NASCAR Historian
Although Chuck Warren is not a
household name among today’s racing fans, he was well known and well
respected by the NASCAR community in his day. Warren got his start in
auto racing working as a crew member for a local Ashtabula, Ohio short
track racer in the late 1940s. He moved to Florida in the early 1950s
and took a job as body shop foreman for Stephens Pontiac in Daytona
Beach, a new-car dealership known for its sponsorship of race cars.
While in that position, Warren worked with the original factory-backed
Pontiac racing team of Ray Nichels with driver Cotton Owens in their
1957 win on the beach at Daytona. It was the first NASCAR victory for
Warren formed a working relationship with Daytona’s own Smokey Yunick
through the Stephens body shop. He became the paint and body man for the
Yunick team, applying the famous black and gold colors to the legendary
Pontiacs for several seasons. Among the winning cars which carried Chuck
Warren paint jobs were the 1958 Pontiac used by Paul Goldsmith to win
the final beach race at Daytona and the potent 1962 Pontiac used by
Fireball Roberts to sweep all the events at Daytona in 1962.
After leaving the Yunick team and the Stephens dealership, Warren
secured a position with the Champion Spark Plug Co., where he served on
the team which represented the product on the NASCAR circuit. During the
off season, part of Warren’s job was to visit all the race shops and
install the electrical wiring in the race cars. He also implemented a
plan to provide lunches for race team crew members at the track.
Warren later moved to the Prestolite Company where he instituted the
first pit crew competition, later adopted by the Unocal Co. The award
for the winner was a gold plated lug wrench. The team of Lockport, N.Y.,
car owner Cam Gagliardi won the first competition held at Daytona
International Speedway in 1961. One of the team’s crew members was a
high school senior making his first trip to Daytona. His name was Jerry
Cook, who later became a six-time champion of the NASCAR modified ranks
and earned a place in the Hall of Fame. Today Cook serves as Competition
Administrator of NASCAR.
Chuck Warren died on Monday April 17 after a valiant fight against
cancer at the age of 78. He left behind a son, daughter, grandson,
granddaughter and countless friends from the racing community.
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