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Everett "Cotton" Owens
Born: May 21, 1924       Died: June 7, 2012 (Age 88)  Home: Spartanburg, SC

NASCAR hall of famer 'Cotton' Owens dies By MIKE HEMBREE , SPARTANBURG HERALD-JOURNAL   

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Everett "Cotton" Owens, whose accomplishments were acknowledged with his recent election to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, died Thursday morning.

Brandon Davis, Owens' grandson and the physician who diagnosed Owens' cancer seven years ago, said the racing pioneer died peacefully at his Spartanburg home. He had celebrated his 88th birthday May 21.

"He had lung cancer and lived seven years with no treatment whatsoever. With that diagnosis, 95 percent of people even with the best treatment available don't live five years," Davis said. "That just shows he decided he was going to be tougher than the cancer. That's my best medical opinion."

Owens, a native of Union, S.C., but a longtime Spartanburg resident, was elected to the NASCAR Hall on May 23. Because of his illness, he has not able to attend the announcement in Charlotte, N.C., but he watched the news conference on television at home.

Despite his rapidly declining health, family members said he was aware of his election to the Hall.

Owens will be inducted posthumously as part of the hall's fourth class in February. In last year's voting for the Hall of Fame, Owens missed election by a single vote.

"We worked awful hard on it and got him inducted two or three weeks ago when we voted on it," fellow Hall of Famer Bud Moore said. "I felt really good over that. I wished he would have made it the round before ... He's in now and will be sworn in for sure in February. I'm just glad he lived long enough to get inducted."

In a motorsports career that lasted most of a half-century, Owens won nine Sprint Cup (then Grand National) races as a driver and later built winning cars for other top racers. He and Hall of Fame driver David Pearson teamed to win the Cup championship in 1966.

Owens became interested in fast cars while growing up in Spartanburg in the pre-World War II years. He and other teenagers, including Moore, burned rubber on the streets of the city and on the backroads of Spartanburg County before the war called. Owens served in the Navy and returned to South Carolina primed to jump in fast cars again.

He started racing modifieds on the dirt tracks of the Carolinas and quickly built a strong reputation, winning dozens of races in the 1940s and 1950s and becoming known as the "King of the Modifieds."

Even after moving up to the Cup series and its higher-profile races, he continued to run in modified events, in part because they typically paid well, and he typically was among the favorites wherever he ran.

Pearson often has said Owens was a hero of his and one of the inspirations for starting his own driving career.

"He was a good fella and a good friend, he really was," Pearson said. "He was one of the closest friends I had. He was a good man to work with, and we never really argued about nothing."

Owens drove in the Cup series from 1950 to 1964, leaving high-level driving at the age of 40. He probably would have driven for several more seasons, but vision problems that had plagued him since crashes in the 1950s led him to climb out of the driver's seat -- at least at the Cup level -- for good.

Owens had a team in the Cup series through the 1973 season, basing his operation, which became an anchor for Dodge's racing exploits, in Spartanburg. He scored 38 wins as an owner, enjoying the most success with Pearson, a fellow Spartanburg resident.

Owens was at the forefront of safety innovations and in dealing with the rapidly increasing speeds of the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1970, Buddy Baker drove an Owens-prepared winged Dodge Daytona to a speed of 200.447 miles per hour in a tire test at Talladega Superspeedway, marking the first official NASCAR lap over 200 mph. It was a key achievement Owens later said was as meaningful to him as his championship.

NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said in a statement that the sport "has lost one of its true pioneers."

"This is a sad day for the NASCAR industry, but we are all consoled by the fact that Cotton was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame before his death," France said. "(Friday) we have lost a portion of our past. But people like Cotton Owens are the reason our sport thrives today and can look forward to a promising future."

After leaving the circuit on a full-time basis, Owens occasionally fielded Cup cars for close friend and country music singer Marty Robbins, who raced sporadically as a hobby.

Owens closed out his racing career in the 1990s where it started -- on dirt. His three grandsons had an interest in driving, and he built cars for them to race at several South Carolina tracks. Even in his 70s, he was able to drive those dirt cars at speed while trying to perfect the setups.

Owens was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998 as the organization celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Owens was diagnosed with lung cancer at 81. He chose not to treat the cancer aggressively, saying he had led a full life.

"It really wasn't even a decision for me," he said. "I have had a great life, been everywhere, done the things I wanted to do. I watched my father suffer through all those treatments before he died (also with cancer), and there was no way I was going to go through that."

 

Owens remained strong and reasonably active until recent weeks, when his health declined considerably. His wife, Dot, died in April, also of cancer.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Milestones Church, conducted by the Rev. Hub Blankenship. The family will receive friends immediately after the service in the church auditorium. A private burial will be held in Sunset Memorial Gardens.

Memorials may be made Mobile Meals, P.O. Box 461, Spartanburg, S.C., 29304; or Spartanburg Regional Hospice, 101 E Wood Street, Spartanburg, S.C., 29303.

His family, in a statement released by NASCAR, expressed "gratitude for the thoughts and prayers of precious friends and fans."

"While Cotton was a racing legend with an incredible racing 'family,' we mourn the irreplaceable great granddad, granddad, father, uncle, brother-in-law and friend we have all lost. The family respectfully requests privacy at this difficult time."

NASCAR Winston Cup Career: 1950-64: Owens won more than 100 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour races during the 1950s before making the transition to the NASCAR Grand National  competition. For six straight years (1957-62), Owens captured at least one series win -- Owens claimed three wins in 1960, all of which were in his home state of South Carolina. His most successful season was in 1959 when he won two races, notched 22 top-10 finishes (through 37 starts) and ranked second in the series season-long points chase to Lee Petty.
In 1970, Owens was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
See more info on this driving great at www.CottonOwens.com official site.
 

Driving Summary for Everett Cotton Owens

Year - Wins
1957 - 1
1958 - 1
1959 - 1
1960 - 1
1961 - 4
Total Wins = 9

1966 NASCAR Grand National Standings

Rank Driver Points
1. David Pearson (
Cotton Owens prepared Dodge) 35638
 2. James Hylton 33688
3. Richard Petty 22952
4. Henley Gray 22468
5. Paul Goldsmith 22078
6. Wendell Scott 21702
7. John Sears 21432
8. J.T. Putney 21208
9. Neil Castles 20446
10. Bobby Allison 19910

Pontiac’s first win came on February 17th, 1957 on the beach of Daytona (see picture below). Cotton Owens drove a Ray Nichel’s prepared Pontiac back ’57 Pontiac to the win beating Johnny Beauchamp by 55 seconds with the first-ever 100-mph
average lap on the sand.

Since then, the manufacturer has earned a total of 154 Winston Cup victories.


May 19th, 1957
An incident that took place on  at Martinsville had long term implications for Pontiac and General Motors involvement in NASCAR racing. Billy Meyer’s tangled with Tom Pistone and lost control. His car crashed through the guardrail, hurdled a fence and struck several spectators including an eight-year boy who was gravely injured. All of those hurt in the wreck were standing in an area clearly marked that it was off limits to spectators, but the wire services picked up on the tragic story and soon there were calls to outlaw automobile racing. In June of that year the big three US automakers announced the AMA (Automobile Manufacturing Association) would no longer participate in any form of racing.

 


1960 Pontiac

Mitch Coker (r)

May 6, 1961
Driving for Cotton Owens in the Rebel 300 at Darlington, South Carolina, USA, Ralph Earnhardt, father of Dale Earnhardt Sr., makes his NASCAR Grand National debut.

Pete Hamilton: A highly regarded driver who piloted Cotton Owens cars, made 64 Grand National starts with impressive results. He scored 33 top ten finishes, 26 top fives, and 4 wins along with 3 poles. Unquestionably, Hamilton's greatest victory came into 1970 when he won the Daytona 500 in the Petty Enterprises #40 Superbird. He won his fourth and final superspeedway win at the July 1971 Daytona Firecracker driving a Cotton Owens car. He also won a Daytona 125 qualifier in '71 for Owens.

Born to Race, South Carolina-Style

Since ancient times, people have raced: Greek Olympic runners, Roman chariot drivers, American steamships, English thoroughbreds. Before there were superspeedways, before multi-billion-dollar television contracts and before hi-tech companies and foreign investment arrived in South Carolina’s Piedmont region, folks were racing stock cars on the roads of places like Spartanburg. “We’d run up Pine Street,” says racing legend Jack Smith, “down past Cola company … under the overpass at the end of it. Then up to Boiling Springs and turn right at U.S. Highway 9.” The times and places, vehicles and stakes have varied, but racing is an innate part of the human experience.

Racing is as much a part of South Carolina as anywhere else in the South. But the Palmetto state, and Spartanburg in particular, have something that sets the region apart: a fascination with stock car racing. And that fascination has always meant doing. At every step of the way––when cars started racing on dirt tracks, when drivers decided to build a national circuit, when technological changes opened the door for better safety standards––South Carolina’s racing community was active in moving the sport forward. Pioneers like Joe Littlejohn, Louise Smith, Bud Moore, Cotton Owens, and David Pearson helped create the sport of stock car racing. And now, as time threatens to erase memories or destroy souvenirs and artifacts from their struggle, South Carolina’s racing community is rallying again. South Carolina Racing Museum will preserve the contributions of the South Carolina and the Southern racing community––not only to save the past, but also to educate and excite future generations of drivers, fans, mechanics, and owners.

Motor Building Legacy

Jeremy Clements is the son of Tony Clements, one of the owners of Clements Racing Engines. Jeremy's grandfather, Crawford Clements, who used to build motors for Cotton Owens, founded the company in 1963. They build racing engines for Late Models, ARCA, Busch and Winston Cup. You can see more at http://www.houseofpower.com.

McCormick Field, Asheville, N.C. The home of the Asheville Tourists of the South Atlantic League (current Class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies) hosted a Grand National  race on July 12, 1958.  A quarter-mile asphalt track was constructed around the baseball diamond that had been played on by
Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Jackie Robinson.

Fifteen cars survived the preliminary heats to move on to the points-paying feature, including Lee Petty... barely. Petty went over the slight banking after a nudge from Cotton Owens, crashing into the third-base dugout. Petty recovered to finish fourth.

The Drivers


Buddy Baker, Pete Hamilton, David Pearson and country singing star Marty Robbins, Don White, Charlie Glotzbach, Fireball Roberts, Bobby Johns, Junior Johnson, Ralph Earnhardt, G. C. Spencer, Billy Wade, Marvin Panch, Earl Balmer, Mario Andretti, Bobby Isaac, Jim Paschal, Larry Thomas, Al Unser, Sam McQuagg, Sam Posey, Peter Gregg, Dick Brooks, James Hylton, Ray Hendrick and Bobby Allison all drove Cotton Owens prepared cars. Their Grand National careers and statistics can be directly traced to their racing association with Owens. The nine drivers in red made the Top 50 of NASCAR.

The Mopars
 


 

 

 

The Record

 

 

 

 


Grand National Statistics  -  Driver
Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn
1950 26 3 of 19 0 0 1 0 511 23 1,100 13 24.0 12.3
1951 27 5 of 41 0 1 3 0 370 0 225 42 39.7 11.2
1952 28 4 of 34 0 0 1 0 391 0 200 65 16.5 17.2
1953 29 1 of 37 0 0 0 0 274 0 50 76   21.0
1954 30 4 of 37 0 0 1 0 530 0 175 84 16.0 27.0
1955 31 2 of 45 0 1 2 0 549 0 900 29 20.5 6.5
1956 32 8 of 56 0 1 4 0 1141 0 920 52 9.4 18.5
1957 33 17 of 53 1 3 6 1 2300 179 12,784 14 8.6 16.4
1958 34 29 of 51 1 8 17 2 3700 241 6,579 17 8.6 14.3
1959 35 37 of 44 1 13 22 2 6733 209 14,639 2 9.4 10.4
1960 36 14 of 44 1 5 5 2 2121 185 14,065 39 5.2 15.4
1961 37 17 of 52 4 11 11 2 2694 58 11,800 22 7.5 9.1
1962 38 16 of 53 0 7 8 1 2000 36 5,905 30 7.0 13.6
1963 39 1 of 55 0 0 1 0 170 0 175 114 10.0 8.0
1964 40 2 of 62 1 2 2 0 466 54 3,400 80 4.0 1.5
15 years 160 9 52 84 10 23950 985 72,917   9.4 13.3
Grand National / Winston Cup Owner Statistics
Year Driver Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn
1950 Cotton Owens 2 0 0 0 0 131 0 1,100 13 10.0 15.0
1951 Cotton Owens 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 225 42 25.0 5.0
1958 Cotton Owens 1 0 0 0 0 15 0 6,579 17 46.0 43.0
1960 Bobby Johns 4 1 3 3 0 1173 366 46,115 3 5.8 12.2
1960 Cotton Owens 13 1 5 5 2 1984 185 14,065 39 4.7 15.4
1961 Ralph Earnhardt 7 0 2 5 0 1602 90 11,473 17 7.1 7.6
1961 Cotton Owens 16 4 11 11 2 2683 58 11,800 22 6.9 8.6
1961 Marvin Panch 1 0 0 1 0 262 0 30,478 18 11.0 10.0
1961 Fireball Roberts 1 0 1 1 0 496 2 50,266 5 8.0 4.0
1962 Junior Johnson 4 0 1 2 0 671 648 34,841 20 7.2 19.5
1962 Cotton Owens 16 0 7 8 1 2000 36 5,905 30 7.0 13.6
1962 David Pearson 3 0 1 2 0 1055 2 19,031 10 7.7 11.3
1963 Cotton Owens 1 0 0 1 0 170 0 175 114 10.0 8.0
1963 David Pearson 40 0 13 19 2 8697 178 24,986 8 11.2 12.3
1963 G.C. Spencer 1 0 0 0 0 210 0 13,514 18 21.0 13.0
1963 Billy Wade 29 0 4 14 0 5997 21 15,204 16 14.6 14.7
1964 Earl Balmer 10 0 2 4 0 2771 1 5,795 35 13.0 15.3
1964 Bobby Isaac 3 0 2 2 0 727 0 26,733 18 6.3 7.7
1964 Cotton Owens 2 1 2 2 0 466 54 3,400 80 4.0 1.5
1964 Jim Paschal 9 0 3 7 0 2305 0 60,116 7 12.4 9.3
1964 David Pearson 61 8 29 42 12 13225 2256 45,542 3 5.2 8.3
1964 Larry Thomas 2 0 0 0 0 403 0 21,226 8 14.5 18.5
1964 Billy Wade 3 0 1 2 0 485 0 36,095 4 6.0 9.3
1965 David Pearson 14 2 8 11 1 3242 744 8,925 40 4.1 8.7
1966 Mario Andretti 1 0 0 0 0 78 0 395   8.0 31.0
1966 Bobby Isaac 1 0 0 0 0 293 0 615 53 26.0 30.0
1966 David Pearson 42 15 26 33 7 10781 3174 78,194 1 5.6 6.4
1967 Bobby Allison 9 1 7 8 0 1971 51 58,250 4 5.8 6.8
1967 Buddy Baker 4 0 1 1 0 589 0 46,949 15 6.5 16.2
1967 Darel Dieringer 3 0 0 0 0 585 35 34,709 12 16.7 21.3
1967 Ray Hendrick 1 0 0 0 0 107 0 175 112 15.0 21.0
1967 Sam McQuagg 6 0 2 2 0 1053 8 10,045 36 5.8 21.8
1967 David Pearson 10 2 4 6 0 2066 340 72,650 7 5.6 11.0
1968 Buddy Baker 1 0 0 0 0 59 0 56,023 13 15.0 25.0
1968 Charlie Glotzbach 19 1 9 11 3 4336 332 43,100 19 5.7 13.4
1968 Al Unser 1 0 1 1 0 200 1 6,250   8.0 4.0
1969 Buddy Baker 12 0 7 9 1 3266 579 63,525 22 5.8 9.2
1969 Charlie Glotzbach 6 0 3 3 0 1443 82 37,515 37 4.0 14.5
1969 James Hylton 2 0 1 1 0 611 0 114,416 3 5.0 17.5
1970 Buddy Baker 17 1 6 8 0 3605 485 63,778 24 6.6 13.7
1970 Sam Posey 1 0 0 0 0 82 0 900   9.0 28.0
1971 Pete Hamilton 20 1 11 12 2 4407 224 60,440 24 5.0 13.6
1972 Charlie Glotzbach 3 0 2 2 0 709 0 26,175 65 9.0 11.0
1973 Dick Brooks 1 0 1 1 0 197 0 55,369 27 9.0 3.0
1973 Peter Gregg 1 0 0 0 0 34 0 775 120 7.0 37.0
17 years 405 38 177 241 33 87242 9952 1,323,837   7.7 11.5
 



           
 

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