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Samuel Kenneth "Ken" Rush
Born: September 14, 1931  --  Died: October 17, 2011
Home: High Point, NC

Kenneth "Ken" Rush (September 14, 1931 – October 17, 2011) was a NASCAR Cup Series driver whose career spanned from 1957 to 1972.

He would win the 1969 'Bama 400 Grand Touring race on Saturday, September 13, 1969 - arguably the first race held at
 Talladega Superspeedway sanctioned by any motorsports body - in his Chevrolet Camaro. In his eight-year career, Rush managed to race in 56 races for a distance of 9396 laps - the equivalent of 5,717.6 miles. He started 14th on average and finished in 18th on average. After his racing career was over, Rush managed to earn $11,760 in total prize winnings ($64,544.34 in today's money). Had he been born 40 years later, he may have accomplished the big prize winnings that today's NASCAR superstars earn from their races. A lot of the races during Ken's era paid $200 ($1,634.83 in today's money) or less just for winning the race.

Ken died from a stroke in his hometown of High Point, North Carolina at age 80. He is survived by his wife Patsy  and daughter Deborah.

RUSH, '57 NASCAR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, DIES AT 80  
October 23, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

 

Ken Rush, the 1957 NASCAR rookie of the year and 1969 Grand American series champion, died as a result of a stroke Monday in his hometown of High Point, N.C. He was 80.

 

Rush grew up in rural Randolph County and eventually became friends with Bob Welborn and Jim Paschal -- who both went on to successful careers in NASCAR's premier division. He made his racing debut in 1955 at Bowman-Gray Stadium in nearby Winston-Salem.

Rush made 56 Cup starts between 1957 and 1972, recording 16 top-10 finishes. That included a second-place finish at Bowman-Gray. Rush never ran a full season, but with six top-10s in 1957, he earned rookie of the year honors.

In 1958, Rush won the convertible division race at the half-mile Charlotte Fairgrounds dirt track. With 10 top-five finishes in 17 starts that season, Rush finished sixth in the standings behind Welborn.

When NASCAR developed its Grand American division -- showcasing the "pony car" class -- Rush was in his element. He won the inaugural Grand American races at Talladega, Michigan and Dover, and was the only other driver other than Tiny Lund to win a championship over the four-year span of the series.

Rush's career was cut short by a savage crash at Flemington, N.J., where he suffered a broken sternum, broken jaw and lost 12 teeth when his car slammed head-on at full speed into one driven by Stan Styers.

The Racing Career of Ken Rush - Test Your Trivia
From the May, 2002 issue of Stock Car Racing By Benny Phillips

With jaws exhausted and ears fatigued from endless stock car racing trivia sessions, leave your friends with this one and walk away.

What driver won the first NASCAR-sanctioned races at Talladega, Michigan and Dover?

After two days of begging, and a Mounds candy bar thrown in as a bonus, you might tell them it was Ken Rush.

At the brand new Talladega Superspeedway in '69, on the Saturday afternoon before the first Grand National race (which would become Winston Cup), NASCAR's Grand Touring cars staged a 200-mile event. Rush, driving a yellow Camaro, won by nearly a lap.

A few weeks later, Michigan Speedway opened. Again, NASCAR ran its Grand Touring cars on Saturday. Rush won by more than a lap.

In the summer of 1970, Dover signed its first NASCAR sanction. Once again, Rush streaked to victory on Saturday. Richard Petty won the race on Sunday.

Rush also won at South Boston, Virginia, that year. Then came a horrifying accident at Flemington, New Jersey, which led to the end of his career.

"It was a half-mile dirt track," Rush recalls. "After the first few laps, you couldn't see out the windshield for all the mud. I was coming wide-open, and Stan Styers spun in the middle of Turns 3 and 4. I didn't see him until I hit him, and I drove straight into him, head-on."

Rush lost 12 teeth and suffered a broken sternum and a broken jaw.

"They worked on me in the emergency room until about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning," Rush says. "Finally, they rolled me into a hospital room. I smoked back then, so I reached over and got a cigarette. I lit it and puffed, but nothing happened. I threw it away and got another one. Same thing happened, and then I realized my lip was cut all the way through and when I puffed, the air was going through my lip. I had to hold my lower lip together in order to puff the cigarette."

Today Rush, 70, and wife Patsy live in High Point, North Carolina. How did it all begin?

"Bob Welborn and I became friends in 1950. He was already racing, and helped me get started. Then Jim Paschal helped me get into the Late Model division."

Rush started racing in 1955 and won track championships at Bowman Gray Stadium and the Greensboro Fairgrounds. In 1964, he won the Modified championship at Bowman Gray.

"We were a wild bunch, sometimes about half human, especially at Daytona," Rush says. "In 1957, crew chief Paul McDuffie, Red Jones, myself, and two other guys, I can't remember their names, were down on the beach in this new Chevrolet station wagon. It belonged to Chevrolet.

"I was driving. We'd go down the beach at 70 or 80 mph and cut the steering wheel. On the hard sand the vehicle would spin around and around like it was on ice. Somebody said, "Let's try it at 100." I pegged the needle out of sight and cut the steering wheel. The station wagon didn't go 40 feet until it threw the right rear tire off. When that happened, here we go turning over and over. We ended up way out in the ocean. I was the only one who got hurt. It about knocked a hole in my head, and I nearly drown.

"Red Jones had a bottle of whiskey. He said the law is coming, and he stood on the roof of the car and threw the bottle as far out in the ocean as he could.

"They pulled me to shore as the police arrived. I looked back at the ocean, and in the moonlight you could see this bottle of whiskey bobbing up and down with the waves, following us ashore.

"The policeman asked if we'd been drinking. He was standing at the edge of the water. Somebody was trying to persuade him we hadn't had a drop. Then the whiskey bottle hit his boot."

Welborn heard about what happened and went to the hospital to check on Rush. The nurse told him he couldn't stay but a minute. "This man has a serious brain concussion," she said.

Rush said Welborn told the nurse, "Lady, he may have a head concussion, but he ain't got a brain."

Looking back on his career, Rush says there is one thing he would change if he had control over such matters. "I would have been born in 1971 instead of 1931. That way, I believe I would have something to show for my racing career. I won a lot of races that paid $200 or less for first place. Sixty percent of that would go to the team owner.

"Race drivers today make a lot of money," he says, "but I don't believe they have the fun we did."

Read more: http://www.stockcarracing.com/featurestories/scrp_0205_racing_career_ken_rush_stock_car_driver/viewall.html#ixzz2VjqhaEMf

A Look Back at Talladega's History - Ken Rush, The First Champion        7/25/2008

The history of every great racetrack begins with its first champion. While others may reach victory lane more times or earn bigger paychecks, one will always be the envy of other drivers because they were the first. For Talladega Superspeedway, Ken Rush is the original.

Prior to the first Talladega 500, now the AMP Energy 500, there was the ‘Bama 400, a Grand Touring race held on Saturday, September 13, 1969. The entry sheet read like a car collector’s wish list; Camaros, Mustangs, Firebirds, Javelins, Darts and Cougars, 40 in all, started the race.

Ken Rush, a veteran of the sportsman and modified ranks, was one of the drivers competing on the newly opened 2.66 mile tri-oval. He was NASCAR’s 1957 Rookie of the Year and a two-time Bowman Gray Stadium champion (1964 & 1966), but nothing could have prepared him for the high banks of Talladega.

 “I thought I would never get to the end of the straight-aways, especially that backstretch,” said Rush.

While much of the talk during the weekend focused on concerns over tire wear, Rush said he had no such worries.

“I remember that really well. The tire situation really didn’t bother me at all. We were there to race. My car owner Johnny Wheeler said we were going to run and we did. We never even changed tires. We ran 400 miles on the same tires.”

When the green flag waived on the ‘Bama 400, Rush didn’t push his 1968 Camaro very hard. He laid back in the pack until lap 97 when he sprinted out to the lead. He held that position for the remaining 54 laps to finish with an average speed of 156.271 mph. His prize for first place? A hardy $7,450.

“I always like to say I was born 40 years too soon,” Rush lamented. “You know when we were racing, we did it for fun. You just couldn’t make any money racing back then. But we sure had fun.”

While Rush raced for fun, he also made history as the first champion of Talladega Superspeedway.

 

Obituary for Mr. Samuel Kenneth "Ken" Rush

Samuel Kenneth “Ken” Rush, 80, passed away Monday, October 17, 2011 at High Point Regional Hospital. He was the loving husband of Patsy (Hodgin) Rush to whom he was married for 59 years. 

A celebration of life funeral service will be 2:00 p.m. Friday, October 21, 2011 at Cumby Family Funeral Service, 1015 Eastchester Drive, High Point, NC 27262 with Ken Clegg officiating. Burial will follow in Deep River Friends Meeting Cemetery. A visitation will be held 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home.
 

Mr. Rush was born September 14, 1931 in Randolph County, a son of the late Ernest and Effie (Kinley) Rush. He was the owner and operator of Ken Rush Garage and was of Baptist Faith.
 

Mr. Rush was an avid racer, starting his career in 1952 at Bowman Gray, becoming a NASCAR Champion in 1969 of the grand touring series, and finishing in 1972. He was later inducted into the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
 

In his spare time he enjoyed hunting, fishing, gardening, and spending time with his grandsons and great grandsons.
 

In addition to his wife, Mr. Rush is survived by a daughter, Debbie Rich and husband, Mark of High Point; two grandsons, Chris Beeson and wife, Shelly of New London, NC, and Matthew Rich and wife, Julie of High Point; two great grandsons, Connor Beeson and Austin Rich; four sisters, Cleo Myers and husband, Frank of Archdale, Peggy Hill of Archdale, Ann Poarch and husband, James of Valdese, NC, and Mary Lou George of High Point; two sister-in-laws, Jackie and Donna Sue Rush; and several cousins, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by two brothers, Harold and Ermon Rush; and a sister Paraleigh Welborn.
 

Cemetery Details

Deep River Friends Meeting  -  5300 West Wendover Avenue   -High Point, NC, 27265

Member of the Greensboro Sports Commission Hall of Fame
 

NASCAR  DRIVER Statistics  -  Ken Rush
 

Year

Age

Races

Win

T5

T10

Pole

Laps

Led

Earnings

Rank

AvSt

AvFn

1957

25

16 of 53

0

1

6

1

2300

0

2,045

39

11.4

17.2

1958

26

11 of 51

0

0

3

1

1625

0

1,640

160

13.6

17.5

1959

27

12 of 44

0

2

3

0

2388

0

2,095

 

12.5

16.8

1961

29

6 of 52

0

1

2

0

1586

0

2,325

51

22.2

20.8

1962

30

1 of 53

0

0

0

0

463

0

150

104

31.0

18.0

1964

32

8 of 62

0

1

2

0

768

0

1,640

70

10.2

17.2

1971

39

1 of 48

0

0

0

0

117

0

240

 

5.0

14.0

1972

40

1 of 31

0

0

0

0

149

0

1,625

 

31.0

29.0

8 years

56

0

5

16

2

9396

0

11,760

 

13.7

17.8

NASCAR Convertible Series Statistics

 

Year

Age

Races

Win

T5

T10

Pole

Laps

Led

Earnings

Rank

AvSt

AvFn

1957

25

21 of 36

0

4

11

1

3047

21

4,082

8

10.4

10.9

1958

26

17 of 19

1

10

12

2

2674

0

5,523

6

6.0

9.5

1959

27

12 of 15

0

1

6

0

2055

0

2,390

6

11.7

12.2

3 years

50

1

15

29

3

7776

21

11,995

 

9.2

10.7

Racing-Reference.info





 

           

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