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Will Cronkrite

Will Cronkrite participated in NASCAR racing from 1970 to 1993 as a crew member, crew chief and car owner with drivers Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, Joe Frasson, Cecil Gordon and others. His cars he built raced with the number 96 and 86 primarily.

Mr. Cronkrite (remember, R after the k!) is in the process of writing a book that will be absolutely fascinating with stories of the old "research and design" days and the amazing ways the builders of the day pushed the rules envelope. Cronkrite participated in many racing series and the drivers stories are sure to very informative.

RECENT:  Will Cronkrite's background is in mechanical engineering and that has resulted in a keen interest in doing original research and fact gathering, as well as developing organizational skills. Having spent 21 years as a NASCAR crew chief and car owner, he developed a competitive attitude as well as a number of fabricating and assembly skills. After a stint as Director of Research and Development at the Lowe's Motor Speedway and employment as a Design Engineer he became involved in both MAFCA and MARC as a Fine Points Judge. He completed a Wide Bed Pickup that received 481 points that resulted in "The Henry Ford" award, the "MARC of Excellence" award, and the "Raymond H. Matthews" for commercial vehicles at Indianapolis in 2005. At the MARC meet in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2006 the Pickup received 482 points, and at the MAFCA National event in Mansfield, Mass., it garnered First place with 483 points. It received the AACA First Junior Award in Ashville, N.C. He maintains attendance at MARC technical seminars and is actively involved in the pursuit of details and authenticity of the procedures involved with the production of the Model A Ford and their components. In November 2008 he became a member of the MARC Judging Standards Committee.

One of Dale Earnhardt's first rides in NASCAR was in 1978 in Will Cronkrite's # 96 FORD. How the ride came about is true NASCAR lore.

 Charlotte Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler was always interested in providing the race crowd with interesting  attention getting theatrics. Wheeler entered Willy T. Ribbs, an successful European African-American driver to drive a Winston Cup car owned by Will Cronkrite in the 1978 World 600 at the Charlotte track. After Ribbs skipped two practice sessions and was arrested for evading police when he drove the wrong way down a one way street, Cronkrite replaced him with, yes it is true, Dale Earnhardt.

The car sponsor was Cardinal Tractor Company.

(Editor Notes): I searched through many internet files and little is reported about Will Cronkrite as a car owner. His Statistics will be below, but there is little in pictures or stories written.


What prompted this website listing was the following email. Can you help?

Good afternoon, my name is Will Cronkrite.
I was involved with Cup racing from about 1970 until about 1993 or so. I do not wish to have anything added, I am only looking for any small photo or small piece of info that might have hidden away. I have been considering writing a book and did not keep any records while I was in racing as it was only a job at the time.
I was Dales Sr.'s early crew chief and was working for Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, Joe Frasson, Cecil Gordon and others.
Thank you for your time in this matter.
Thank you, Will Cronkrite

It was an easy decision for the eligibility of Mr. Cronkrite's inclusion. We look forward to increasing the information.

The following are excerpts of some website chats.

  • Will had one of the most memorable talks about suspension or the lack of, in a NASCAR car ever. Will had a solidworks drawing of a suspension table to put a car on. You could reproduce any bump on it. If it catches on, and it will, NASCAR will change A LOT.  And also Will has some cool Model A stuff. He is truly a Renaissance man of the ages and a very good friend. Mark D.

  • I met Will at Henrob Jim's get together in South Carolina a few years back. A Fine Craftsman, and a Fine Gentleman. The only reason you would not like him is if you were in a model A show competing with him and you did not want to take a second place trophy home. We swapped a few of those old #3 stories, That first dirt car Ralph got for Dale when he was a teenager was built just up the creek where I grew up. Sometimes you can still hear those guys fire up a dirt car and it echoes down the creek bottom to Mom and Dads

  • I met Cronkrite through selling the torch and and am glad to know him and you all, I am glad to have been included in Metalmeet and this site and hope we can all bring our circle of friends, Past, Present and Future together under the best surroundings I know of.  Jim Spradley

More on the Earnhardt Story

In the mid 70's, Earnhardt was an established racer. He can't remember how many races a year he entered, but he was always on the go. He'd travel from Savannah, Ga., to Coeburn, Va., to Hickory. He did most of the work on his cars himself, but he did receive assistance from friends.

"I did race in a Winston Cup event, the World 600 in Charlotte, in Ed Negre's car in 1975." Earnhardt said.

"Then I drove a car for Johnny Ray at Atlanta in 1976 and tore it all to hell.

And later, I ran in four races for Will Cronkrite. But late in 1978, I was buying used parts from Rod Osterlund (who fielded a Winston Cup Team with driver Dave Marcis) and DiGard and just about anyone else who would sell them to me. "Some people began saying nice things about me to Roland Wlodyka, who was Osterlund's racing boss."

Earnhardt and Osterlund starting talking about fielding a second team in 1979. Osterlund wanted Earnhardt to drive in the Winston Cup race in November of 1978, but if he did that, he would have six starts for the year and thus be ineligible for the rookie of the year title in 1979. "I was going to run Will's car in Charlotte in October, a car that broke a spindle during practice and I crashed. It was real bad. We worked like hell to fix it, but it wasn't in good shape to run competitively in the race," Earnhardt said. To solve the Charlotte-Atlanta dilemma, Earnhardt solicited the services of journeyman Baxter Price to start the Cronkrite car at Charlotte. Earnhardt drove some and then Price got back into the car, which eventually retired with a blown engine.

That finished, Dale was able to drive Osterlund's car at Atlanta, and still retain rookie status for 1979. He finished fourth. "We would have done better if we hadn't had an air line bust in the pits," he said. The idea of a two-car Osterlund operation vanished when Marcis quit the team. Earnhardt was selected to be his replacement. After only a handful of races on the Winston Cup circuit, Earnhardt was going to be a full-time competitor with a top notch team. Nascar would never be the same.

Will Cronkrite with a young Ricky Rudd at the Charlotte World 600

Elliott Forbes Robinson and the 1982 Talladega "Narrow" Buick

Greg Sacks

Mark Martin and his Busch car

With Joe Frasson at the Charlotte Busch race in 1973

Burt Reynolds movie 'Stand On It' - Will Cronkrite built and drove this car

Cecil Gordon at Daytona - Will Cronkrite Crew Chief

Please Click on this Logo and go to Will Cronkrite's business website and there are many more interesting pictures

 Will Cronkrite Winston Cup OWNER Statistics

Year Driver Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn
1978 Dale Earnhardt 4 0 0 1 0 1032 0 20,745 43 24.2 13.0
1978 Baxter Price 1 0 0 0 0 179 0 34,795 23 25.0 29.0
1979 Ferrel Harris 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 1,260   34.0 40.0
1979 Jim Hurlbert 1 0 0 0 0 150 0 1,400 107 27.0 24.0
1979 Jerry Jolly 1 0 0 0 0 99 0 2,440 102 32.0 22.0
1982 E. Forbes-Robinson 2 0 0 0 0 174 0 7,985 68 18.0 28.5
1982 John McFadden 1 0 0 0 0 368 0 655 87 28.0 24.0
1983 Rick Baldwin 1 0 0 0 0 7 0 15,140 69 35.0 42.0
1983 Jimmy Walker 2 0 0 0 0 289 0 1,505 89 22.0 28.0
4 years 14 0 0 1 0 2300 0 85,925   25.6 24.7


Race Site Cars St Fin # Driver Car Laps Money Status Led
1978-12 Charlotte 40 28 17 96 Dale Earnhardt Ford 382/400 3,415 running 0
1978-16 Daytona 40 28 7 96 Dale Earnhardt Ford 157/160 3,990 running 0
1978-19 Talladega 41 27 12 96 Dale Earnhardt Ford 180/188 2,740 running 0
1978-22 Darlington 40 14 16 96 Dale Earnhardt Ford 313/367 3,100 running 0
1978-27 Charlotte 40 25 29 96 Baxter Price Ford 179/334 1,165 engine 0
1979-10 Talladega 39 32 22 96 Jerry Jolly Ford 99/188 2,440 engine 0
1979-14 College Station 34 27 24 96 Jim Hurlbert Ford 150/200 1,400 running 0
1979-23 Darlington 40 34 40 96 Ferrel Harris Ford 2/367 1,260 flagged 0
1982-01 Daytona 42 18 28 96 Elliott Forbes-Robinson Buick 101/200 5,900 crash 0
1982-03 Bristol 30 28 24 86 John McFadden Buick 368/500 655 crash 0
1982-09 Talladega 40 18 29 96 Elliott Forbes-Robinson Buick 73/188 2,085 engine 0
1983-08 Talladega 42 35 42 96 Rick Baldwin Buick 7/188 1,985 engine 0
1983-17 Nashville 30 19 29 96 Jimmy Walker Ford 50/420 705 overheating 0
1983-26 North Wilkesboro 30 25 27 96 Jimmy Walker Ford 239/400 800 rear end 0


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