Monday, June 29, 2015

LASTCAR EXTRA: Mike Joy and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Discuss NASCAR Independents J.D. McDuffie and Jimmy Means

Jimmy Means' Alka-Seltzer Pontiac, 1991
SOURCE: Don Feeley
Last week at the Sonoma Raceway, I was fortunate to be able to interview both FOX Sports analyst Mike Joy and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  As both are passionate about NASCAR history, I wanted to get their thoughts on two of NASCAR’s most prolific owner-drivers: J.D. McDuffie and Jimmy Means.  I quickly found I could hardly improve on their quotes, so I’ve transcribed them directly below:

“J.D. McDuffie was an independent driver from Sanford, North Carolina in the ‘70s and ‘80s, lost his life in a crash at Watkins Glen.  Very dedicated to the series and like a lot of drivers before and since, did it with very little funding.  A company called Rumple Furniture was his major sponsor for many years on his blue No. 70.”

“Back then, these cars didn’t come out of race car factories with 500 and 600 employees.  They were usually built by Banjo Matthews, Hutcherson-Pagan, Ronnie Hopkins, and the chasses were delivered to the teams that finished them in their own garages.  Might just be a two-bay garage behind someone’s house, might be a larger facility or part of a car dealership.  And a lot of the drivers were part-time racers, some of them like J.D. McDuffie and Richard Childress and others did it full-time.  But they did it with a very small group of people.”

“Childress used to joke that he’d have the annual team meeting in the hauler on the way to Daytona because they were all there.  And that’s kind of how J.D was.  He was a very quiet, soft-spoken guy, but he like a lot of fellas was a really good driver.  Jimmy Means is a good example.  He had a good Cup career - he didn’t have a great Cup career - never won a race.  But if he went back to Huntsville or Birmingham or Nashville on a Saturday night, hopped in somebody’s car, he’d whip their butts.  There’s a lot of talent in this series, and maybe the greatness didn’t show because they weren’t quite as great as some of the superstars of their day.  And that’s where I would rate J.D.  He was dedicated, he and his family were all in, they were 100% into this sport right to the end.”

“My dad would take me to the races when I was really young and he would introduce me to sons of other drivers and he’d introduce me to Brad (Means, Jimmy’s son) and me and Brad became friends, he and I would run around the garage together.  And I learned through Brad the challenges Jimmy faced as an independent and hanging around his hauler and hanging around Dad’s hauler you saw immediately the differences in what they were dealing with and the advantages Dad had, his equipment versus Jimmy’s.  So, I guess just through that relationship I got a real appreciation for Jimmy and his dedication even beyond his driving career to continue to be involved in the sport and try and make a living as an owner fielding cars has been a real inspiration.”


JeePenn said...

I was part of an independent in that same time period with Chilson Motorsports running on the northern tracks (Watkins, Dover). Remember them both especially Jimmy. Both great guys. Someone please tell the story about Jimmy running in a Hendricks car. Tim Chilson

Nancy said...

I have always thought that my favorite driver, Dale Jr., would contribute more to the sport than just as a driver. He is NASCAR's historian among the drivers and a true lover of the early years of the sport. I remember seeing Jimmy Means race so it was not that long ago.

Brock Beard said...

@Nancy - He absolutely is. You can tell how passionate he is about NASCAR history, both from his old "Back In The Day" show and the inspiration he takes when he helps design his paint schemes. But his longtime support of Means is probably my favorite attribute of his.