Wednesday, February 21, 2018

#JD70: J.D. McDuffie's Career at the Atlanta Motor Speedway

J.D. at Atlanta, 1976
SOURCE: Historical Stock Car Racing Forum
J.D. McDuffie made 31 starts at what is now the Atlanta Motor Speedway, including five on the track before it was expanded from 1.5 miles to the 1.522-mile length it held from 1970 through the first part of 1997.

McDuffie’s first Atlanta start came on August 7, 1966 during the Dixie 400, just the 15th race ever run at the track. Competing in his second Cup season, McDuffie was driving one of twelve Fords on the grid, and rolled out last in the 42-car field. In a season where Ford had boycotted the sport when their 427 engine was banned, independents like McDuffie benefitted as the lone standard bearers in place of the factory efforts. On this day, he climbed to 22nd before the transmission let go.

McDuffie failed to finish half of his Atlanta starts – 16 of 31 – but only once finished last. That came in his second Atlanta start on August 4, 1968, when his 1967 Buick fell out with a vibration after four laps.

Throughout his career, McDuffie rarely drove for other teams. Atlanta on August 2, 1970 was one of those occasions. During the Dixie 500, McDuffie joined up with Georgia driver Ken Spikes, who had been fielding a part-time effort for the last six years. He climbed aboard a #16 Chevrolet sponsored by Crane Cams, but turned just 30 laps before a vibration ended his run. It would be the only time all season that he didn’t run his own #70, and his only start that year in a Chevrolet.

McDuffie’s best Atlanta finish came on July 22, 1973, when his Chevrolet finished 7th, 11 laps down to David Pearson. His only other Top Ten came eight years later on March 16, 1980, rallying from 32nd to finish 9th, four laps down. Dale Earnhardt won that day over a Roger Penske-prepared Chevrolet whose driver, Rusty Wallace, was making his first Cup start.

Over the last decade of his career, McDuffie never finished better than 23rd at Atlanta, failing to finish seven of his last eight starts there. He missed both races there in 1984 and 1986, then made his final start there on March 15, 1987. In a race won by Ricky Rudd, driving for the late Bud Moore, McDuffie started 41st in the 42-car field and finished 40th, out with engine trouble after just 16 laps.

One of McDuffie’s last recorded attempts to make the Atlanta field came in March 1990, when qualifying was rained-out. McDuffie was sent home along with A.J. Foyt and Greg Sacks. Sacks was driving one of the cars fielded by Rick Hendrick for “Days of Thunder,” painted like Tom Cruise’s pink-and-white #46 Superflo Chevrolet.

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