Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#JD70: J.D. McDuffie's Career at Richmond

J.D. at Richmond in 1981, one of his first downsized Pontiacs.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection
One of the most interesting measures of J.D. McDuffie’s longevity in the sport is his career at the Richmond Raceway. McDuffie made 39 starts at the track, during which time he made at least one start on all five of its configurations.

McDuffie’s first two Richmond starts were on dirt, a callback to his roots on the clay ovals near his native Sanford. The first of these came on May 15, 1966, when the track was a half-mile bullring known as the Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds. That day, McDuffie lined up 19th in his 1964 Ford and finished 13th in a field of 30, 43 laps down to race winner David
Richmond 1985, with sponsorship from Restore and
Dutch Treats.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection
Pearson. His last start on the dirt came that September, where this time he ran 24th of 29.

On September 8, 1968, McDuffie was in the 28-car field that was the first to run on the track’s new pavement. He was also the surface’s first last-place finisher, his 1967 Buick losing oil pressure after 12 laps of the Capital City 300. The track, now known as the Virginia State Fairgounds, was now measured at 0.625 of a mile. By his next start on April 13, 1969, it was the Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway and again measured as an exact half-mile. McDuffie finished 6th that day, his first Top Ten at the speedway. A second last-place run came that September, this time due to engine failure. That race marked the first time the Fairgrounds was measured at 0.542 of a mile, its official size for nearly two decades.
Richmond 1986, Rumple Furniture and foil numbers.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection

Richmond late 1986 / early 1987 - AC Spark Plug
and backing from Tom Winkle.
PHOTO: Rich Imlay, Janine Pestel Collection
McDuffie finished last four times at Richmond. His third of these took place on September 10, 1972, when the transmission let go after 3 laps. That day, McDuffie wasn’t driving his own #70, but a 1970 Plymouth fielded by Doc Faustina. From 1971 through 1976, Faustina would field cars for several stars of the sport, including Richard Childress, Harry Gant, and the final Cup car Hall of Famer Wendell Scott drove at Charlotte on October 7, 1973. The 1972 Richmond race was McDuffie’s only start for Faustina.

McDuffie’s final last-place run at Richmond took place on September 7, 1980, when a cylinder head issue knocked-out his Bailey Excavating Chevrolet after 44 laps. This finish had historical significance of its own. On that day, he broke a tie with fellow owner-driver G.C. Spencer for the most last-place finishes in NASCAR Cup Series history. McDuffie would hold this record well after his passing. Joe Nemechek exceeded his career mark in 2014.

In all, McDuffie scored eight Top Tens at Richmond and a single Top Five. The latter occurred on October 12, 1975, during a 500-lapper won by Darrell Waltrip. McDuffie finished 5th that day in a car sponsored by the Butler’s, Inc. and Glenn’s Landscaping. His 1975 Chevrolet finished 17 laps down to Waltrip, but was ahead of the likes of Benny Parsons (18th), Cale Yarborough (26th), and Richard Petty, who finished 28th and last due to engine failure. McDuffie also led his only two laps at the track on March 11, 1979 en route to a 7th-place finish.

McDuffie made just one Cup start on the current 0.75-mile configuration. On September 10, 1989, at what was then the Richmond International Raceway, his #70 Rumple Pontiac lined up 32nd in the 36-car field, having bested Greg Sacks for a spot in the field. He finished 31st in that day’s running of the Miller High Life 400, an event dominated by Rusty Wallace. In each of his final three attempts to make the Richmond field, McDuffie was the fastest car to miss the field. This included the 1991 running, when he brought the same dark blue Pontiac to the track that had barely missed out on the Daytona 500 field a week earlier.

This weekend, Richmond debuts yet another new name as "Richmond Raceway" with a new infield. It will be the first incarnation of the facility where McDuffie has not raced.

Reserve your copy of "J.D.: The Life and Death of a Forgotten NASCAR Legend" at Waldorf Publishing, coming July 15, 2018. Click here for more details.

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