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2005 SAD NEWS/DEATHS/MEMORIALSabout deaths of those involved in the NASCAR Community


  • Sad News: internet NASCAR writer, Jim Worsley, passed away Christmas Morning, see a column about Jim at the Stock Car Gazette: Rest In Peace, Jim Worsley.(12-28-2005)
  • Tragedy at Racing event: James Avink Jr., who supplemented his income with a part-time job at DK Security, which provides guards for events in DeVos Place convention center. Avink was standing watch about 1:00am/et Saturday when one the center’s loading-bay doors fell on him. The door was open to provide ventilation for the Mason Dixon/Dixieland Challenge indoor sprint-car races. The ambulance company standing by at the event said Avink died at the scene of major head and back injuries. Event promoter Gerry Olson said a cable connecting four sections of the 16-foot-tall door snapped, allowing part of it to fall on Avink. The section of the door that struck Avink could be seen Saturday resting diagonally across the still open doorway on the building’s Bridge Street NW side. Avink is survived by his wife, Lindy, and daughters Kahli, 7, and Kendal, 1. Convention center spokeswoman Lynn Ike said while Saturday’s race was canceled, the incident would likely not affect similar events at DeVos in the future. “It had nothing to do with the race itself,” Ike said. “If this promoter wanted to come back next year, he’d be welcome.” Ike said the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.(Michigan Live)(12-19-2005)
    Jim Avink Fund
    Lake Michigan Credit Union
    Attn: Kahli Avink donation account
    P.O. Box 2848
    Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501
  • Sad News: Gene Harper, 58, of Newnan, Ga., passed away on Dec. 18, 2005. Surviving are his wife, Patricia D. Harper, Newnan, Ga.; son Michael D. Harper, Ft. Worth, Tx; daughter and son-in-law Bennie and Christi (Harper) Hurt, Carrollton, Ga. Owner of Harper Motorsports Carolina Crusher Monster Truck team and son Michael’s legends cars have won 100’s of races over the years, and several national champonships. His drivers have included, David Ragan, Chase Miller, Stuart Kirby, Robert Richardson, Chris Buescher. Flowers, Card’s, and letters can be sent to: Harper Family, 80 Newnan Lakes Blvd #812, Newnan, Georgia 30263. Services to be held at: Higgins Hillcrest Chapel, Monday, Dec 19th from 5-8pm, 1 Bullsboro Dr, Newnan, GA 30265.(12-19-2005)
  • Sad News: Blaine Blessing, 44, died suddenly of a heart attack on December 6, 2005 at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, IA. Blessing won numerous NASCAR/IMCA championship titles, and sponsored numerous NASCAR/IMCA championship title winners. Blaine was survived by his loving wife, Kristine of West Des Moines; he was a loving father to his five children: Ashley Johnson and her fiancé Nick Dreeszen of Cedar Rapids, Trent Blessing of Solon, Derek McNerney of West Des Moines, Trevor Blessing of Solon, and Colin McNerney of West Des Moines; his father, Harold Blessing of West Union; his mother, Diane (Meyer) Yarcho of Shell Rock. Memorial contributions may be made to Blaine’s family who will donate to Feed the Children, and other organizations.(Des Moines Register)(12-11-2005)
  • Sad News – Humpy’s Mom: A funeral service for Kathleen Wheeler, mother of H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, and David Wheeler, the track’s director of interior maintenance, will be held at 11:00am/et Saturday, Dec. 3, at The Basilica at Belmont Abbey in Belmont, NC. Wheeler, 95, a Belmont native, passed away Wednesday night, Nov. 30, at the Courtland Terrace assisted living center in Gastonia, NC. A visitation and rosary for Wheeler will be conducted at 7:00pm/et, Friday, Dec. 2, at McLean & Sons Funeral Home, 515 N. Central Ave., in Belmont, NC. Wheeler is survived by four children, H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, David Wheeler, Mary Plexico and Angela Wheeler; nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Her husband, Howard A. Wheeler, passed away in 1968. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations in memory of Kathleen Wheeler be made to the Wheeler Center c/o Belmont Abbey College, 100 Belmont-Mt. Holly Road, Belmont, N.C. 28012.(LMS)(12-1-2005)
  • Sad News: Ray Nichels, one of the preeminent race car mechanics and car builders of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, passed away on Friday, November 25, 2005.
    Raymond “Ray” Nichels, age 83, of Merrillville, IN, passed away on Friday, November 25, 2005. He is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Eleanor (nee Govert); two children: Terry (Kathy) Nichels of Highland and Vickie (Bill) Masters of GA; 10 beloved grandchildren and 12 beloved great-grandchildren; brother, Albert (Maxine) Nichels of Griffith; brother-in-law, Vince Sell of Merrillville and numerous nieces and nephews. Preceded in death by his brother, Roy Nichels and sister, Grace Sell. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, November 29, 2005 at 9 am at Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church, 8303 Taft St., Merrillville with Rev. Joseph Vamos, officiating. At rest Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens, Schererville. Friends may visit with the family on Monday from 2 to 8 pm at the Lincoln Ridge Funeral Home, 7607 W. Lincoln Highway, Schererville. (US Route 30 east of Cline Avenue) and also at Our Lady of Consolation Church on Tuesday from 8:30 am until the time of service. Wake prayer service Monday evening at 5 pm.
    Ray was the founder and owner of Nichels Engineering and Nichels Automotive Products. He was the former co-owner of G&N Aircraft. He was involved in Indianapolis Motor Speedway Auto Racing since 1949 as car owner and builder, as well as the USAC and NASCAR Stockcar divisions. He was a member of Our Lady of Consolation Church, a veteran of WWII U.S. Coast Guard, American Legion Griffith Post. Ray also belonged to many other racing groups and associations. Memorials may be given to the St. Jude House of Crown Point or Our Lady of Consolation Church.(
  • Sad News: Sonny Hutchins, one of the best stock-car drivers in Richmond history and a member of the famed “Strawberry Hill Mod Squad,” died this morning. He was 76. Hutchins raced for more than 30 years, competing in Late Models, Modifieds and NASCAR’s premier Winston Cup series. Often driving for the city’s two greatest car owners, Junie Donlavey and Emanual Zervakis, Mr. Hutchins won hundreds of races and several track championships. He won Southside Late Model titles in 1968 and’80 and made 38 starts in Cup, placing a career-best second twice in 1969.(Richmond Times Dispatch and see an obit and service info at the Richmond Times Disptach)(11-22-2005)
  • Sad News: John Reiser, father of #17 crew chief Robbie Reiser and Matt Kenseth’s long-time Busch Series car owner, has passed away. John had been battling cancer for the past few months. Sympathies are with his wife, Alice, and Robbie, and the rest of the family this weekend. A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held from 4-7:00 PM, Tuesday, November 22, 2005 at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Denver, NC. The family will greet friends on Friday, November 25, 2005 from 3-7:00 PM, followed by a prayer service at Phillips Funeral Home in West Bend, WI. Funeral services will be conducted at 10:00 AM, Saturday, November 26, 2005 at Resurrection Catholic Church in Allenton, WI, followed by the burial at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Allenton, WI. More info on services at the Matt Kenseth site an the obit at the Charlotte Observer.(11-19/22-2005)
  • Sad News UPDATE – services: Dick Hutcherson, who won 14 races in 103 starts in NASCAR’s top series in the 1960s, died Sunday at age 73. Hutcherson was traveling back to North Carolina from Florida when he suffered a fatal heart attack near Columbia. Funeral arrangements have still not been announced. Hutcherson was born in Keokuk, Iowa, and raced late models in the Midwest for nearly a decade before coming to NASCAR in 1964. He finished second in his second career start, at Occoneechee Speedway, and the next season joined the powerhouse Holman-Moody team that was based in Charlotte. He ran 52 races in 1965, winning for the first time at Greenville-Pickens Speedway and adding eight more victories that year on his way to a second-place finish in the points standings. He won three more races for Holman-Moody the next year and two more in cars owned by Bondy Long in 1967. Hutcherson served as crew chief for David Pearson in Pearson’s championship seasons in 1968 and 1969, then became general manager for Holman-Moody. In late 1971, he and Eddie Pagan formed Hutcherson-Pagan and started building race cars used by such drivers as Darrell Waltrip and A.J. Foyt. Hutcherson-Pagan still supplies parts to race teams with a truck that serves as a rolling warehouse at the track each weekend.(
    UPDATE: Dick Hutcherson Memorial Services: There will be open visitation all day Wednesday, November 9, at Raymer Funeral Home located at 16901 Old Statesville Road, Huntersville, NC. The family will be receiving friends from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, November 10, also at Raymer Funeral Home. A graveside burial will be held at 2:00 pm Sunday, November 13, in Elk Creek Virginia. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Comers Rock Cemetery, Elk Creek Virginia. Hutcherson-Pagan will be closed Thursday, November 10 and will reopen Friday, November 11.(11-9-2005)
  • Sad News: After a long and courageous fight, John Paul – DeLana Harvick”s father – has lost his battle with cancer. He passed away on Tuesday, November 1, 2005. In lieu of flowers or gifts, they are asking that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang Camp in memory of John Paul Linville. Donations should be sent to: Victory Junction Gang Camp, 4500 Adam’s Way, Randleman, NC 27317.(
  • Sad News: Gary Vercauteren, director of the Mid-American Stock Car Series, died Friday from a heart attack. Vercauteren, 55, of Baileys Harbor, Wis., created the Mid-American Stock Car Series in 1992. It now includes the Mid-Am cars and trucks, ASL, MARS and Stock Car Classics, which race at tracks throughout the Midwest including Rockford Speedway. He is survived by his wife, Kay and by three children. More info at
  • Sad News: Peter LaVance, 73, passed away died Wednesday, Oct. 5, at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune, NJ. LaVance was the 1955 Wall Sportsman Champion and flagged the Daytona Time Trials in February 2005. He was an original member of the Garden State Vintage Stock Car Club and the Shore Auto Race Club, a flagger and driver at Wall Stadium, and a NASCAR Official at Wall Stadium. Mr. LaVance owned and operated Pete LaVance & Sons Auto Repair, Neptune, for 36 years, retiring in 1998.
    Visiting will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Clayton & McGirr Funeral Home, 100 Elton-Adelphia Road (Route 524), Freehold Township. Friends and relatives are invited to attend his funeral service at 11 a.m. Monday at the funeral home. Interment will follow in Monmouth Memorial Park, Tinton Falls. In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Mr. LaVance may be made to the Spring Lake First Aid Squad, P.O. Box 94, Spring Lake, NJ 07762, or the Spring Lake Fire Co. 1, 1007 Fifth Ave., Spring Lake, NJ 07762, and would be appreciated. For information, directions or condolence messages to the family, visit Park Press)(10-7-2005)
  • Sad News: It is with deep regret we share the passing of Lindsey Morgan, daughter of Veteran Crew Chief Tommy Morgan & his wife Barbara. The passing a tragic result of a missing person case in Ocean County, New Jersey. The family will receive friends in the Lemmon Funeral Home of Dulaney Valley, 10 W. Padonia Road, Timonium, MD, on Tuesday Oct 3, 2005, 6 to 9 P.M. Interment private. Tommy Morgan has been a crew chief in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions for drivers such as Johnny Benson, Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne & Ken Weaver.(10-3-2005)
  • Tragic News: The death of driver Anita Clem has left a gaping void in the Highland Rim Speedway (in Ridgetop, TN) family, officials for the Robertson County track said last night. Clem, of Cottontown, died at 10:15 a.m. yesterday from injuries sustained in a racing accident Saturday night. She was 48. Clem died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She had been life-flighted to VUMC late Saturday from Skyline Medical Center where she was transported following the accident. According to several eyewitnesses, Clem’s Honda rolled over onto its top coming out of turn two after hitting another car and the wall in a Challenger Division race. Her car slid down the banked track in the backstretch before being hit broadside on the driver’s side by a car driven by Kevin Gregory. “One went high, one went low, and the other one had nowhere to go. It was a tragic accident. With her car being upside down, it compromised the safety of the roll-cage system.” Race director Robert Dunn said doctors told family members that Clem suffered multiple injuries, but the most severe was a broken neck. It was the first racing death at Highland Rim since the 1960s, according to Dunn. Still, the accident has raised safety concerns. Track official Mike Ogle, who was working the backstretch Saturday, criticized Highland Rim’s safety standards and said the track lacks the proper tools to extricate drivers. “I’m not going to say this would have saved her life, but we couldn’t get her out of the car for almost 20 minutes,” Ogle said. “We worked so hard trying to get her from the vehicle.”(Tennessean)(10-3-2005)
  • Sad News: Condolences to #19 Evernham Motorsports driver, Jeremy Mayfield on the passing of his grandmother on Sept 8th. Lillian Davis Mayfield, 89, of Owensboro, died Thursday, September 08, 2005, at her home. She was born January 27, 1916 to the late Harvey and Elodia Raymer Smith in Breckenridge County. She was a homemaker, a member of St. Stephen Cathedral and she enjoyed gardening, working in her yard, and cooking. She was preceded in death by her husband, Francis X. “Zeb” Mayfield, who died June 19, 1997, two sons, Bobby Mayfield, who died September 8, 1995, and Barry Mayfield, who died May 28, 2004, and a grandson, Jonathan Clark, who died October 12, 1985. Funeral Services were Sunday and Monday. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Association, 723 Harvard Drive, Owensboro, KY, 42301.(Glenn Funeral Home )(9-14-2005)
  • Sad News: A member of the U.S. 36 Raceway [no mention on the track site] fire crew was killed Friday [9/2] night at the track in Osborn, Mo., while trying to save others from a possible tragedy. Bob Bestgen, 51, was trying to stop a push truck that had slipped out of gear and appeared headed toward spectators, according to his wife, Pat. Push trucks at dirt tracks are used mostly for helping start race cars and packing the track. Supposedly one of the push-truck drivers saw a fight and got out of the truck, which kept moving, Bestgen tried to get in the truck to stop it when it started moving but got tangled underneath. The accident took place shortly after the weekly program had been completed. Bestgen was pronounced dead about 2 a.m. Saturday at a hospital in Cameron, Mo.(
  • Sad News: Ricky Rudd’s father Al Rudd, Sr. died Tuesday evening following a lengthy illness. Arrangements for a private service are pending. According to the family, donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the American Cancer Society or a charity of your choice.
    AND Wood Brothers Racing learned that Al Rudd, Sr., father of driver Ricky Rudd, passed away late Tuesday following a lengthy illness. The senior Rudd, a former racer himself, was instrumental in Ricky’s career having fielded early entries in NASCAR competition with a family sponsored team under the Al Rudd Auto Parts banner. He also supported Ricky’s Kart and Enduro racing. The team extends its deepest sympathy to Ricky and his entire family. There will be a private funeral service. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society or the charity of your choice.
    See more info on Al Rudd Sr. at
  • Sad News: NASCAR’s first chief scorer and timer, Joe Epton, passed away on August 29, 2005 in Green Cove Springs, Fla., at the age of 85. “Joe Epton was a true pioneer in our sport, a ‘go-to’ guy for me and my father,” said NASCAR Vice Chairman Bill France. “He made enormous contributions to NASCAR for a long period of time. Joe served as our chief scorer and was well-respected throughout the industry. He will be missed.”
    Epton was born on February 6, 1920 in Cherokee Springs, S.C. and began attending stock car races at the fairgrounds track in Spartanburg at a young age. He struck up a friendship with the legendary driver/promoter Joe Littlejohn, who staged the Spartanburg races, and soon Epton was working for Littlejohn in a variety of positions, including chief scorer.
    Epton met Big Bill France, the future founder of NASCAR, through Littlejohn in 1946 when France was returning to his home in Florida after working on the crew of the car which had just won the 1946 Indianapolis 500. France promoted stock car races throughout the Southeast and was in need of someone who understood racing and could handle scoring efforts for his racing circuit. Epton jumped at the chance to be paid for what had been his hobby and he was hired on the spot for $25 per race. He also was paid mileage if he traveled further than Greensboro, N.C., from his home in Spartanburg.
    Epton became NASCAR’s chief timer and scorer in 1947 with the formation of the sanctioning body, and he held that position until 1985. His contributions to the sport helped bring the world of electronic timing and scoring to what it is today. During his tenure, Epton was known as one of the best-liked officials who counted many of the drivers as friends. He was always in the pit area prior to the races, chatting with competitors and crew alike. His large stature and ready smile will be missed by all who knew Joe Epton.
    The funeral service for Mr. Epton will be held on Thursday, September 1, at 9 a.m. at Central Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., with Rev. Doug Harrell officiating. His family will receive friends on Wednesday, August 31, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Lohman Funeral Home in Ormond Beach, Fla.
    In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made in his memory to Central Baptist Church, 142 Fairview Ave., Daytona Beach, FL 32114, and Living Legends of Auto Racing, P.O. Box 290854, Port Orange, FL 32129-0854. Condolences may be made via the family guest book at
  • Sad News: Bruce Franklin Bell, a former pit crew member for Junie Donlavey’s team, died unexpectedly on Sunday. The 38-year-old from Chester changed front tires on the #90 Ford during the 1998 and 2001 seasons.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(8-27-2005)
  • Sad News: Harold Parsons, father of former NASCAR drivers and current broadcasters, Benny Parsons and Phil Parsons, passed away this morning. The visitation for Harold Parsons will be held Friday between 7 & 9pm at the Boone Family Funeral Home in West Jefferson, NC, Phone:(336) 246-7979. The funeral service is Saturday at 1:00pm and also takes place at the funeral home. Burial will follow in the Stony Hill Church Cemetery in Wilkes County.(8-17-2005)
  • Driver Dies: On Tuesday August 16, 2005 at 8:30am Kevin Doty passed away as a result of massive head injuries received from a racing accident on Sunday August 14, 2005 at Angell Park Speedway. The Family would like to thank everyone for their support and prayers. Funeral arrangements are pending at Runge’s Funeral Home, Davenport IA. In lieu of flowers a memorial fund will be established.(8-17-2005)
  • Sad News: Clifton “Coo Coo” Marlin, one of NASCAR’s early stars and father of current Nextel Cup driver Sterling Marlin, died Sunday after a battle with lung cancer. He was 73. Marlin died in his hometown of Columbia, Tenn., said officials from Chip Ganassi Racing, which fields cars for Sterling Marlin. Sterling Marlin had returned home from this week’s race in Watkins Glen, N.Y., to be with his father. Scott Pruett was scheduled to replace him in Sunday’s event. Although he never won a NASCAR points race, Marlin was one of the sport’s earliest stars. A hard-nosed racer who made his name racing around the short tracks in Tennessee and Alabama. He became a regular at the Tennessee Fairgrounds, running against the likes of Bobby and Donny Allison and Red Farmer. Marlin won his first title at the Fairgrounds in 1959. He added titles in 1962, then again in 1966 and 1967 and his four titles are a record at the now-defunct race track. Marlin moved onto NASCAR, where he made 165 Cup starts from 1966 to 1980. He had no wins, but earned nine top-fives and 51 top-10 finishes. His series best points finish was 20th in the 1975 season. Recognized as a driver, Marlin also was well-known for a blue collar work ethic that kept him maintaining the land on his Tennessee farm until his death. He passed that work ethic on to his son, Sterling, who despite being a two-time Daytona 500 winner still spends his weekdays working on the farm.(
    AND: Members of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates will begin racing festivities this morning at Watkins Glen International with heavy hearts as the driver of the #40 Coors Light Dodge, Sterling Marlin, mourns the passing of his father, Coo Coo Marlin. Sterling made his way back to Tennessee to be at his father’s side in their home state late Thursday night. Coo Coo passed away early this morning from lung cancer in Columbia, Tenn. The elder Marlin was a pioneer in the NASCAR industry and very instrumental throughout Sterling’s racing career. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Coo Coo’s name to the American Lung Association. Ganassi pilot Scott Pruett will handle the driving duties in the #40 machine for Marlin in light of the situation for this afternoon’s 92-lap Sirius Satellite Radio at The Glen.(Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)(8-14-2005)
  • Sad News: Pam Coble, wife of Motorsports writer, Don Coble, passed away Wednesday afternoon after battling cancer for nearly a year. Her memorial service will be Saturday morning at 11 at the First Baptist Church of Fayetteville, Ga. Don reports for the Augusta Chronicle.(8-9-2005)
  • Sad News: Hunter James Kelly entered Heaven this morning, Friday, August 5, 2005. Hunter, the beloved 8-½ year old son of Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly and his wife Jill, staged a valiant lifelong battle with Krabbe Leukodystrophy. Hunter was the longest living survivor of infantile Krabbe disease and served as an inspiration to thousands of other children and their families. The Hunter’s Hope Foundation was founded in his name to fund research into the fatal disease and to offer hope and support to its victims worldwide. Jim and Jill Kelly remain grateful for your continued prayers and support and ask that you respect their privacy as they mourn the sudden loss of their beloved son and offer comfort to his sisters Erin and Camryn.
    In lieu of flowers, please consider sending a donation to the Hunter’s Hope Foundation. The Kelly Family has requested a private family viewing. A celebration of Hunter Kelly’s life will be held on Tuesday, August 9, 2005 at 1pm at the Wesleyan Church of Hamburg.
    Aside from his activities with the Hunter’s Hope Foundation and the Kelly for Kids Charities, Jim Kelly is also part of the ownership group of Frank Cicci Racing, a NASCAR Busch Series #34 race team sponsored by the Dollar General Corporation. The team is in Indianapolis this weekend for the running of the Kroger 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. 2-time NASCAR Busch Series driver Randy LaJoie is the team’s driver.(8-5-2005)
    AND – Dollar General Team to honor Kelly’s son at IRP: The #34 Dollar General NASCAR Busch Series Race Team, members of Frank Cicci Racing, sponsors and driver Randy LaJoie will pay tribute to the life of Hunter Kelly Saturday during the running of the Kroger 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Hunter, son of Frank Cicci Racing team ownership partner and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, passed away on Friday morning in Buffalo, NY. Hunter, 8, had been battling the terminal disease Krabbe Leukodystrophy since he was first diagnosed at 6 months of age. The #34 Dollar General Chevrolet driven by LaJoie will honor Hunter with a special decal on the race car while team members will display special patches on their uniforms during the race.
    “Everyone on our race team, their families, our sponsors and those inside the NASCAR family who know Jim share in the Kelly family’s grief. We are deeply saddened with their loss and our thoughts and prayers we hope will provide support in this difficult time”, said team owner Frank Cicci. “Since he retired from professional football, Jim and his wife Jill have dedicated themselves towards Hunter and in the establishment of the Hunter’s Hope Foundation. We hope that the small things we can do this weekend here in Indianapolis, and during the remainder of the season, to perpetuate Hunter’s life will provide added exposure for Hunter’s Hope”.
    The Kelly family has requested a private viewing, but a celebration of Hunter’s life will be held on Tuesday, August 9, at 1 p.m. at the Wesleyan Church of Hamburg, NY. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking people to consider a donation to the Hunter’s Hope Foundation at Track Marketing)(8-5-2005)
  • Sad News: Helmer Ellsworth Kenseth, age 96, of Cambridge, died on Wednesday, July 27, 2005, at his home. Helmer was born in Cambridge on April 16, 1909, son of Martin and Hilda (England) Kenseth. Kenseth was Matt Kenseth’s grandfather. Kenseth driver the #17 DeWalt Ford for Roush Racing in the Nextel Cup Series. Those wishing to express their sympathy may wish to consider memorials to Willerup United Methodist Church. Nitardy Funeral Home, Cambridge, is assisting the family. See full obit for info and services at the Capital Times.(7-29-2005)
  • Sad News: Phyllis Jean Crowley, lovingly passed into the arms of her Lord on Thursday, July 14. She was preceded in death by her oldest son, David. She dedicated her life to the caring and nurturing of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We give thanks for her life and example.
    She will be greatly missed by her husband of 59 years. Francis Charles Crowley; her children, Douglas and Peggy Crowley, Janice Scott, Judy and James Bender, D.P.M., Jeffrey Crowley and Ricky Buford, Debbie and Johnny Benson; Her grandchildren, Tami, Marcy, Aaron, Andrew, Adam, Brad, Christie, Katelyn and Mikayla; great grandchildren, Joey Lynn and Jackson; her brothers and sister, Harvey and Ann Dougherty, Frances and William Tuttle; sister-in-law, Ilene Chapman; many nieces and nephews.
    Phyllis was a member of Second Congregational U.C.C. for over 50 years, where she was active in the Friendship Club. Funeral and committal services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Monday at the Reyers North Valley, with Rev. Bonita Zobeck officiating. Interment in Blythefield Memory Gardens. Relatives and friends may meet her family at the chapel from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday. For those who wish, memorials may be made to Second Congregational U.C.C. If you would like to leave a lasting tribute or fond memory of Phyllis, please go online to Benson site)(7-18-2005)
  • Sad News: Roger Deppe, who Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and COO Joie Chitwood described as a “true part of what the Speedway is all about,” died July 14 while driving to his vacation home in Minnesota. Deppe worked over a half-century at the Speedway handling credentials and later other assignments and was one of the last employees dating back to the 1950s. His final race was the United States Grand Prix on June 19. Deppe was 83. “I’ve known him since 1996 when I came up here,” Chitwood said. “I would go to lunch with he and Robert McInteer (then Speedway safety director). At the lunches, he and McInteer would just go at each other, and I would just laugh. I think about the people who have been around the Speedway forever. Roger fit into that mode. He would be here whether he needed to be or not. That’s how much he loved the Speedway.” Deppe and his wife, Bea, were making their annual summer trek back to his native Minnesota when he suffered an apparent heart attack on the highway in Wisconsin. His wife was not injured. Deppe came to Indianapolis in 1952 as an engineer with Eli Lilly & Co. He worked with Lilly until his retirement in 1985. His involvement included construction of buildings in Greenfield, Ind., when the pharmaceutical firm expanded its facilities. He joined the Speedway in the mid-1950s as a part-time assistant to public relations director Al Bloemker handling media credential requests. Deppe still was doing media credentials when Gloria Novotney took over credential distribution in 1988. In later years, Deppe was in charge of the pit timing crew for races at IMS. Deppe maintained a desk in the Hall of Fame Museum following his retirement from Lilly and was a familiar figure to most of the Speedway employees and veteran media representatives. At the United States Grand Prix, Deppe helped feed information to foreign radio broadcasters. Hailing from Minnesota, Deppe held a deep passion for hockey and developed one for auto racing. Deppe was a Navy flier during World War II. He also was a life member of the 500 Oldtimers Club. Survivors include his wife and sons, David and Paul. Services are pending.(more at the IMS site)(7-15-2005)
  • Sad News: Charles ‘Chuck’ Galen Rider, 64, of Hilton Head, SC, formerly of Charlotte, passed away July 8, 2005. Rider was the owner of the #30 Bahari Racing Winston Cup team from 1986 to 1999. Drivers included Michael Waltrip and Johnny Benson [remember the total yellow #30 Pennzoil Pontiac?], Jeff Green and Derrike Cope. In 365 starts, his cars had 16 top-5’s, 70 top-10’s and 5 poles. Waltrip scored the best two finsihes for Rider with two seconds [Pocono 6/88 and Charlotte 10/94].(7-9-2005)
    UPDATE: Mr. Rider, 64, of Terrell, NC and Wexford Plantation in Hilton Head, SC, passed away Friday, July 8, 2005 at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. He was born August 27, 1940 in Carlisle, PA to the late Charles B. and Marion S. Rider. Chuck was a 1958 graduate of Mercersburg Academy and a 1962 graduate of Catawba College in Salisbury, NC. During his business career, he was employed by Carter Carburetor, president of AEA Inc., an All Pro Auto Parts franchise and distributor, and president of Preferred Power, Inc., the largest Briggs & Stratton distributor in the Southeast, until his retirement. In 1987, he co-founded, with Lowrance Harry and Dick Bahre, Bahari Racing Inc., which raced on the Nextel-Winston Cup circuit until 2001. Bahari Racing Inc. owned and raced the number 30 car, originally the Country Time Lemonade/Maxwell House Coffee car in 1987 and then Pennzoil Pontiac car which featured drivers Michael Waltrip and Johnny Benson. Mr. Rider was preceded in death by his first wife, Patricia Lawing Rider. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Sue Rider; daughters, Deborah R. McClure of Greenville, SC and Ginger Rider of Cornelius, NC; step son, Jay P. Fischer and step daughter, Rebecca L. Heck; grandchildren, Christian and Austin McClure; step granddaughter, Jena Fischer; brother, John Rider of Reading, PA.
    The interment will be held 11:00 a.m., Monday, July 11, 2005 at Catawba Memorial Park, 3060 Highway 70 SE, Hickory, NC. A Memorial Service to celebrate the life of Mr. Chuck Rider will follow at 3:00 p.m., at Harry and Bryant Company, “Chapel in the Oaks”, 500 Provoidence Rd., Charlotte, NC with the Reverend Max Helton officiating. The family will receive friends following the service at Harry and Bryant Company. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the Victory Junction Gang, 4500 Adam’s Way, Randleman, NC 27317, (336)498.9055 and the American Cancer Society, c/o Research Foundation, 500 E. Morehead St., Suite 211, Charlotte, NC 28202. See full obituary at the Charlotte Observer.(7-10-2005)
  • Sad News: Richard Childress Racing’s (RCR) fabrication shop manager Paul Wise passed away this morning after a brief illness. He was 58. Wise was employed by RCR since January 2003 after spending two-and-a-half years in a similar position with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. All six RCR cars competing this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, in both the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series, will carry “In Memory of Paul Wise” decals. Funeral services will be conducted at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 30, at Charity Baptist Church, 2420 Brantley Road in Kannapolis, N.C. The Rev. R.J. Hammond and the Rev. Gene Beaver will officiate. The body will be placed in the church one hour prior to the service. Internment will follow at Carolina Memorial Park in Kannapolis. The family will receive friends from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday, June 29, at Charity Baptist Church.
    Born Jan. 6, 1947, in Cabarrus (N.C.) County, Wise was the son of C. Winfred Wise and Ethel Howell Wise of Kannapolis. He was a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War and was a recipient of the Air Force Commendation Medal. He worked with many NASCAR teams during his career. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Paula Jean Wise, Feb. 14, 1975.
    In addition to his parents, he is survived by his wife, Barbara Austin Wise; son, Jason Paul Wise and wife, Brittany Cromer Wise, and granddaughter, Jayleigh Austin Wise of Kannapolis; sister, Anne W. Watts and husband, Charles, of Raleigh; brothers, Phil Wise and wife, Lynda, of Kannapolis and Mark Wise and wife, Derlene, of Raleigh; along with 13 nieces and nephews.
    Memorials may be sent to the American Cancer Society, Dancers for Cancer, c/o Carolina Dance, 2353 Concord Lake Road, Suite 110, Concord, N.C. 28025.(RCR)(6-28-2005)
  • Sad News: Belated sympathy note to #2 Miller Lite team’s gasman Doug Ingold and his family for the passing of Doug’s mother, Joyce Ingold, on June 11. Mrs. Ingold, 71, died suddenly while on a church trip in Nashville, Tenn. “She and my sister had been going on these great bus trips with her church for several years now. Mom was just stepping down off the bus at one of the stops on the Nashville trip when she just collapsed. They did everything they could to revive her, but there was nothing that they could do. They said it was coronary failure, but she didn’t have any kind of medical history of heart problems. It may sound strange, but my whole family took a lot of comfort in the fact that mom died a really happy lady and she was doing what she loved doing – out there enjoying life with all her great friends from the church.” Services for Mrs. Ingold were held last Wednesday (June 15) at Stanly Funeral Home. She was interred in the cemetery at Silver Springs Baptist Church in Aquadale, N.C.(Tom Roberts PR)(6-23-2005)
  • Sad News: Harold Sprinkle, who worked for many years with Travis Carter, passed away Tuesday at the age of 62. The service will be Monday night at 7:00pm/et at Voglers Funeral Home on Reynolds Road in Winston-Salem. He is survived by his wife Linda. Memorial donations can be made to the Victory Junction Gang Camp.(6-18-2005)
  • Sad News: Reverend Pat Evans of the Racing for Jesus site passed away Sunday, he is survived by his wife Betty, their children, Rob Brannon and his wife Wendy, Cheryl and her husband Brian, and all in Pat’s extended Christian family. Pat was 57 years old. See more at the Racing for Jesus site. This is the ministry that #89-Morgan Shepherd has on his car.(6-15-2005)
  • Sad News: Dan Hamrick, Dodge’s long time Truck Series Engineering Liaison passed away Friday night, services were held Monday. Note that in lieu of flowers, we are requesting that donations be made to: Bethlehem Baptist Church Building Fund, Hospice of Cleveland County, 951 Wendover Heights Drive, Shelby, NC, 28150.(6-14-2005)
    more info and a column at
  • Sad News: Robert Ray “Bud” Hutchens, 63, father of Richard Childress Racing’s Bobby Hutchen’s, passed away Saturday, June 11, 2005, at his home. He was retired from Leaseway Motor Cars. Mr. Hutchens was an avid NASCAR fan and had cars that raced at Bowman Gray Stadium for over 40 years. Surviving are his wife of 46 years, Mrs. Carol Long Hutchens; two sons, Bobby Hutchens and wife Sharon, Kenny Hutchens and wife Robin, all of Winston-Salem. NC; a daughter, Lisa Thomas and husband Chris of Greenville, NC; seven grandchildren; and two sisters, Margaret Edwards and Nancy Tulbert, both of Winston-Salem. A graveside service will be conducted at 11:00am/et Monday, June 13, at Waughtown Cemetery with the Rev. Norwood Green officiating. The family will receive friends from 7 to 9 this evening, June 12, at Hayworth-Miller Silas Creek Chapel. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to American Cancer Society, 4A Oak Branch Drive, Greensboro, NC 27407 or to the Bowman Gray Neurosurgery Dept., Medical Center Blvd. Winston-Salem, NC 27157.(Winston Salem Journal)(6-12-2005)
  • Sad News: Larry Carrier, who helped start the race track now known as Bristol Motor Speedway, died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 82. A developer, Carrier worked with Carl Moore and R.G. Pope in building the half-mile oval track, which opened in 1961. Carrier bought the track out of bankruptcy in 1985, gave ESPN exclusive rights to broadcast Bristol’s night race for years, and built the seating capacity to 71,000 before selling the track to Bruton Smith in 1996 for $26 million. Bristol now seats 160,000 and hosts two NASCAR Nextel Cup races each year. Carrier and Moore also built the Bristol International Dragway and started their own sanctioning body, the International Hot Rod Association, in 1965. The dragway was part of the sale in 1996. Jeff Byrd, president and general manager of Bristol, called Carrier a leader in the racing industry whose contributions were monumental. “He had the foresight to know that NASCAR was going to be something big and he went out and built one of the greatest facilities of that time in 1961,” Byrd said. “He will certainly be missed by all that were fortunate enough to know him or work with him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Shirley and the entire Carrier family.” Carrier is a member of both the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Drag Racing Hall of Fame. He is survived by his wife, Shirley, and four children. Carrier’s funeral was scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Blountville, with burial on Friday.(
  • Sad News: Joe Lee Johnson, 75, winner of the first Coca Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 1960, passed away today after battling cancer. Arrangements are incomplete at this time. Information when available will be posted here and released to other media outlets.(Cleveland Speedway site). Johnson ran 55 Nextel Cup [then Grand National] races from 1957 thru 1962, winning 2 with 4 top 5’s and 10 top 10’s.(5-26-2005)
    MORE Joe Lee Johnson, 75, died in a Chattanooga hospital on Thursday morning, after a battle with cancer. He was of the Baptist faith. He was the owner of Cleveland Speedway Inc., in Cleveland. He was the inaugural winner of the World 600, in Charlotte, N.C., in 1960, and held numerous other racing titles. He was a pioneer in the early days of NASCAR. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the East Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home with the Rev. Luther Eslinger officiating. Interment will be in Lakewood Memory Gardens, East. The family will receive friends after 2 p.m. on Saturday at the East Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist, 404 South Moore Road. Memorial contributions may be made to the Bradley County Humane Society. Please share your thoughts and memories at See more at the Chattanoogan.(5-28-2005)