New NASCAR book is ’50 firsts’ of its kind
- Top 50 Wins: Decisive NASCAR Driver Wins is the latest motorsport-themed book offering from Octane Press.
- The 244-page book is co-authored by Automatic week senior motorsport writer Al Pearce and Automatic week contributor Mike Hembree.
- The book, slated for release Aug. 1, shares stories beyond the headlines about NASCAR Cup Series racers’ early victories in the Cup Series.
Mention Motorsports Hall of Fame of America member Tiny Lund to veteran NASCAR writer Al Pearce, and a flood of stories spring to mind.
The first of these stories may well be Lund’s win at the Daytona 500 in 1963. Lund’s breakthrough win not only came in the sport’s biggest race, it’s notable because it was Lund’s first ever victory. Lund in the NASCAR Cup Series.
There is something special about a rider’s first Cup victory. Ask any driver.
Or ask Pearce, a writer who has been sharing first-victory stories with his readers for more than half a century.
“I still think Tiny Lund’s story is one of my favorites,” Pearce said. “He only got that Wood Brothers ride at Daytona in 1963 because he helped pull another rider out of a wreck. And the fact that he got out and won the 500 with that ride, I thought that was a cool story.”
Lund’s story is definitely made-for-Hollywood magic. Ten days before the Daytona 500, driver Marvin Panch flipped his 7-liter Ford/Maserati sports car in Turn 4 at Daytona International Speedway. Moments later, several drivers who witnessed the crash, including the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Lund (which is why they called him “Tiny”!) rushed to the scene. There, Lund helped pull Panch out of the burning and upside-down car. Later, Panch – from his hospital bed – suggested the Wood Brothers give Lund a chance to drive for their team in the 500. The rest is Daytona 500 history, as they say.
Lund himself would die in an accident at Talladega 12 years later.
“Tiny’s story kind of stuck with me,” Pearce said. “I didn’t know him well, but I knew him. Tiny Lund’s story is the one, I think, that touched me the most.”
The NASCAR Cup Series has seen at last count 203 different drivers experience a first Cup victory. And with each of those early victories comes a rarely told story beyond the details of the laps, margin of victory and all the numbers that come with the race. Drivers may not remember every one of their Cup wins, but they certainly remember their first.
This is the premise of the new book, Top 50 Wins: Decisive NASCAR Driver Wins, which is the latest motorsport offering from Octane Press. The 244-page book is co-authored by Automatic week senior motorsport writer Pearce and Automatic week Contributor Mike Hembree and he gives stories beyond the headlines that might even have been missed on race day.
The book is the 15th for Pearce, which saw its first race in 1966 and covered its first race in 1969. Pearce has written about NASCAR for Autoweek since 1973. Hembree, seven-time National Motorsports Press Writer of the Year Association, has covered the sport for almost four decades. He is the author of 14 books.
“I saw a bunch of early wins that we talk about in the book,” Hembree said. “And what’s remarkable to me is how different those wins are usually from all the others. You have guys who later in their careers – seven or eight years later – will finally win the Daytona 500 or the Southern 500. And you know, those are obviously big, but a lot of them will still say to you, ‘that first one, that’s the one I’m going to remember.’”
The book is a veritable who’s who of racing royalty and includes first win stories from Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mario Andretti, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliot, Benny Parsons. There are also stories of early victories from lesser-known drivers – at least lesser-known to some of the sport’s newer fans – including Jim Roper, Rex White, Paul Goldsmith and Tim Flock. And there’s plenty of room for the stories of some of today’s future hall of famers, including Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson.
“I think the one who stood out to me the most was Benny Parsons,” Hembree said. “It was because of circumstances. He won his first race in 1971 in South Boston, Virginia. And it was Mother’s Day, so his kids weren’t there. So after the race, he calls home to tell the family he won, and his youngest son is on the phone and asks, “Was Richard Petty there?”
“His son knew Richard was winning like every two weeks back then.”
The book is packed with imagery and takes the reader beyond the numbers and right into the good stuff – the stories of those early racing victories that put many superstars on the racing map.
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