Inaugural Talladega runner-up Jim Vandiver remembered

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Former NASCAR driver Jim Vandiver is being remembered after passing away Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.

Vandiver, of suburban Huntersville, died Thursday in a local hospital, where he had been since Monday after complaining of chest pains. He was 75.

Vandiver raced part-time on the NASCAR Grand National and Winston Cup circuits from 1968 through 1983. In 85 career starts, he had 19 top 10 finishes, including five top-five showings.

The most notable finish of Vandiver’s career was runner-up in the inaugural Talladega 500 on Sept. 14, 1969, at what was then called Alabama International Motor Speedway (now known as Talladega Superspeedway).

Several of NASCAR’s top drivers elected to bypass that race out of safety concerns that tires on the race cars could not sustain speeds closing on 200 mph, according to a story Friday by veteran motorsports writer Tom Higgins in the Charlotte Observer.

But Vandiver and a number of replacement drivers agreed to compete and the race went on as scheduled, with Vandiver, in a Dodge owned by legendary Raymond Fox, finishing second to race winner Richard Brickhouse.

Vandiver dominated that race, leading 13 times for 102 laps. Brickhouse took the lead with 10 laps to go and rolled to a seven-second advantage at the checkered flag, something that Vandiver never accepted, believing there was a scoring error due to the number of cautions in that race.

“I won that race,” Vandiver said, according to Higgins’ story. “I had Brickhouse down almost a lap.”

Tommy Vandiver told Higgins that his brother maintained that viewpoint for the rest of his life.

“If Jim was alive right now, he’d insist he won that Talladega race,” Tommy Vandiver told Higgins. “Jim and Ray Fox protested the finish, but it wasn’t upheld.

“It was tough to take, but on the other hand, through the years we had a lot of good times in racing and made some great life-long friends.”

Tommy Vandiver also related to Higgins a humorous incident involving himself and his brother during a Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in the 1970s.

A trio of sheriff’s deputies were waiting for Jim Vandiver after the race to hand him a summons in a civil matter once the race was over.

Late in the race, Tommy Vandiver held up a pit board with the word “LAW” written on it.

“As the race ended, Jim spun his car in Turn 3, hustled from the cockpit, scampered up the banking and disappeared over the rail.

He thus evaded the officers,” Higgins wrote.

“By the time the deputies realized what was going on, Jim was headed back home to Charlotte,” a laughing Tommy Vandiver remembered and told Higgins.

In addition to his brother, Jim Vandiver is survived by sons Emory and Rhett and daughters Shannon and Nicole Bryan, as well as a sister, Lillian Hoopaugh.

A viewing and service for Vandiver will take place Monday  afternoon at Huntersville United Methodist Church.

A private burial will take place at Northlake Memorial Gardens.

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Daniel Hemric fastest in first Coca-Cola 600 practice

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Daniel Hemric was fastest in the first Cup Series practice session for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

Hemric posted a top speed of 182.791 mph around Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He was followed by Chase Elliott (182.340 mph), William Byron (182.211), Kyle Busch (182.168) and Jimmie Johnson (182.168).

Alex Bowman was seventh to put all four Hendrick Motorsports cars in the top 10.

Austin Dillon in eighth gave Chevrolet six cars in the top 10.

Landon Cassill recorded the most laps in the session with 37. He was 32nd on the speed chart.

Click here for the speed chart.

Shane Lee to drive for new Xfinity team with Circuit City sponsorship

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Richard Childress Racing driver Shane Lee will compete for a new Xfinity Series team, H2 Motorsports, the team announced Thursday at Charlotte Motor speedway

Owned by 23-year-old entrepreneur and venture capitalist Matt Hurley, the team will be sponsored by Circuit City and will field Lee in the No. 28 Toyota with support from Toyota Racing Development. They’ll debut June 16 at Iowa Speedway with plans to compete for the rest of the season.

Circuit City, which is primarily an online store now, was notably a sponsor of Hut Stricklin from 1996-98 in the Cup Series.

“I grew up an avid race fan, my parents are from the Midwest and I’ve followed the sport very, very closely since I was a young kid,” Hurley said. “More recently felt like there was an opportunity to go into the sport and bring some of our invested brands back into the sport. I’ve really taken an interest in kind of trying to find a way in.

“We felt like now is the right time to enter the sport, to come in in a competitive way. … Felt like TRD was the right partner to help us do that in a competitive way.”

Lee, 25, competed in the Xfinity Series last year, making 13 starts in RCR’s No. 3 Chevrolet. His best result and only top five was a fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway in October.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Lee said. “I met Matt at a couple races last year. We actually became pretty good friends and we weren’t really even working on a racing deal. Probably January or February we started talking about the race deal and wanting to get into racing. We sort of went from there and he got himself figured out and he really went down the line and hired some really good people.”

Lee will be paired with crew chief Pete Rondeau. Rondeau has 103 Cup races to his name, including as crew chief for Regan Smith’s 2011 Southern 500 win.

Rondeau also has one Xfinity Series win with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Bristol in 2004.

“I’ve had a history of accepting challenges,” Rondeau said. “As we did with Furniture Row team, we worked hard and … it ended up flourishing into a championship-caliber team. To me this is no different right here. We have a good core group and I’m happy to work with them. It’s going to be fun and a whole lot of work at the same time.”

Gallery: Coca-Cola 600 patriotic paint schemes

Photos by Daniel McFadin
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With Memorial Day weekend here, many NASCAR teams will be racing patriotic paint schemes in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Here’s a look at the unique schemes that will compete in NASCAR’s longest race.

All photos by Daniel McFadin.

Landon Cassill – No. 00 Chevrolet

Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford

Ryan Newman – No. 6 Ford

Aric Almirola – No. 10 Ford

Ty Dillon – No. 13 Chevrolet

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – No. 17 Ford

William Byron – No. 24 Chevrolet

Corey LaJoie – No. 32 Ford


Michael McDowell – No. 34 Ford

Matt Tifft – No. 36 Ford

David Ragan – No. 36 Ford

Ryan Preece – No. 47 Chevrolet

Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet

Cody Ware – No. 51 Ford

Bayley Currey – No. 52 Ford

BJ McLeod – No. 53 Chevrolet

Alex Bowman – No. 88 Chevrolet


Kyle Larson wins Speed 51 Open kart race

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Kyle Larson kept his winning ways going Wednesday night when he won an Outlaw Kart race at Millbridge Speedway in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Four days after his win in the Monster Energy All-Star Race, Larson took the lead on Lap 2 of the 51-lap Speed 51 Open and led the rest of the way.

Larson held off Chase Majdic for the win, his second in the event.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver won despite losing his muffler in the middle of the race and having to replace his left side upper wing earlier in the night after a qualifying event.

Larson has a busy weekend ahead of him with World of Outlaws races at The Dirt Track at Charlotte on Friday and Saturday night, the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, and the Word of Outlaws’ Memorial Day Classic at Lawrenceburg Speedway in Indiana on Monday.