New England legend Ron Bouchard died Thursday after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 67 years old.
Bouchard was not the first New England driver to come to NASCAR, but he was one of the most successful. Racing for New England based Race Hill Farms and Jack Beebe, he debuted in NASCAR in the 1981 Valleydale 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway and qualified third. Barely 10 races later, he won the 1981 Talladega 500 and went on to compete in a total of 160 NASCAR Cup races during his career. Bouchard won the 1981 Rookie of the Year honors.
“It was a tough battle,” Ed Flemke Jr., Bouchard’s brother-in-law told RaceDayCT.com. “But he fought the good fight, as he always did.”
Like many drivers before and since, Bouchard also ran in NASCAR’s support division and he scored two wins on one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks in what has become the Xfinity series. In 1984 he won both races held at Darlington Raceway from the pole.
Bouchard helped pave the way for many other New England racers and he did so because he first built a solid fan base on the New England short tracks. “I think because he was such a large figure in the Modified family, when he did finally go Cup racing he had such a strong following that I think he had a bigger impact than the guys before him,” Flemke said.