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Where Are They Now? Hut Stricklin still part of Alabama Gang

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Hut Stricklin is probably the most unlikely gang member you’ll ever meet.

But for more than two decades he ran with one of the most infamous gangs around.

It was a small crew but it was a wrecking crew nonetheless, wreaking damage and havoc from the short tracks of Alabama to the high banks of Daytona and all points in-between.

The Alabama Gang was one of the most feared collections of racing gangsters there was. Their home crib was Hueytown, Alabama and from there few could stop them from plundering checkered flags and prize money.

The original three members of the Alabama Gang (L-R) Donnie Allison, Bobby Allison, and Red Farmer, sit inside a jail cell to raise money during a charity fundraiser on October 12, 2010. Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR.

Gang members were brothers Bobby and Donnie Allison, Red Farmer, Jimmy Means, Bobby’s sons Davey and Clifford, Neil and son David Bonnett, and Stricklin, who married Donnie’s daughter, Pam (some also consider former Busch Series champ Steve Grissom as a member of the Gang).

“I was honored that I was from Alabama and to be involved with all those guys because Bobby and Donnie (Allison) and Red Farmer, they were all my childhood heroes and I got to race against all of them,” Stricklin told NBC Sports. “Then Neil Bonnett came along and I got to race against him and then Davey and I raced against each other.

“They were definitely a special group of people on and off the race track. They’d do anything to help you, regardless of what it took and I would do the same thing for them. It was a pretty cool group.”

After a successful short track career and winning the NASCAR Dash Series championship in 1986, Waymond Lane “Hut” Stricklin moved to Cup part-time in 1987. He was runner-up for Rookie of the Year in  1989 and would go on to make a total of 328 starts. While he never earned a win in NASCAR’s premier series, he had eight top-five and 29 top-10 finishes.

The 58-year-old Stricklin, whose best season was 1991 when he finished 16th driving for Bobby Allison, hung up his fire suit for good after the 2002 season.

But he’s still involved in the sport as a warehouse manager for Stock Car Steel &  Aluminum in Mooresville, North Carolina, a company whose products are used by many NASCAR teams.

“I enjoy my job and work for a great owner, Greg Fornelli, a longtime friend of mine who even sponsored a car I raced one time,” Stricklin said. “I like it because it keeps me in touch with all the race teams.

“I sometimes have to go out and fix things. A lot of the race team members know me and will say, ‘Hey man, come on in over here and look what we’re working on. Man, this is pretty cool.’

“When I was in the middle of the sport (as a driver), everything was closed doors and tight lips and they wouldn’t let you in to do that. It’s pretty cool to do that now and I see some pretty neat stuff long before it comes out.

“But I keep everything I see a secret. The racers trust me and that’s a big part of the whole sport.”

Stricklin has been with Stock Car Steel & Aluminum for the last four-plus years after owning an automobile salvage yard for more than a decade in Cleveland, North Carolina.

“I owned it for 10 years, 4 months and 3 days,” Stricklin chuckled. “A guy came in one day and asked if I’d be interested in selling. I named my price and about two months later, he took it.”

Stricklin then added with a laugh, “I guess he needed it more than I did.”

Stricklin retired from racing at the age of 41. He planned on taking 2-3 years off to get the business started, but had every intention of getting back on the race track eventually.

Hut Stricklin shares a joke with Kyle Petty during qualifying June 14, 2002 at Michigan. Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images.

Unfortunately, that never materialized.

“At age 46, I came down with a rare blood clotting disorder,” Stricklin said. “I have to live on high doses of (blood thinning medicine) for the rest of my life so there was no way I could ever take a chance of coming back, getting in a race car, going against all the doctor’s wishes.

“Every one of them told me if I ever took a lick or trauma to the head, I could bleed to death internally. When all that happened, I pretty much decided then I was done. I didn’t want to. I had aspirations to maybe drive in the Truck Series, like a lot of older drivers did. But I had to put my priorities first, had to take care of my family and do something that wasn’t as dangerous.”

Stricklin had a number of highlights in his career, but two in particular stand out.

“The first was when I finished second at Michigan to Davey Allison,” Stricklin said of the June 23, 1991 race. “We led (27 laps) of the race that day, battled Davey for the lead back and forth all day. The race on the track was definitely memorable but more so than anything for me was the flight home.

“I flew up there with Davey in his plane and flew back and also that weekend, in the ARCA race, two guys from Alabama (Dave Mader III and Roy Payne, a Texas native living in Alabama at the time) had finished 1-2 in the race the day before – and then two guys from Alabama finished 1-2 in the Cup race the next day.

“That was personal bragging rights. We got to talking about it on the plane and how the guys from Alabama went north and kicked ass. It was a pretty cool moment to live in that time with him and talk about that.”

Another memorable moment for Stricklin also involved the other runner-up finish of his Cup career, the 1996 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

“I was driving the Circuit City car for the Stavola Brothers,” Stricklin said. “We had a brand new car that we rolled out that first day of practice, it had never been on a racetrack. I never have done this, never ever in my whole career, but I rolled out on pit road and went on the track, I keyed up my radio and told the crew chief and the race team, I said, ‘Boys, this car is going to be good.’

Hut Stricklin at Sonoma Raceway on June 21, 2002. Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images.

“My crew chief came back and said, ‘How do you know that right now?’ I said, ‘All I can tell you is it has a feel in the steering wheel that it’s just going to be good.’ We qualified 10th and about 100 miles into the race we took over and should have won the race.

“We dominated, led the most laps (143) and then some young kid named Jeff Gordon came out of nowhere with (16) laps to go and passed me.

“Leaving there after running that good, even finishing second, it was still a good day for us. It was disappointing to say the least, but still one of the highlights as I look back on my career because it’s such a challenging place and some place where all the drivers want to win on because it’s such a challenging place. We didn’t win, but we had a good run.”

Stricklin was and remains popular among NASCAR fans to this day.

“Oh man, yeah,” he replied when asked if fans still recognize or reach out to him. “I have a lot of people coming here at Stock Car Steel all the time that somewhat recognize me. They’ll tell some of the sales people or someone up front and say, ‘You know, there’s a guy back there that looks just like Hut Stricklin. I wonder if anyone has ever told him that?’ (he said with a laugh).”

Stricklin drove for a number of team owners in his career, including Rod Osterlund (for whom Dale Earnhardt won his first of seven Cup championships in 1980), Bobby Allison, Junie Donlavey, Junior Johnson, Larry Hedrick, Travis Carter, Kenny Bernstein, the Stavola Brothers, Buz McCall, Scott Barbour and finished his career in 2002 with Bill Davis.

The late Davey Allison was Hut Stricklin’s best friend. Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images.

While tough competitors on the race track, Davey Allison was Stricklin’s best friend off it. It was Allison, who was killed in a helicopter crash while attempting to land at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993, who introduced Stricklin to his cousin, Pam Allison.

The couple has been married for 34 years, have two adult children Tabitha and Taylor (who is a Super Late Model racer), and still live in the same house in Mount Ulla, North Carolina.

Donnie Allison is Stricklin’s father-in-law but also holds a high place in Stricklin’s racing memories.

“I was very fortunate to race against a lot of people, but by far one of the toughest I ever had to race against was Donnie,” Stricklin said. “I never raced with him in Cup, but I raced with him in short track stuff.

“When he showed up to race, you knew you had to be right to beat him. He wasn’t one that would go wreck you and do all sorts of things, but you knew you had to be right when he showed up or you weren’t going to win the race.

“As far as Cup stuff, you have to go with the obvious, you have to go with Dale Earnhardt, he was the toughest in Cup stuff. But Donnie was the baddest dude I raced against on any short track stuff when I was coming up, that’s for sure.”

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Ryan Newman to be sponsored by Progressive Insurance at Atlanta

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Ryan Newman and his No. 6 Ford will be sponsored by Progressive Insurance this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox), Roush Fenway Racing announced Wednesday.

“We’re excited to welcome Progressive Insurance to the team this weekend in Atlanta,” Newman said in a press release. “A major brand such as theirs fits well into the NASCAR space. Atlanta makes for a challenging and entertaining race with the differing options of the preferred line, so we’re looking forward to it with Progressive on board.”

This is the first time Progressive has been a primary sponsor on a car in a national NASCAR series.

“We’re inspired by the resolve of Ryan and thrilled to be working with him and the team at Roush Fenway Racing this weekend in Atlanta,” Jay VanAntwerp, Progressive’s Media Business Leader, said in the press release. “Racing fans, and sports fans in general, are craving live events, so everyone should be thrilled at the chance to see Ryan and his fellow drivers out on the track. Progressive’s competitive spirit is a great fit for the dynamic, fast-paced action of NASCAR, so we’re looking forward to being part of that excitement with the No. 6 car wrapped in blue and white and sporting the Progressive name. Hopefully we will see Ryan take the checkered flag on Sunday afternoon.”

Newman enters Sunday’s race coming off a 15th-place finish at Bristol. In the five races since NASCAR returned on May 17 at Darlington, Newman’s best finish is 14th in the second Darlington race.

Cup drivers preparing for hotter, slicker Atlanta race after March postponement

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It’s time for NASCAR to go racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, finally.

Almost three months after it was scheduled, NASCAR will head back to Georgia for its annual race weekend at the 1.5-mile track Atlanta.

Cars were hours away from being on track on March 13 when NASCAR announced that weekend’s races were postponed due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.

All three national series will be in action, with the Cup Series highlighting the weekend with its race on Sunday (3 p.m. ET on Fox).

This is the first time the Cup Series has competed at Atlanta in June since 1965. The last five Atlanta weekends have been held in late February or early March after it was moved from Labor Day weekend in 2015.

With a forecasted temperature of 81 degrees at the start of the race, it will be the return of “Hotlanta.”

The series is preparing for the combination of warm weather and the track’s rough surface that hasn’t been repaved since 1997, thanks to petitioning by drivers.

“Atlanta is always a fun place to race because of the surface and how worn out it is,” Martin Truex Jr. said in a media release. “It has been a few years since we’ve raced there when it’s really hot to bring out just how slick the track can get, so that will be a bit of a challenge going in with no practice.”

Truex, who finished second in this race last year, is seeking his first victory of the year and his first win at Atlanta. Atlanta is one of two 1.5-mile tracks he hasn’t won at, joining Texas Motor Speedway.

Truex has failed to finish in the top 10 once in his last eight starts at Atlanta. He heads into Atlanta coming off a 20th-place finish at Bristol. Before that he had four consecutive top 10s.

“I feel pretty good about how we have ran on the bigger tracks where handling comes into play,” Truex said. “We need a little bit of speed overall, but we’ve been able to run pretty well at tracks where the surface is slicker, so I feel confident about the car we’ll unload and how we’ll run on Sunday.”

With the track’s rough surface, restarts will be vital according to Kyle Busch, a two-time winner at Atlanta.

“I don’t know if it has to do with the asphalt mix or whatever when they paved that place that now you can definitely tell the difference between the inside lane and that outside lane,” Busch said in a media release. “Also, the inside guy has a straighter launch than the guy on the outside – he’s always kind of turning so that’s something to be said for it. Overall, it’s just some places are that way. Atlanta is the worst for the launch. The application of throttle to not spin the rear tires is so crucial there and it’s so easy to do when you’re in that outside lane.”

Busch was the winner of the 2013 Atlanta race, which was held Labor Day weekend. That was also Toyota’s last Cup win there.

“Atlanta is one of those places where anything can happen and we’ll definitely have to be on our toes there this weekend,” Busch said. “You have to have good grip there, you have to have good (tire) fall-off – you have to be fast to start a run, yet you don’t want to fall off more than anybody else. So you have to take care of your stuff and bide your time a little bit. That lends itself to options by the driver to either push hard early (in the run) or save a little and be there late. We went there several months ago and didn’t get to race there, so expecting the weekend to be much different this time around than when we traveled there in March.”

Like Truex, Busch is looking for his first win of the year. Should they or any other Toyota or Chevrolet driver win, they would end a three-year reign by Ford on the 1.5-mile track.

Brad Keselowski won two of those races and Kevin Harvick claimed the other.

Bubba Wallace joins Mike Tirico on Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN

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Bubba Wallace will be on today’s “Lunch Talk Live” with host Mike Tirico. The show airs at Noon ET on NBCSN.

“Lunch Talk Live” focuses on the current state of the sports world, providing guests with a platform to discuss the state of sports, voice their personal stories and detail how they are adapting their daily lives during this challenging time.

You can also watch the show online here.

Wallace is also a guest on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download, which airs at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Today’s scheduled guests are:

  • 12:00 p.m. – Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills head coach
  • 12:15 p.m. – Bubba Wallace
  • 12:30 p.m. – James Hinchcliffe, IndyCar driver
  • 12:40 p.m. –  Ken Niumatalolo, Navy football head coach
  • 12:50 p.m. – Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets captain

 

Bubba Wallace encourages drivers to speak on social issues

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Bubba Wallace, at times emotional in discussing the recent killings of unarmed black men, said on the Dale Jr. Download that he needs to be more vocal on such matters and encouraged fellow NASCAR drivers to do the same.

“Through all the chaos that has gone on in the world, all of the African Americans, all of the unarmed black men and women being killed, I’ve been silent,” Wallace said on the Dale Jr. Download. “I’ve read all of them and I’ve been silent. I just felt that wasn’t my place. That was a huge mistake.”

Wallace, the only black driver competing in the Cup Series, said he’s reached out to fellow competitors and NASCAR officials and encouraged them to speak out in the days after George Floyd was killed while in custody of Minneapolis police on May 25. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Wednesday, the murder charged was changed to second-degree murder. Also, three other former Minneapolis police officers were charged with aiding and abetting murder on Wednesday.

“We have got to do better, we’ve got to step up,” Wallace said on the show about a message he sent to fellow Cup drivers. “I encourage everybody to say what they feel. … This is way more important than any race win, any championship that you’ve ever accomplished. This is something that can change on a global impact.”

Wallace also discussed a conversation he had with Chase Elliott.

“I texted him (Monday) night,” Wallace said. “I said, hey man, you’re the biggest name in our sport right now bud, like it or not. You’re the biggest name and your voice carries over much more than mine in our sport. I said don’t be silent on this please, don’t let it go under wraps.

“He was like, I know it’s tough to comment on and I’ve been trying to come up with something. What’s really going to change? I said Chase I don’t know but think about this. Imagine a follower, two followers that you have in how many you got. One is a person that is going to go hate somebody, go kill somebody today and the other one is somebody that is getting discriminated against.

“Imagine you saying something and both of those people look at that and they’re like, ‘Wow, that changed who I am today. I’m not going to hate on anybody anymore. I’m not going to be discriminated against. I’m going to stand up for what’s right.’

“Imagine your words changing somebody else’s life. Being silent on that they could have just (said) ‘I was waiting for somebody to tell me something.’ We have that platform and that voice to tell people we have got to stop and change our ways. That’s how to think about it.

“Could my words have helped people? Pissed off people for sure. It could have helped that one person that needed it and didn’t know it. Wow Bubba Wallace just said that, he’s my favorite driver. You know what, I’m going to change my life today because of that. That makes me feel good.”

Wallace became emotional on the Dale Jr. Download as he described seeing the video of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man, gunned down in February in Georgia after a white father and son followed him. They and a third man have been charged with murder in connection with Arbery’s death.

“My heart was broken and my stomach was ripped out of my body when I saw that video and even thinking about it I’m getting emotional about it now, thinking about that video and seeing how an unarmed black man … to be jogging down the street and being hunted by two armed civilians and shot and killed in broad daylight with the other guy videoing and it sounded like he was loading his gun and ready to do the same thing.

“So that’s my take on that, and I’m just like what kind of world do we live I where we hunt people and take their life away because we assume something? We assume that this is a black guy that is terrorizing our neighborhood so we’re going to go kill him? What in the hell, man? I don’t see how people can wake up and think like that.”

Wallace later said: “I’m taking an effort to understand where all the hate, where all the anger, the pain, the suffering is coming from. I’m doing my research, I’m learning about things. I feel better about speaking out about it.”

Wallace also told the story of a cousin who was killed in a police shooting in 2003 in Tennessee.

“We were at my sister’s basketball tournament, I can’t remember where,” he said. “I was running around the gym with all the brothers and sisters there and all of a sudden I hear a scream like the worst scream that you want to hear, not like somebody scared you straight, like something bad had just happened. I look over and I see my mom running out the door and we had just found out that my cousin was shot and killed by a police officer.”

A judge later cleared the officer in the shooting. The family filed a civil suit and lost in court on appeal.

Wallace will appear on Lunch Talk Live with host Mike Tirico on Wednesday on NBCSN. The show airs at noon ET.

The Dale Jr. Download with Wallace airs at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN.