Johnny Rutherford

War hero, legendary NASCAR team owner Bud Moore dies

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Walter M. “Bud” Moore humbly referred to himself as “an old country mechanic who loved to make (race cars) run fast,” but he was so much more.

He was a highly decorated World War II veteran, who founded an engineering company and went on to become one of the most successful team owners in NASCAR history.

A lifelong resident of Spartanburg, South Carolina, Moore passed away at the age of 92.

Born May 25, 1925, Moore enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 at the age of 18, shortly after graduating high school. He was a machine gunner assigned to the 90th Infantry Division. 

One year later, Moore was among more than two million American and Allied forces who took part in D-Day, the largest military invasion in history.

By the time the war ended in 1945, Moore would earn two Bronze Star Medals for heroic actions and five Purple Hearts for being injured in combat – sustaining shrapnel wounds four separate times and the fifth for being shot.

While he typically downplayed his injuries or how many considered him a war hero, Moore said one of his highlights during the war was serving under General George S. Patton.

“If you asked any man in the Third Army, they’d have followed (Patton) into hell,” Moore said. “He was a commanding general who wouldn’t send you anywhere he wouldn’t go himself.”

Moore returned to Spartanburg after the war and formed Bud Moore Engineering in 1947.

“Three of us from Spartanburg, Bill Eubanks, Cotton Owens and I decided that racing was a way to make a living with this sport,” Moore said.

After serving as crew chief for Buck Baker’s NASCAR Grand National championship effort in 1957, Moore began his own team in 1961, one that would last through 2000, including more than 30 years with Ford.

Moore had a stellar list of drivers that raced for him including Joe Weatherly, Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Johnny Rutherford, Rex White, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby and Donnie Allison, Bobby Isaac, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Buddy Baker, Benny Parsons and Ricky Rudd.

Weatherly won back-to-back NASCAR Grand National championships for Moore in 1962 and 1963, while Tiny Lund won the inaugural NASCAR Grand American championship for Moore in 1968.

Among other highlights of Moore’s ownership career: Parnelli Jones won the 1970 Sports Car Club of America Trans-Am championship and Bobby Allison won the 1978 Daytona 500.

In addition to his two Grand National championships and one Grand American title, Moore earned 63 wins, 298 top fives and 463 top 10s in 958 races as an owner in NASCAR’s premier series.

Moore was part of the second class to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.

“It’s an honor to be one of the first 10 inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” Moore said in his acceptance speech. “It means a lot to see my contribution as a car owner recognized like this.

“My daughter-in-law once asked me how I wanted to be remembered. The answer is simple: One who made many contributions to building the sport, whose handshake was good as any contract, who always gave a straight answer. Most of all to be remembered as a man who loved his family, his country and the sport of racing.”

Moore is survived by sons Daryl (wife Carol), Brent (wife Nancy) and Greg (fiancé Roberta), grandchildren: Melissa Moore Padgett (Tommy), Candace Moore Glover (Tommy), Benjamin Moore (Kristen), Thomas Moore, and Brittany Moore, along with seven great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

He is also survived by brothers, Ralph, William, and Richard Moore and sister, Ann Moore Elder. He was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Betty Clark Moore, and his brothers, Charles, Cecil and Donald Moore and sisters, Edith Moore Gregory and Helen Moore McKinney.

Services and arrangements will be announced at a later date.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said: “Many choose the word ‘hero’ when describing athletes who accomplish otherworldly sporting feats. Oftentimes, it’s an exaggeration. But when detailing the life of the great Bud Moore, it’s a description that fits perfectly. Moore, a decorated veteran of World War II, served our country before dominating our sport as both a crew chief and, later, an owner.

“On behalf of all of NASCAR, I offer my condolences to Bud’s family, friends and fans. We will miss Bud, a giant in our sport, and a true American hero.”

NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley said: “First and foremost, on behalf of everyone at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, we offer our most sincere condolences to the entire Moore family. Walter “Bud” Moore was truly a hero in every sense of the word. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes a hero as: ‘A person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.’ Many may fit one of these categories but very few fit into each. Bud left an indelible mark on NASCAR. We are humbled that he considers his crowning achievement as his induction in the second class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, one of our first 10 inductees. That alone speaks to the magnitude of his accomplishments and contributions to NASCAR as both a championship owner and crew chief.”

Edsel B. Ford II said, “All of us involved in Ford’s racing program mourn the passing of Bud Moore.  He embodied the true meaning of the word hero, from storming the beaches of Normandy during D-Day in World War II to working his way up to the top levels of both the SCCA and NASCAR as a championship car owner.  Bud changed the lives of countless drivers and crew members for several decades on his way to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but he was a humble, simple man who never forgot his South Carolina roots.  A loyal Ford man and a man of honor.   We send our deepest condolences to his sons Greg, Daryl and Brent.”

Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch said, “I got to know Bud back in the 1980s and he was one of a kind. He was a teacher of our sport, a blue-collar team owner who helped many drivers become legends and better men. Oh, the stories he would tell about the early days of the sport when he, (MRN’s) Barney Hall, Dick Brooks (former driver and MRN analyst) and I would play golf. He would always put a smile on your face. Bud was a true pioneer and building block of our sport. And his legacy, especially here at Talladega, will live on.”

WALTER M. “BUD” MOORE

Hometown: Spartanburg, S.C.

Born: May 25, 1925

NASCAR championships: 1962 and 1963 Grand National title; 1968 Grand America title; also was crew chief on Buck Baker’s 1957 championship team.

Career starts: 958

Wins: 63

Poles: 43

Daytona 500 wins: 1 (1978) plus three qualifying races (1961, 1962 and 1965)

Most wins at one track: 7 at Richmond (1961, 1962, 1963, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984)

Second-most wins at one track: 5 at Talladega (1975, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1983)