I was thinking about what I should write about this week. Should it be Kurt Busch's suspension, Reutimann filling in for him, James Finch's comments, the Prelude to the Dream action, Twitter joining forces with NASCAR, the newly repaved Pocono Raceway or Greg Biffle on American Restoration. I ended up chosing none of these in light of the tragic lose of NASCAR legend: Cotton Owens.
This probably won't be my most popular article due to the lack of controversy in it but I ask this of everyone who reads this. Tweet this to your followers, share it on Facebook and make sure you can teach people about Cotton so that he can be remembered like he deserves & should be. I may only be 18 but I know who Cotton Owens was and in tribute and in memory to him, I want to make sure other people know who he was too.
*The Early Days of Cotton Owens*
Everett "Cotton" Owens was born May 21st, 1924 in Spartanburg, SC. Cotton was also nicknamed "King of the Modifieds" for his hundreds of NASCAR Modified victories. He is considered one of the best mechanics in NASCAR history and he also wasn't too bad of a driver either. In his 160 NASCAR Cup starts, Owens earned 9 wins, 52 top 5's, 84 top 10's with 10 poles one of which was the 1960 Daytona 500. He went on to finish 2nd in that race.
*An Interview with Cotton Owens*
Cotton's famous white #6 with red wheels and red number was one to be feared and one to be noticed on the track. In an interview with Christpher R. Phillip Cotton explained the reasoning for the unique paint job.
"I like it because it shows up real good on the racetrack. If you've got a scorer in the stands, you've got to keep up with the number of laps that you're running. You want to be able to see it and spot it real quick so you won't miss it, and get you a lap behind."
Cotton also told a story about the inagural Daytona 500 that was pretty interesting:
"Fireball Roberts had a new '59 Pontiac. I didn't have one. So I went to my shop where I had four '58s that were wrecked. I took those four wrecked cars and put them all together into one race car. I showed up at Daytona a week later (than the other racers), and Fireball Roberts had the pole at 140 mph. I set a record by 3 mph faster than Fireball in my '58 Pontiac at 143.198 mph"
*The End of his Drving Career*
Owens first win came at the famous Beach at Daytona in 1957 where he won by nearly a minute over 1959 Daytona 500 runner-up Johnny Beauchamp. Cotton was the first person in NASCAR history to win a race for Pontiac which went on to win 153 more NASCAR races the last being in 2003 with Ricky Craven. In 1959, Cotton was runner-up in the standings to 3 time champion & patriarch of the Petty dynasty Lee.
Cotton Owens hung up his helmet in the early 60's and became an owner. He was the one that gave the "Silver Fox" David Pearson his first big shot. To show just what kind of guy Cotton was, listen to this story. When David Pearson first started driving his cars, he made a bunch of rookie mistakes dispite showing loads of promise. He made Cotton so mad that at Richmond, in 1964, Owens took a 2nd car to the race to show Pearson how it's done. Cotton won the race by over a lap over his very own driver and future 3x champion & 105x winner David Pearson. That was Owen's 9th and final career win as a driver.
*Cotton Owens the Car Owner*
Cotton won 38 races as a NASCAR owner in the Cup Series. NASCAR HOF'ers and legends Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Buddy Baker were just some of the names that won races driving for him. Along with 38 wins in 404 starts as an owner, Cotton's team earned 177 top 5's, 241 top 10's, 33 poles and lead nearly 10,000 laps. On top of all that, the Owens team took home the 1966 NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) title with driver David Pearson by nearly 2,000 points!
The father of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt also made his NASCAR debut driving for Owens finishing a respectable 7th. Some of the most famous names in motorsports drove his cars including David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Pete Hamilton, Ralph Earnhardt, Bobby Isaac, Junior Johnson, Benny Parsons, Fireball Roberts, Mario Andretti, and Al Unser just to name a few.
*We have lost a Great Man*
Cotton Owens was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame in 1970, named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998 and in 2013 he will be inducted into the NASCAR HOF. Cotton was a great racer, an ace mechanic, an outstanding owner and a wonderful man.
He passed away on June 7th, 2012 at the age of 88 after a 7 year battle with lung cancer. He is without a doubt one of the best and will always be remembered by the racing community. If you have any doubt about the toughness and incrediable ability of Cotton Owens, you should know that he raced nearly his whole career with double vision. Rest in piece Cotton; we will always miss you & you will never be forgotten.