11/11/2008 - Bud Moore's Memories of Darlington
By Jim McLaurin
Darlington, S.C. (Nov. 10, 2008) Bud Moore won't be pinned down by the question about his favorite driver at Darlington. Metaphorically speaking, he holds up a fistful of cards and says, "Pick one."
"Well, they all stick out," said 83-year-old Moore, whose 63 NASCAR Sprint Cup wins as a team owner still holds him in ninth place on the all-time list. "To go to Darlington, run 500 miles and win a race there - especially the Southern 500, in the heat of the day like they had there - it was a real honor. "I won there with (Joe) Weatherly, (Buck) Baker, (Dale) Earnhardt, Speedy Thompson, Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker - they all were good."
Indeed, over Moore's 37 years as the head of Bud Moore Engineering (and many more seasons as a crew chief or part-owner), his resume looks like the dance card of the belle of an old-fashioned ball.
In addition to those mentioned above, also taking a turn at his wheel were Fireball Roberts, Darel Dieringer, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Isaac, Darrell Waltrip, Donnie Allison, Geoff Bodine, Ricky Rudd, Brett Bodine, and Morgan Shepherd. Talk about a stable.
Moore fielded a Pontiac for Weatherly in 1962 when the little bulldog of a driver won his first championship, and when General Motors retreated from racing in 63, Moore provided cars for Weatherly at the circuits major races. Weatherly scrounged rides from eight other team owners, and he won his second title in 1963, so Moore gets at least a piece of that one, too.
But Moore doesnt necessarily count Weatherly as his first champion, or Weatherlys 63 Rebel 300 victory as his first Darlington win. For those, Moore said, you have to dig a little deeper.
"Speedy Thompson won the 1957 Southern 500, and I was the crew chief," Moore said. "That year I had Speedy and Buck Baker. We won the 500 with Speedy, and the championship with Buck."
He does count Weatherlys Rebel 300 win, however, as one of his favorites at Darlington.
To spice things up, track president Bob Colvin devised a two-part race, each 151 miles on the 1.366-mile circuit. Weatherly beat Junior Johnson on the final lap of the first half-race, then finished second to Richard Petty in the second to take the overall win.
In 1966, Dieringers Southern 500 win was in a Mercury Comet, which by then had grown from a compact to a still-smallish mid-size car which Moore helped Ford Motor Company to develop.
"I pioneered the Comet," Moore said. "We ran the Mercury Marauder in '63, '64 and part of '65, and late in '65 they came out with the Comet, so we built one. We took it to Darlington, and it was unbelievable how good it handled and ran. We outran them so bad it was unbelievable."
Favorite win? Maybe. Favorite driver? The jurys still out on that one.
"The thing is, a lot of people ask me who was the best? They all were good," Moore said. "Some were better on some racetracks and others were better on others.
"Buddy Baker was the best on mile-and-a-half, two-mile racetracks. Bobby Allison was good on all the racetracks, and Dale Earnhardt was just as good, or better.
"But those (last) two stand out to me, as far as being drivers on all the tracks.
"But I cant pick a favorite. I liked em all."
Be a part of history when Darlington Raceway celebrates 60 years of racing in 2009. Tickets to the 2009 Southern 500, as well as the NASCAR Nationwide Series Diamond Hill Plywood 200 are on-sale now. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Darlington Raceway ticket office at 866-459-RACE or online at darlingtonraceway.com/tickets/.