By admin | August 10, 2008
By Richard Allen
J.D. McDuffie stood for everything a NASCAR racer is, or was, supposed to stand for. He worked hard, he never gave up and he struggled against the odds. These characteristics are exemplified by the fact that he still holds the record for the most starts, 653, by a Sprint Cup Series driver without a win.
Unfortunately, McDuffie lost his life at Watkins Glen International in 1991.
Entering what was then Turn 5 on the road course as it was set up back then, McDuffie’s car went out of control across a grassy section and slammed into a guard rail and tire barrier. Shortly afterwards, McDuffie was pronounced dead.
Since that time, track officials added a chicane at the end of what is often referred to as the back stretch to slow the speed of the cars before they enter the right hand turn that had previously been called Turn 5.
This chicane is called by several names including the “Bus Stop” and the “Inner Loop”.
On European tracks it is somewhat common for sections of race tracks to be named after drivers or other people who played significant roles in the history of racing. This is one case in which it would be a good idea to bring that custom to American road racing.
Instead of “Bus Stop” or “Inner Loop”, why not rename that section of the track the “J.D. McDuffie Chicane”.
I know this is probably not going to happen particularly because McDuffie’s widow, Ima Jean, sued the speedway for $4.25 million after her husband’s death. That case was eventually thrown out of court because the judge said McDuffie was aware of the risks involved before he started the race.
It may be time to allow any remaining hard feelings to pass and honor a man who stood for the best in NASCAR and who ultimately gave his life for the sport he loved.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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