Walter “Bud” Moore Jr., a NASCAR championship owner and crew chief, as well as a decorated war hero, passed away Monday night at the age of 92.
Moore was born on May 25, 1925, in Spartanburg, South Carolina and once described himself as “an old country mechanic who loved to make ‘em run fast.”
As a young man, he was drafted into the Army and went off to serve his country as an infantryman. Moore returned from World War II as a highly decorated hero with two Bronze Stars and five Purple Hearts.
He showed that same level of commitment and focus when he began his racing career and was a prominent figure in the early days of NASCAR. When you talk about the founding fathers of NASCAR, you’re talking about Bud Moore.
He owned and operated a NASCAR team for 37 years and in 959 starts accumulated 63 victories, 43 poles, 298 top-five finishes and 463 top-10s.
Moore was the crew chief for Buck Baker when Baker won the championship in 1957. He won back to back championships as a car owner with Joe Weatherly in 1962 and 1963. Moore also won a Grand American championship in 1968 with Tiny Lund and a Sports Car Club of America Trans-Am title in 1970 with Parnelli Jones.
If you take a look at the biggest names in NASCAR history, it’s difficult to find anyone who hasn’t driven a Bud Moore car. Those drivers include David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Fireball Roberts, Bobby Alison, Buddy Baker, Billy Wade, Darrell Waltrip, Ricky Rudd, Morgan Shepherd, Dale Earnhardt and more.
Bud Moore had a front row seat to NASCAR’s future stars.
“The thing is, a lot of people ask me, who was the best? They all were good,” Moore once 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 can’t pick a favorite. I liked them all.”
Moore’s cars also won at some of NASCAR’s most prestigious tracks. Darel Dieringer won the Darlington Southern 500 in 1966. Baker won three straight races at Talladega in 1975 and 1976 in Moore owned cars. Allison won the Daytona 500 and the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1978.
Moore closed his shop and retired from racing in 1999. It was a familiar story of talent versus money.
“I spent a bunch of my own money keeping the team alive, keeping the shop and keeping key personnel on board,” Moore said. “Whenever we thought we had a sponsor deal, somebody would say to them, ‘Wait a minute. Why in the world would you spend millions on Bud Moore? We’ll put you on four or five cars for a million.’ If that was you, what would you do? You’d go on four or five cars. So that put us out of business. From 1994 to 1999, there were 23 single-car teams that went out of business.”
In 2011 Moore’s dedication and expertise were honored as he was inducted into the second class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. His reaction was poignant.
“I’m really thrilled,” he said. “You just don’t know how thrilled I really am to be chosen. It is one of the greatest moments of my life.”
There is no standardized template for the perfect Hall of Fame candidate. It’s not as simple as comparing statistics to determine who comes out on top. Each individual’s contributions, both on and off the track, must be considered. For often indefinable reasons, there are always those special few who shape the sport for future generations.
Moore was one such man.
“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,” said NASCAR chairman Brian France in a statement issued Tuesday morning.
“Moore, a decorated veteran of World War II, served our country before dominating our sport as both a crew chief and, later, an owner. As a crew chief, Moore guided NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker to a championship in 1957. As an owner, he captured consecutive titles in 1962-63 with another Hall of Famer, Joe Weatherly. Those successes, along with many more, earned him his own spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.
“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.”
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