The loss of the Silver Fox last night hurt the NASCAR community. For the first time in 17 years, 8 months and 25 days, the NASCAR community lost a member of its Mount Rushmore. (For example, Rushmore in this consensus is Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, David Pearson and Jimmie Johnson (or Jeff Gordon).) David Pearson, the winner of 105 races from 1961 to 1980, passed away last night at age 83. The loss is devastating, as Pearson to Petty was the Rubens Barichello to the Michael Schumacher in Formula One. However, the gift of NASCAR being only 70 years old, we have not lost many iconic legends yet.
NASCAR, only in its 70th season of racing as an organization, still has a living number of legends in their own right, living to tell stories. For example, there are drivers from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s who can all tell their stories. In 2 years, we have a chance for those in the 2020s. All of the drivers over the years have their own stories, and they all have to influence generations of NASCAR fans to come.
For example, the big four sports, particularly baseball, which is over 150 years old, legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson and Rogers Hornsby are all dead. They were all gone a long time before their stories could influence modern generations. However, thanks to the stories of all the years they were in the league, we preserve their legends to generations of children around the world.
In NASCAR, there are still living members of every generation of NASCAR save for the late 1940s. Starting with the 1949 season, of the winners of the 8 scheduled races, Jim Roper died on June 23, 2000. Roper died about two months after Lee Petty. Lloyd Moore, of Frewsburg, New York, was the last living member of the 1950 season, passing on May 18, 2008. His last race was in 1955 at Darlington, where he finished 24th, 24 laps down.
The eldest living driver based on seasons in NASCAR is Neil Cole, whose first race was the 1950 race at Vernon Fairgrounds (Vernon, New York). That race, the sixth in the season, he finished 18th in the #89 car. He also ran the race at Langhorne in September 1950. The native of Oakland, New Jersey, participated in five races in the 1951 season. On October 12, 1951 at Thompson Speedway in Thompson, Connecticut, Cole won the pole for the race, beating the field by a full lap over Jim Reed. Cole in the 1950 Oldsmobile from John Golabek, raced at Martinsville later that year.
At age 26, Cole went into the 1952 season and participated in 11 races. He never won another race. His best finish was third at Morristown Speedway in his home state in New Jersey. That day, he finished four laps down. Cole’s final NASCAR premier series race was at Langhorne on May 3, 1953. Driving a Golabek-owned Plymouth, he finished 24th. He never started another NASCAR race.
Neil Cole, now 92, is a good example of how amazing it is to have a NASCAR driver still in the sport. For example, of the 1951 World Series winning Yankees, only 2 players are still living. (Art Schallock, age 94, and Charlie Silvera, age 94). With the concept of NASCAR’s age, we still need to get Neil Cole to tell his story while we still have a chance.
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