Walter "Bud" Moore A Larger Than Life American
(Note: This is the third release on the five 2011 inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, in Charlotte, N.C. The induction ceremony is scheduled for May 23. Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore, David Pearson and Lee Petty are the inductees. This installment spotlights former owner Walter "Bud" Moore.)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Through 85 years of life, Walter "Bud" Moore has seen it all -- and then some.
A decorated member of America's "Greatest Generation," self-described country mechanic and NASCAR premier series championship car owner and crew chief, Moore becomes the oldest living member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame upon induction on May 23.
Moore could be said to be larger than life, both literally and figuratively. Well over six-feet tall and angular with a craggy countenance, Moore, born in Spartanburg, S.C., in 1925, couldn't be missed in the garage -- or in Victory Lane, where his cars won during parts of four decades beginning in 1961 when Joe Weatherly collected Moore's first full-race victory, at 0.5-mile Rambi Speedway in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Weatherly had won a couple of qualifying points races -- at Daytona and Charlotte -- prior to the Myrtle Beach win.
But that's getting ahead of the story of Moore's amazing life.
At age 18, with the world at war, U.S. Army machine gunner Moore was front and center in the allies' push to liberate Europe. He went ashore on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and fought through the remainder of the campaign.
Moore received two Bronze Stars -- the first for capturing 15 German soldiers and four officers during the Battle of the Bulge. He was promoted to sergeant and wounded five times before hostilities ended in August 1945.
"We had a job to do and a lot of good men died doing it," said Moore later.
Auto racing was a destination for many returning veterans. NASCAR was born in 1948 and Moore, as a South Carolinian who enjoyed fixing cars, would make the organization his life's work.
As a mechanic, crew chief and car owner, Moore had few peers. He won his first championship, as a crew chief, in 1957 with Buck Baker.
But the 1978 Daytona 500 in the Bud Moore Thunderbird was the still the biggest thing in my career...
Moore and Weatherly proved to be a virtually unstoppable combination. The duo won eight times in 1961.
NASCAR premier series championships followed in 1962-63 as the pair won 12 races.
Sadly, Weatherly died in early 1964 during a race at the old Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway, breaking up what could have been a dynasty rivaling that of Petty Enterprises and other top teams of the era.
Moore's team would not win another title but came close with such top drivers as Billy Wade, Darel Dieringer, Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, Dale Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd and Morgan Shepherd. Each managed to finish among the top 10 in the championship standings at least once -- Allison the runner-up in 1978.
Others who sat behind the wheel of Moore's cars over the years included Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Rex White, Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough, Tiny Lund, Darrell Waltrip, Benny Parsons and Bobby Isaac.
When Ford wanted to challenge Chevrolet, Dodge and Plymouth in the Sports Car Club of America's Trans-Am Series, the automaker turned to Moore and Bud Moore Engineering.
It was the right choice. Moore hired Parnelli Jones and won the series' 1970 championship.
Allison, who joins his former car owner in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's second class, won the 1978 Daytona 500, a feat not previously accomplished by Moore or Allison.
Bud seems to be real hard, a real tough guy, crusty -- and he is.
"It was the greatest day of my career and it remained there," said Allison. "I won some more races. I won the (Coca-Cola) 600 at Charlotte and won at Dover, Atlanta, Rockingham and Pocono. But the 1978 Daytona 500 in the Bud Moore Thunderbird was the still the biggest thing in my career until I finally got that championship several years later."
Moore's final victory came in May 1993 at Infineon Raceway in California, his Ford driven by Geoffrey Bodine.
Those who didn't know Moore only saw a sometimes gruff, no-nonsense owner who did things the "old school" way. Moore had a singular vision as to how his team -- and his drivers -- should perform. Anything less than 100 percent was unacceptable.
"Bud seems to be real hard, a real tough guy, crusty -- and he is," said Rudd, who won six times in a Bud Moore Ford between 1984 and 1987. "But there's not a thing he wouldn't do for any of his friends to help out somebody."