Series #3 best Daytona 500 debut - Joe Ruttman

Best Daytona 500 Debut No. 3: Ruttman Rolled To 3rd Place In 1982 (Note: This is the third installment in a five-part series on some of the best Daytona 500 debuts by either rookie of the year candidates or drivers making what amounted to an ...

Best Daytona 500 Debut No. 3: Ruttman Rolled To 3rd Place In 1982

(Note: This is the third installment in a five-part series on some of the best Daytona 500 debuts by either rookie of the year candidates or drivers making what amounted to an initial "NASCAR cameo" appearance in the event. Today, we take a look at No. 3 in the countdown -- Joe Ruttman's third-place finish in 1982.)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2009) -- In 1982, the Daytona 500 assumed its rightful place as the annual season-opening event for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. As if on cue, the race featured a battle between two of the sport's greats -- Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough.

Allison was a year away from winning his sole NASCAR Sprint Cup championship; Yarborough had won three straight from 1976-78. It was a star-powered 1-2 finish and it overshadowed one of the best first-time efforts in the history of the Daytona 500 by Joe Ruttman.

Ruttman finished third, driving one of three Jim Stacy-owned Buicks in the race -- a No. 2, blue-and-yellow Regal.

Ruttman, younger brother of 1952 Indianapolis 500 champion Troy Ruttman, came to NASCAR from USAC, where he won that organization's 1978 Stock Car Rookie of the Year honor, and the 1980 series championship. He made his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut in 1963 and in 1981 drove 17 races -- including the Firecracker 400 at Daytona on July 4, where he finished 29th in the No. 6.

The next year at the 500, Ruttman rolled to what could be considered his career highlight.

Ruttman Was Best Of A Classic Group Of 500 First-Timers

Notable 500 First-Timers in 1982: Joe Ruttman, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Ron Bouchard, Jim Sauter, Rick Wilson, Tom Sneva, Delma Cowart, Lake Speed.

The Intangible: J.D. Stacy's fingerprints were all over the 500. He owned the cars driven by Ruttman and Sauter, and sponsored five others in the field.

The Recap: Bobby Allison raced most of the 500 without a back bumper; it fell off after contacting Yarborough's car early in the event. Allison's car seemed to benefit significantly sans bumper, which led to controversy. Some drivers accused Allison's "inventive" crew chief Gary Nelson -- the future director of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series -- of rigging the bumper to intentionally break away on impact. ... Allison ended up leading 147 of the 200 laps, and beat Yarborough by 22.87 seconds.

The Follow-Up: Ruttman raced in the Daytona 500 nine more times, and enjoyed further success, finishing fourth in 1983 and third again in 1991. ...In 1982 he got his first NASCAR win in his first start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, winning at Dover. ... Ruttman's best fit came in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Between 1995-2007 he won 13 truck races, including two in the series' inaugural 1995 season when he finished second in the final points. ... He finished in the final standings' top five a total of five times.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Joe Ruttman , Tom Sneva , Jim Sauter , Bobby Allison , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin