Pushing eighty, Donlavey to field Daytona team

In a sport that is beginning to see many of it's roots and tradition give way, Legendary NASCAR car owner Junie Donlavey arrived at Daytona ready to go to work. "It is something I just had to do", noted Donlavey, as he supervised his crew of...

In a sport that is beginning to see many of it's roots and tradition give way, Legendary NASCAR car owner Junie Donlavey arrived at Daytona ready to go to work.

"It is something I just had to do", noted Donlavey, as he supervised his crew of part time mechanics prepare his number 90 Ford for technical inspection.

Donlavey, who has been fielding cars at Daytona since 1950 last ran a full time NASCAR schedule in 2001, and a half season in 2002.

The increasing cost of racing, as well as the dynamic technical changes in the sport forced Donlavey to shut down, but he arrived at Daytona in 2003 with a car and driver Kirk Shelmerdine . The car never got up to speed, and the team returned home.

Donlavey's decision to go racing was a last minute one, as of late January; there were no plans to field a car.

Reminiscing of days long gone, Donlavey arrived with a small crew of volunteers, no driver, and no motor, all in hopes to put it together to make the show.

"I want to find somebody Shelmerdine's size, this way we wont have to move the seat," joked the Virginia native, who was busy arranging the acquisition of a Penske motor.

Donlavey, who is know by those in the garage as "chief" spent the afternoon holding court, as drivers, team owners, and all in the Daytona garage took the time to visit an pay there respects.

In observing these phenomena, it occurred that seeing the Chief in the Daytona Garage was as natural as the sand that made up the beach where Donlavey began his Daytona legacy.

In reality Donlavey's journey to Daytona has nothing to do with racing, and everything to do with life. A life he has shared with every driver, crewman, and fan that graced a NASCAR facility over the last fifty-four years.

"I will be eighty years old in two months, I really want to do this when I'm eighty, I'm sure I would be the oldest one ever." said the chief. Demonstrating years of wisdom, Donlavey's reply when asked why he was doing this was simple, "because it is fun, if it wasn't fun I would never have done for so long"

Sadly, Junie acknowledged that the growth of the sport has taken some of the fun out of it, which is more than likely why he showed up at Daytona with a thrown together team, no driver, and a boyish grin.

Junie is showing them how it used to be done, and having fun doing it.

By: Thomas Chemris

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Kirk Shelmerdine