History

Cotton Owens Career Highlights and Lifetime Achievements

Everett "Cotton" Owens was born May 21st, 1924 in Union, SC. Cotton would also earn the nickname "King of the Modifieds" for his hundreds of NASCAR Modified victories. He is considered one of the best mechanics in NASCAR history and he also wasn't too bad of a driver either. In his 160 NASCAR Grand National (Cup) starts, Owens earned 9 Wins, 52 Top Fives, 84 Top Tens with 10 Pole Positions, one of which was the 1960 Daytona 500. He went on to finish 2nd in that race.

Inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on February 8, 2013, Charlotte, NC

Inducted into National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame at Darlington (SC) Raceway, 1970

Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega Superspeedway, 2008

Inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, Columbia, SC, 2009

Member Darlington Records Club

Member NASCAR Mechanics Hall of Fame

Member NASCAR Legends

Voted NASCAR 50 Greatest Drivers, 1998

Recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor awarded by the Governor of South Carolina, created in 1971 to recognize lifetime achievement and service to the State of South Carolina. September 16, 2006

Pioneer of Racing Award
Living Legends of Auto Racing
February 15, 2006

Presented with the Smokey Yunick Award for Lifetime Achievement in Auto Racing on May 28, 2000

Honored by the Vance County Tourism Dept., Henderson, NC with the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame Motorsports Pioneer Award on October 16, 2005

Recipient of the Car Owner’s of the 1960s award by the Old Timer’s Racing Club, 1996

1966 Winner NASCAR Grand National Championship (currently Sprint Cup) with David Pearson as driver

1959 Runner-up driver for the NASCAR National Championship to Lee Petty

Prepared first car to run 200 mph in a NASCAR sanctioned event at Talladega 1970 with Buddy Baker at the wheel of his 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona

Won NASCAR's first live televised race

Gave Dodge its last NASCAR victory in a wing car

Earned Pontiac its first NASCAR win when Cotton Owens won on the old beach course at Daytona in 1957 driving a '57 Pontiac prepared by Ray Nichels

Helped open the new 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway with a world record qualifying speed of 143 miles an hour in a 1958 Pontiac

Winner of more than 40 races as a NASCAR car owner, including the 1970 Southern 500 at Darlington

Known as "King of the Modifieds"


Biography

Birthdate: May 21, 1924
Birthplace: Union, SC
Years in NASCAR: 1950-64 (Driver); 1950-73 (Owner)
Grand National Starts: 160 (Driver); 405 (Owner)
Grand National Wins: 9 (Driver); 38 (Owner)
Grand National Poles: 10 (Driver); 33 (Owner)
National Modified Division Wins: 200+
Championships & Highlights:
1966 NASCAR Grand National Championship
3-Time National Modified Champion 1950-1952
2-Time Winner Modified-Sportsman Feature on Daytona Beach and Road Course
54 Wins in 1950-51
24 straight Wins in 1950-51 - twice!



Historical Artifacts from the Journey

VINTAGE EPHEMERA STRAIGHT FROM THE FAMILY SCRAPBOOK

Thankfully nothing was ever discarded over the course of Cotton's career, and we've recently opened the treasure chest and are proud to share this historic collection of priceless nostalgia with you. These vintage artifacts will take you back in time and help to convey those moments as they unfolded so many decades ago. You'll feel like time is standing still as you browse through an assortment of original receipts, postcards, pit passes, telegrams, personal notes, entry stubs, and items from Cotton's personal collection.

View the treasure trove of ephemera.


Cotton Owens NASCAR Grand National Driver Summary

Year Date Track Owner/Sponsor Car
1957 02.17 Daytona Beach Course Ray Nichels Pontiac
1958 07.25 Monroe County Fairgrounds Jim Stephens Pontiac
1959 09.13 Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds Thunder-Chicken T-Bird
1960 08.16 Hub City Speedway Cotton Owens Pontiac
1961 03.04 Piedmont Interstate Fairgrds Cotton Owens Pontiac
1961 04.02 Orange Speedway Cotton Owens Pontiac
1961 04.20 Columbia Speedway Cotton Owens Pontiac
1961 07.20 Columbia Speedway Cotton Owens Pontiac
1964 09.14 Virginia State Fairgrounds Cotton Owens Dodge

1966 NASCAR Grand National Standings

Rank
Driver
Points
1
David Pearson
(Cotton Owens Dodge)
35638
2
James Hylton
33688
3
Richard Petty
22952
4
Henley Gray
22468
5
Paul Goldsmith
22078
6
Wendell Scott
21702
7
John Sears
21432
8
J.T. Putney
21208
9
Neil Castles
20446
10
Bobby Allison
19910






Cotton Owens Career NASCAR Grand National (Cup) Series Car Owner / Builder Statistics

Year Driver Races Win T5 T10 Pole Led Rank Avg Finish
1950 C. Owens 2 0 0 0 0 0 13 15.0
1951 C. Owens 1 0 1 1 0 0 42 5.0
1957 C. Owens 17 1 3 6 1 179 14 16.4
1958 C. Owens 29 1 8 17 2 241 17 14.3
1959 C. Owens 37 1 13 22 2 209 2 10.4
1960 B. Johns 4 1 3 3 0 366 3 12.2
1960 C. Owens 13 1 5 5 2 185 39 15.4
1961 R. Earnhardt 7 0 2 5 0 90 17 7.6
1961 C. Owens 16 4 11 11 2 58 22 9.1
1961 M. Panch 1 0 0 1 0 0 18 10.0
1961 F. Roberts 1 0 1 1 0 2 5 4.0
1962 J. Johnson 4 0 1 2 0 648 20 19.5
1962 C. Owens 16 0 7 8 1 36 30 13.6
1962 D. Pearson 3 0 1 2 0 2 10 11.3
1963 C. Owens 1 0 0 1 0 0 114 8.0
1963 D. Pearson 40 0 13 19 2 178 8 12.3
1963 G.C. Spencer 1 0 0 0 0 0 18 13.0
1963 B. Wade 29 0 4 14 0 21 16 14.7
1964 E. Balmer 10 0 2 4 0 1 35 15.3
1964 B. Isaac 3 0 2 2 0 0 18 7.7
1964 C. Owens 2 1 2 2 0 54 80 1.5
1964 J. Paschal 9 0 3 7 0 0 7 9.3
1964 D. Pearson 61 8 29 42 12 2256 3 8.3
1964 L. Thomas 2 0 0 0 0 0 8 18.5
1964 B. Wade 3 0 1 2 0 0 4 9.3
1965 D. Pearson 14 2 8 11 1 744 40 8.7
1966 M. Andretti 1 0 0 0 0 0   31.0
1966 B. Isaac 1 0 0 0 0 0 53 30.0
1966 D. Pearson 42 15 26 33 7 3174 1 6.4
1967 B. Allison 9 1 7 8 0 51 4 6.8
1967 B. Baker 4 0 1 1 0 0 15 16.2
1967 D. Dieringer 3 0 0 0 0 35 12 21.3
1967 R. Hendrick 1 0 0 0 0 0 112 21.0
1967 S. McQuagg 6 0 2 2 0 8 36 21.8
1967 D. Pearson 10 2 4 6 0 340 7 11.0
1968 B. Baker 1 0 0 0 0 0 13 25.0
1968 C. Glotzbach 19 1 9 11 3 332 19 13.4
1968 Al Unser 1 0 1 1 0 1   4.0
1969 B. Baker 12 0 7 9 1 579 22 9.2
1969 C. Glotzbach 6 0 3 3 0 82 37 14.5
1969 J. Hylton 2 0 1 1 0 0 3 17.5
1970 B. Baker 17 1 6 8 0 485 24 13.7
1970 S. Posey 1 0 0 0 0 0   28.0
1971 P. Hamilton 20 1 11 12 2 224 24 13.6
1972 C. Glotzbach 3 0 2 2 0 0 65 11.0
1973 D. Brooks 1 0 1 1 0 0 27 3.0
1973 P. Gregg 1 0 0 0 0 0 120 37.0
23 years 487 41 201 286 38 9,952   11.5


Owens Gives Pontiac First NASCAR Victory

February 17, 1957

Pontiac’s first stock car win came on February 17th, 1957 on the beach of Daytona (pictured at right). Cotton Owens drove a Ray Nichels'-prepared ’57 Pontiac to victory; beating runner-up Johnny Beauchamp by 55 seconds with the first-ever 100mph average lap on the sand.

Read more about Cotton's victory at the 1957 NASCAR Daytona Beach Grand National Race.



Earnhardt Debuts

May 6, 1961

Driving for Cotton Owens in the Rebel 300 at Darlington, South Carolina, Ralph Earnhardt, father of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and grandfather of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., makes his NASCAR Grand National debut.

Earnhardt would go on to drive 7 races for Cotton Owens Garage in 1961 earning 2 Top Fives and 5 Top Ten positions.


Drivers Among Drivers

Drivers for Cotton Owens include: David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Pete Hamilton, Marty Robbins, Ralph Earnhardt, Ray Hendrick, Bobby Isaac, Junior Johnson, Marvin Panch, Benny Parsons, Fireball Roberts and Bob Welborn. Other notables to drive for Owens include Mario Andretti, Darel Dieringer, Charlie Glotzbach, Bobby Allison, Sam McQuagg, Billy Wade, and Al Unser. In all, a total of 25 drivers climbed behind the wheel of Owens' cars in 291 races, earning 32 victories and 29 pole positions.



The Gentle Giant with a Lead Foot

A REAL CHARGER!
A New World Record! Buddy Baker pilots a Hemi-powered Dodge Daytona to a new closed-course record of better than 200 mph at Talledega Superspeedway.

Read the actual press release from 1970.


Cotton Owens and the Legend of the Chrysler 426 Hemi Racing Engine

Chrysler Hemi Engine In 1962 Chrysler Motor Company consulted Cotton Owens, Ray Nichels, Ray Fox, and Maurice Petty about its future in stock car racing. Owens mentioned to Gail Porter that Chrysler had a powerplant in the old Hemi engines of the 1950s and suggested that they convert them for modern racing. "I was more than a little surprised when he told me that if I was willing to come with Chrysler, they would build a completely new Hemi," recalls Cotton...

Read more about the legendary Chrysler Hemi.


The Red and White

Cotton's famous white #6 with red wheels and red number was one to be feared and one to be noticed on the track. In an interview with Christpher R. Phillip Cotton explained the reasoning for the unique paint job.


"I like it because it shows up real good on the racetrack. If you've got a scorer in the stands, you've got to keep up with the number of laps that you're running. You want to be able to see it and spot it real quick so you won't miss it, and get you a lap behind."
- Cotton Owens


Daytona Legacy

Cotton also told a story about the inaugural Daytona 500 that was pretty interesting: "Fireball Roberts had a new '59 Pontiac. I didn't have one. So I went to my shop where I had four '58s that were wrecked. I took those four wrecked cars and put them all together into one race car. I showed up at Daytona a week later (than the other racers), and Fireball Roberts had the pole at 140 mph. I set a record by 3 mph faster than Fireball in my '58 Pontiac at 143.198 mph."

The End of Cotton's Driving Career

Owens first win came at the famous Beach at Daytona in 1957 where he won by nearly a minute over 1959 Daytona 500 runner-up Johnny Beauchamp. Cotton was the first person in NASCAR history to win a race for Pontiac which went on to win 153 more NASCAR races the last being in 2003 with Ricky Craven. In 1959, Cotton was runner-up in the standings to 3 time champion & patriarch of the Petty dynasty Lee.

Cotton Owens hung up his helmet in the early 60s and became an owner. He was the one that gave the "Silver Fox" David Pearson his first big shot. To show just what kind of guy Cotton was, listen to this story: When David Pearson first started driving his cars, he made a bunch of rookie mistakes despite showing loads of promise. He made Cotton so mad that at Richmond, in 1964, Owens took a 2nd car to the race to show Pearson how it's done. Cotton won the race by over a lap over his very own driver and future three-time champion and 105 race winner David Pearson. That was Owens' 9th and final career win as a driver.

Cotton Owens the Car Owner

Cotton won 38 races as a NASCAR owner in the Grand National (Cup) Series. NASCAR Hall of Famers and legends Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Buddy Baker were just some of the names that won races driving for him. Along with 38 wins in 404 starts as an owner, Cotton's team earned 177 Top Fives, 241 Top Tens, 33 Pole Positions and led nearly 10,000 laps. On top of all that, the Owens team took home the 1966 NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) title with driver David Pearson by nearly 2,000 points!

The father of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, Ralph Earnhardt, also made his NASCAR debut driving for Owens finishing a respectable 7th. Some of the most famous names in motorsports drove his cars including David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Pete Hamilton, Billy Wade, Bobby Isaac, Junior Johnson, Charlie Glotzbach, Fireball Roberts, Mario Andretti, Bobby Allison, Marty Robbins, and Al Unser just to name a few.

We Have Lost a Great Man

Cotton Owens was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame in 1970, named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998 and in 2013 he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Cotton was a great racer, an ace mechanic, an outstanding owner and a wonderful man.

He passed away on June 7th, 2012 at the age of 88 after a 7 year battle with lung cancer. He is without a doubt one of the best and will always be remembered by the racing community. If you have any doubt about the toughness and incredible ability of Cotton Owens, you should know that he raced nearly his whole career with double vision. Rest in peace Cotton; we will always miss you and you will never be forgotten.




Spartanburg Celebrates "Cotton Owens Day"

Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate this great day with us. A special Thank You to all our fans, friends, event sponsors and supporters who made this day possible, as well as our VIP guests and attendees who came out to support Cotton and the tremendous racing legacy of Spartanburg. Cotton and family were truly moved by the experience and will count it among our most cherished memories.

Read the article.

Cotton Owens Receives The Order of the Palmetto

The Order of the Palmetto is the highest civilian honor awarded by the Governor of South Carolina, created in 1971 to recognize lifetime achievement and service to the State of South Carolina. Shown with Cotton is SC Governor Mark Sanford presenting Owens with a framed Order of the Palmetto certificate.