Bud Moore: Racing to eternity

Published 11:02 am Monday, December 4, 2017

He never told you what meant more to him: five Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars, or enshrinement in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

But Bud Moore was that kind of man. He built cars, he knew engines, he changed tires, and he knew how to run pit crews.

I met Walter Maynard “Bud” Moore for the first time in – where else? – a gas-and-oil smelly garage with engines revving way too loud at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina; and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was scared to death. I was also a forgettable young whippersnapper of a sports reporter trying to break into stock-car racing coverage and he was, by then, a racing legend as a car owner. Maybe what augmented the fear in me was that so many folks told me Moore was brutally honest, a little gruff, but somebody who always spoke his mind, and did so in his own terms.

I wanted to speak to him somewhere a bit quieter and more intimate than an open garage, like a trailer-transporter. Instead, he put down his tools and checked his watch (I knew I was on – for me, borrowed; for him, precious – time).

A mechanic by trade, a ‘country-boy mechanic’ by his own definition, Moore told me in that 20-minute interview back in 1987 that he was just “a fella who liked to make cars run fast”. From the time he got out of the Army, he dedicated his life to racing. About the only thing he didn’t like about the sport were tracks where his cars got wrecked a lot.

He broke into NASCAR at its inception: 1948. Then, back in the days when drivers ran 50-60 or more races a year to make up the championship – later, Cup – circuit, this was the era of mostly short tracks, before super-speedways and restrictor-plate racing. Moore was winning his first series title as a crew chief with legendary racer Buck Baker as his wheel-man in 1957.

Then, four years later, he became a car owner and drivers from Joe Weatherly to Bobby Allison sat behind the wheel of a powerful racing machine stamped: Bud Moore Engineering. He only won two crowns as the best in the sports: in 1962 and ’63 with Weatherly. Despite six different racers driving for him in 1967 (Tiny Lund, Cale Yarborough, Sam McQuagg, Gordon Johncock, LeeRoy Yarbrough, and Bobby Allison) he only finished fourth in the points. Dale Earnhardt drove for him for two years before he left to become the legend he would eventually be with Richard Childress. Ricky Rudd for four more, and the list rolls on up to Ted Musgrave and Derrike Cope right at the turn of the century. He won 63 races as a car owner.

Like a lot of car owners back then, he did everything from a little shop in his hometown. For Moore, that town was Spartanburg, SC. That shows you that no matter how famous he became he always had a sense of loyalty. He was also loyal to one car brand: Ford; racing the cars with the blue oval nameplate from ’52 on into the next century. That was also a time when the top Ford shops were Moore’s and the Wood Brothers. He started out way back with some Pontiac’s and Mercury’s, but there was no mistaking that he was a Ford man.

By the way, those military honors I mentioned in the beginning: Moore earned most of them for the D-Day landing he made at Utah Beach in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. Later, he served in the Third Army under Gen. George S. Patton.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame honor, that came in 2011 in the second class ever inducted. Until his passing last Tuesday, he was the oldest living inductee.

And in my eyes, he was definitely one of the most deserving. It’s for men and women like that Halls of Fame are built.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.