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NASCAR HOF inductee profile: Rex White

Born: Aug. 17, 1929.

Family: No immediate family.

Career Statistics: 233 starts, 28 victories, 36 poles. He was the 1960 Grand National Division champion.

Career History: White’s family moved to Maryland when he was a child. Attending a local race, White proclaimed, “Heck, I can drive like that!” He set out to do so and first drove race cars in 1954 at the state’s West Lanham Speedway, a one-fifth-mile track. As a rookie, he won the speedway’s Sportsman Division championship in a 1937 Ford. … He moved up to NASCAR’s top series, then known as the Grand National Division, in 1956, posting 14 top-10 finishes in 24 starts with a best showing of third.

After moving to Spartanburg, S.C., to join the team of Louis Clements, a well-known crew chief, White posted his first victory in the 1958 season opener at Champion Speedway, a one-third-mile paved track in Fayetteville. The race actually was run on Nov. 3, 1957. White drove a Chevrolet and led only the last four laps in finishing a half-lap ahead of runner up Lee Petty.

He won one more time in ’58, then took 26 more checkered flags over the following four years while driving a No. 4 gold and white Chevrolet nicknamed “Yellow Thunder.” He won six times in 1960 and finished in the top 10 in an amazing 35 of 40 races to become NASCAR champion for the only time. He won the Most Popular Driver and Driver Of The Year awards that season.

After retirement he moved to Atlanta and worked for Delta Airlines. … White is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association and Georgia Racing Halls of Fame. Named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. … He has written an autobiography, “Gold Thunder,” and a book of special memories in “All Around The Track,” both with author Anne B. Jones.

Reflections

Retired Observer motorsports writer Tom Higgins on Rex White:

I first saw him: On Sept. 8, 1957, at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway. He finished fourth, completing all 200 laps behind Lee Petty, Buck Baker and Bill Amick.

First Impression: Very small in stature, standing only 5-4, but very big in heart. He utilized a cushion in the race car’s seat to help him better see over the dash.

My favorite memory of him: The quiet pride and delight he displayed on being announced last May as an inductee to the NASCAR Hall Of Fame. White feared he had largely been forgotten.

What people might not know about him: He bears a strong facial resemblance to the late TV comedian of the 1950s and ’60s, George Gobel.

Most Memorable Quote: “I had polio as a young boy, and it taught me a lot of lessons. The biggest one is how to conquer fear.”

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