NASCAR & Auto Racing

NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Fred Lorenzen honored for his time on the track

Fred Lorenzen in an undated photo.
Fred Lorenzen in an undated photo. OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Fred Lorenzen, whose career ran from 1958 to 1972, won the Daytona 500 in 1965. He is a 2015 inductee to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Born: Dec. 30, 1934, Elmhurst, Ill.

Family: Daughter Amanda Gardstrom, son Chris Lorenzen.

Nickname: Well-groomed, articulate and with movie star good looks. Lorenzen earned many nicknames including Golden Boy, Fearless Freddie and The Elmhurst Express.

Statistics: 158 starts, 26 victories, 84 top 10 finishes, 33 poles, winnings of $496,472.

Career highlights: Lorenzen, just out of high school, began racing in 1956 at tracks in the upper Midwest. He won the USAC stock car championships in 1958 and ’59, drawing the attention of Ralph Moody, co-owner of the powerful Holman & Moody team fielding factory-backed Fords from a Charlotte shop. Moody offered Lorenzen a ride on Christmas Eve, 1960. He moved South and joined the operation for the ’61 season, forging a storied pairing.

Lorenzen won three times in 15 starts his rookie season. In the Rebel 300, a convertible event at Darlington Raceway, Lorenzen engaged famed old pro Curtis Turner in a fender-slamming duel over the final 20 of 219 laps on the 1.375-mile track. Lorenzen feinted high, then swung low to take the lead with two laps to go and held on to win by six car lengths over an angry Turner.

He won 23 more times over the next six seasons, excelling on superspeedways. Perhaps his best season was 1964, when he took eight checkered flags in only 16 starts.

Lorenzen retired after the 1967 season, but attempted a comeback with other teams from 1970-72, running 29 races. He won two poles, but scored no victories. Serious injuries suffered in a violent crash during practice for the ’71 Southern 500 at Darlington eventually led him to quit for good.

He returned to Illinois and became highly successful in the real estate business. He now resides in an assisted living facility near Chicago.

His many honors include NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver award in 1963 and ’65, and induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.

Reflections

Retired Observer motorsports writer Tom Higgins on Fred Lorenzen:

I first saw him: In the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 3, 1962. He qualified third fastest behind Fireball Roberts and Junior Johnson, but finished 24th when engine failure sidelined him after 291 of 364 laps.

My favorite memory of him: In what perhaps ranks as the most thrilling race ever at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Lorenzen engaged Curtis Turner, Dick Hutcherson and A.J. Foyt in a four-way battle for victory in the 1965 National 400. They often ran three abreast, then considered impossible at Charlotte, during the final 44 laps, with the fourth driver inches behind. Lorenzen took the lead on the 256th of 267 laps and edged Hutcherson by three car lengths at the finish line. Turner was a close third and Foyt sixth after scraping the rails in turn three.

What people might not know about him: Lorenzen was an excellent mechanic. His engine-builder at Holman & Moody, Waddell Wilson, says, “Freddie showed up daily at the shop and worked on the cars as much as anybody.”

Most memorable quote: “It was like walking into a diamond factory,” Lorenzen once said of joining Holman & Moody. “I had the best of everything.”

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