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I worked off an on with Rick's Winston Cup team from late 1973 until early 1976. First time I met him was when he was running the yellow #20 car at Hickory, and went out with a broken oil line--something that happened a lot to him for some reason. This is the same car he took to Daytona and had the hood flip up in the qualifying race. The race at Hickory in November 1976 was the last one he drove in this car, as we started working on a new 1974 Torino, built from a wreck he picked up at a local junkyard. This was back in the day when you had to have stock side rails on the frame, so you'd start with a street car to build a stock car. I helped remove the Torino body from the frame, and spend the better part of an afternoon cleaning road grime from the frame with a drill wire brush. Tiger Tom Pistone put the front and rear clips on the frame, and then I helped Rick bend the tubing for the roll cage. Did a little bit of the bodywork. Spent a lot of nights up until 2:00 in the morning in that one-car garage behind his dad's house near the airport in Charlotte, working on that car. He painted it a bright, robin's-egg Volkswagen blue, and took it to Richmond for its first race with a Pete Wilson 351 Cleveland motor.
Rick was the original hard-luck Charlie. He never had a great deal of money to work with, and only a single car in the day when teams were starting to build five and ten cars for each driver. Finished 12th a couple of times--Michigan and Dover, I think, but didn't have the guns to break the top 10.
He had a Grand American Cougar he'd bought from Junior Johnson, I think, sitting over at Tiger's shop off Old Concord road. Decided to bring it home on a rainy, muddy day in January. We drove over to Tiger's in his truck with a trailer, and spent three hours pushing and dragging that car onto the trailer in mud up to our ankles. A year later, I nearly bought that car from him to run as a Late Model at Hickory. I spent a couple of days putting the quick change rear under it and getting it ready to run with a couple of other boys who also helped Rick, and then he decided he hadn't asked for enough money for it. I didn't have enough to buy it after he raised the price, so I used the money instead to pay for my first year of college, which pretty much ended my NASCAR career for another twenty years. I did finally make it to NASCAR LMS around 1996, but only for a season before moving to SCCA Formula Fords where I drove until I decided to hang it up.
I was thinking about making racing a career before I went off to college, and it was Rick who suggested that I just keep doing it for fun. He said that if you go racing to pay for the groceries, it becomes your entire life, and takes over everything you do. I raced for fun for another couple of decades before hanging up my helmet in 1999, and had a great time.
I had just come home from a trip to the beach in August 1988 when I heard he'd crashed his Beech Duke down near Pageland. As much as I admired Rick for his determination and the fact that he basically raced in 82 Winston Cup races on less than a shoestring, I also couldn't help thinking that it was just one more instance of bad luck for him. Despite all his hard work and determination, and his undoubtable driving talent, he seemed to have the worst luck of any driver I ever saw. Sure wish it had been otherwise, because he deserved a lot more success than he got.
Interesting story on the Cemetery was founded way before the Church, Dave. There's a marker there that says a fellow who was the first burial fell off his horse & died as a result. He had no ID on him so they buried him near the scene, off the trail (presumably what is now Hwy 160) in about 1747, I think. The Church was founded later in 1760. My Grandmother , Mary Ellen Garmony Reep, & my baby sister Lynda Sue are both buried there as will both of my parents when the time comes. It is & always has been very Hallowed Ground to me. I have many , many friends & family are there too. I claim it as my Church, since I was made a member when my parents joined in 1968. I seldom attend these days. I find it difficult to be there & not be preoccupied with knowledge that so many of my "Dear Departed" are so close by. I'm just a strange cat, I guess. It is a tradition steeped & wonderful place.
Jim, I told you before that Rick stopped by my marketing office shortly before his death. I didn't realize he was buried at Steele Creek Presbyterian. Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace and Joe Whitlock's secretary, Judy Tucker and her husband are both buried there. I attended both funerals. Sherman died in Vegas. That is a really historic church and cemetery. One of the oldest in the country.
I knew Rick a little back in 1968-69. He was a nice, friendly guy, and a racing nut. I never really thought that he would make Nascar's top level, but he proved me wrong!
I am not sure that #02 M/C is Rick's. The name on the door , hard to read, doesn't look right & I have never seen this paint scheme on one of his cars, although he did run the number some, as did many others. I was involved in helping sell his cars to Paramount Pictures for "Days of Thunder" in '90 to Jerry Mason & none of his equipment looked anywhere near this #02 stuff. His cars included an old Zervakis 2+2 M/C from Freedlander - Tommy Ellis & an older "Nip Roof" Buick . The sheet metal came from Jr Johnson & was off one of the Mountain Dew cars. Both of Rick's last cars are @ the Hendrick Museum , the 2+2 M/C is painted in Jr.'s Bud #11 scheme & was seen in the movie & the Buick was re-skinned as a Luimina that Cruise drove. It was used for all of Tom's up close in car shots & sports the "Mellow Yellow" paint . Upon close inspection the rear Buick firewall can be seen in the middle of the rear window. Rick widow , Karen took the $ from the sale of those vehicles & put it away for the 2 little girls they had together, Kerry & Sherrylyn. Those girls , aged 3 yrs & 3 months , I believe, @ the time of Rick's death are both grown & married. Kerry has a son , Jace. I wish Rickey Lyle was here to share with his girls & Grandson. Rick died in Pageland, SC August 1988 just after his & Karen's 17th wedding anniversary. He is buried in the cemetery @ "Old" Steele Creek Presbyterian Church on Hwy #160 in Charlotte.
Rick like so many others before him was the true meaning of independent. He was a good guy a pretty good driver that was underfunded and never had the chance to get in a first class ride. He worked hard to get every spot on the track he could get and didn't crash everyone in the process.Some of the drivers today can't say that and they have first class equipment.
#45 is Baxter Price's car , Rick subbed for him once.
I don't know much about Rick, other than I was familiar with him from going to the Charlotte races back in the early '80's. My parents were super impressed with him when they met him. They asked him for an autograph after a race and they said he was super nice. I know he was an underfunded driver living his dream, and that he passed away in a plane crash some time ago. I've wanted to create a group to remind people of who he was, so am glad that this group now exists.
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