Rex White. NASCAR Hall of Fame. That man, and that entity are now said in the same breath as Rex White will be inducted into the prestigious Hall of Fame in January. So, the question arose in a conversation recently with some younger race fans as to whether or not Rex should be inducted into that Hall. After all, Rex started only 233 Grand National Races, now known as the Sprint Cup. He only won one superspeedway race, the 1962 Dixie 400 at Atlanta. But when you stop and realize that between 1959 through the end of the 1963 season, Rex won more races (28) than Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Joe Weatherly, Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, or anyone else running the Grand National circuit.
I gave serious thought about this Legendtorial before deciding to write this. Last time I wrote about Rex White, someone took great offense to the fact that I pointed out how kind Rex was to me, so I deleted that post from the site. I’m sorry now that I did that but that person now has other cauldrons to stir so this shouldn’t be a problem. But I will incorporate some of what I wrote in that deleted post here tonight.
I decided to dedicate tonight’s Legendtorial to Rex White mainly to let you all know that this Sunday, October 12th, there will be an event to honor Rex at The Memory Lane Museum in Mooresville, North Carolina. The event begins at 1:00 p.m. and continues until 3:00 p.m. Along with Rex White, Bobby Allison, Marvin Panch, Ernie Irvin, Frances Flock, Buddy Baker, Waddell Wilson and others will be there to meet fans and sign autographs. As this event is held the Sunday after the Saturday night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, there is a possibility other very notable individuals will be on hand as well. Frankly, I would expect more than 30 celebrities there to meet the fans. That’s not an official statement from Memory Lane, but it is a good guess from someone who has attended many of these events.
Admission for the day is $10.00 for adults, and $6.00 for kids 6 to 12. In addition to meeting all the drivers and racing celebrities on hand, you will have the chance to explore Memory Lane Museum, one of my favorite hangouts in Mooresville, where there are over 160 cars on display, many of them with legendary NASCAR backgrounds, as well as some very old vehicles indeed. The displays alone are worth the price of admission even without the chance to meet the Hall of Fame bound Rex White. In addition, the RacersReunion Hall of Fame, containing 30 inductees, is located in Memory Lane. You will have an opportunity to observe the first class presentation of drivers dear to so many of us who are enshrined in that Hall of Fame.
Memory Lane Museum is located 1.5 miles West of I-77 off Exit 36 of I-77. Actual address is 768 River Highway, Mooresville, N.C.
Now let’s get back to the question at hand; is Rex White entitled to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame? A little history about the 5’4” tall man with a leg damaged by polio when he was a kid is in order here. Rex grew up around Taylorsville, NC, where he was working on the family Model T at age 8. He had already learned to drive by appropriating the neighbor’s truck and experimenting in the field next door. He was an ambitious young one to say the least. Rex is simply a remarkable example of someone who proves that anyone can accomplish anything they want to badly enough. Heck fire, Rex could hardly reach the pedals in some of the cars he raced, but he managed to win. In fact, Rex won 12% of the 233 races he started with only a handful of finishes in those 233 race outside the top 10. Let’s consider he started 24 races in 1956 and finished in the top 10 fourteen times. In 1957 he started 9 and finished in the top 10 in six of those starts. In 1958 he teamed with Louis Clements, who was a good friend and an excellent car preparer, and he finished in the top 10 a total of 23 times out of 44 races. In 1960, he was Grand National Champ, now known as the Sprint Cup Champ after the infamous “Chase” determines whomever that may be. Of the ten years Rex competed in the Premier Division, he was in the top ten in points six of those years.
Just for the record, although he was raised in Taylorsville, North Carolina, Rex did not become proficient behind the wheel from running moonshine through the mountain roads. Instead, Rex was hauling, are you ready for this? EGGS. That’s right, Rex White delivered Eggs around the county and he attributes his smooth and consistent driving style, at least in part, from having to protect the eggs he was delivering. It was that driving style that worked well in racing for him.
There was a book written about Rex entitled “Gold Thunder”. I own that book and have read it a couple of times. It is a fascinating story and one of the best told stories of the early drivers of NASCAR. I would expect, although I don’t know this for sure, that copies of that book may be on sale Sunday. I would suggest, if there are copies available, and you want to learn more about Rex White, then you pick one up.
As you all know, the history of this sport we know as NASCAR racing is very important to me. I assume most of you listening are the same way if you choose to hang out on this site. The opportunity you will have this Sunday to interact with some of the great ones of the sport is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. I am hoping there will be many young folks at Memory Lane to take all this in. Most events at Memory Lane bring in the young folks as well and the ones I have met there always seem to be enjoying themselves.
But, let’s get back to the question with which I started this Legendtorial. Is Rex White NASCAR Hall of Fame material? To me, although I am not on that committee, the answer is a resounding ‘YES”. The election process got it right for sure when they selected Rex to join that elite group, still growing with other inductees. Let me give you a little background story here.
Rex and I had appeared together at many of the events I am so fortunate to be a part of. Last year, at the AIRPS event in Augusta, Rex and I were talking about the Hall of Fame after someone asked him if he ever expected to be a member. Rex answered that he “wasn’t even on the list” and went on to explain, although I don’t recall his exact words, that he really didn’t expect to be one to be selected in his lifetime. Well, he was pleasantly surprised and I am so happy for him.
Since 2009, when Jeff appointed me, by way of his computer, as “The Legend”, I have attended dozens of events representing RacersReunion®. At every single one of those events, with the exception of one, Rex White was right there. He was not at Augusta this past September because his Hall of Fame duties required an appearance somewhere else on that day. But still, Rex has been there. He was at Columbia, Augusta, Hillsborough, Mooresville, and a J.B. Day’s event, wherever there was a gathering of NASCAR folks. Sometimes the crowds were small, but most times, a two-hour scheduled autograph session became three or more hours, yet Rex was there the entire time.
I will always remember my first encounter with Rex in my Legend cowboy hat and sunglasses, not knowing what to expect when I was seated next to Rex White. Within a matter of seconds, Rex and I were chatting about his career and about my new-found career as a hat-wearing Legend. Rex watched me sign autographs and was impressed (at least he pretended to be) by all the swirls I use to sign my name. He actually asked me to autograph a card for him, which I did, and which he put in his brief case. I don’t know what happened to that card, but that doesn’t really matter. To me, that was a special event that I’ll never forget.
In the past five years, I have apologized to David Pearson and to Bobby Allison for all the bad words I once used about them because they were not my favorites. A couple of weeks ago I apologized to the Wood brothers for all the bad feelings I held against them over the years. All of those apologies were in good fun but were still something I felt the need to do now that I have realized how important ALL the pioneers of this sport really are. You know, the positive thing here is that I never had to apologize to Rex. Looking back over all the years I watched him race, I would pull for Rex, not quite as much as I did for Richard, but it was impossible not to like Rex White. He stood for all the best things about racing and he still does!!! I guess I still owe Fred Lorenzen an apology but I did have the honor of being the MC when he was inducted into the AIRPS Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago, so I’ll have to settle for that.
So, to answer the question about Rex and the Hall of Fame, YES, YES, YES. This time, NASCAR, you got it right. Rex White belongs in the NASCAR Hall of Fame without question. One of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers as selected on the 50th Anniversary of the sanctioning body’s existence. Rex White personifies Hall of Fame qualities. Hope to see many of you Sunday at Memory Lane.