by: Cody Dinsmore
Walter Moore, better known as ‘Bud’, was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1926. Although he loved cars and loved to watch local racing, he was not one of the many young men to take up stock car racing. His father owned a grocery store during the Great Depression and many a time would a customer give Bud’s father his own personal car in trade for store credit. Sooner or later, there began to be a pile of old cars on the Moore property and Bud and his brother would take the cars, usually Model T Fords, and would cut up the bodies and frames, and just ‘race’ around their property. This was the beginning of a life-long love affair with racing.
In the spring of 1944, just barely out of high school and just barely 19, he was drafted into the United States Army. At this point in the war, the Allied Forces were closing in on the Axis Powers, but it would still be a long time before the fighting stopped. Around the first of June of ’44, he was on dock, in Liverpool England; his commanding officers told troops they were going to make a ‘dry run’ and make an amphibious landing, but as it turned out, the weather was too ‘wet’ to be a ‘dry run’. The real one happened on June 6th, 1944… “D-Day!” There were two million represented on the Allied side, with thousands of ships and fighter planes that arrived early in the morning hours at Normandy Beaches, on the coast of France. The minute Moore, and thousands upon thousands of other soldiers set foot of the beach, guns were blazing. They had big cannons atop the ships that were docked at the shoreline. Also there was rain; at one point, Bud was up to his shoulders in water, and just kept pushing forward. You couldn’t hear because there was so much blasting and shooting. Bud was with the 4th Infantry Division that invaded Utah Beach. There were only 200 casualties compared to over 5,000 just to the east side of the beach, but it still wasn’t easy.
Over the course of his military career, Bud Moore was involved in 5 major WWII battles , was in the 90th Infantry Division, and the 359th Regiment, and in return, he was awarded 5 Purple Hearts, and two Bronze Stars. Four of his purple hearts were for separate shrapnel wounds and the other for a gunshot wound. One of his two Bronze Stars was earned by staying on the front-line for 9 months and 14 days; the other for capturing an entire German Army Headquarters. Moore and a friend were in a Jeep traveling the countryside to meet with their unit when they saw two German soldiers exit a farm house. Bud got on the back of the Jeep with a machine gun and aimed at the house. It caught fire and one was captured. Then, with the prisoner in tow, they came upon a large two story building. They were shot at, and Moore and his fellow soldier returned fire. They told the already captured German to go tell all in the building to surrender or the Allies were going to bring in heavy artillery. Needless to say, Moore and his partner took back a whole command post of German officers.
When Bud received an honorable discharge in 1945, he returned home with two of his closest friends, ‘Cotton’ Owens and Joe Eubanks. The three were all friends in high school; all three were both drafted around the same time, discharged around the same time, and all three were interested in racing and cars. When Cotton got home, he bought a racecar and went racing. On the other hand, Bud and his friend Joe went in together in a business venture, a used car dealership near Spartanburg. One day, a man brought in an old modified racecar on a trade. The two took it and set it out in front of their business to hopefully attract prospective buyers. Bud figured that since his friend Cotton was a regular racer, he should see about entering his car in a race. They towed the car up the road a couple miles to practice; Bud first got in and made several laps, and in each of those laps, he almost tore the fence down. He pulled in and let Joe run the car, and he did alright with it, so it was decided that Bud would tune the car, while Joe was the driver. After tinkering with the car’s modified Flathead V8, Bud finally found a way to make it faster than all his competitors, and after this “magic” was found, his car won 13 straight races at the Columbia Speedway.
Over the course of the next 8 or so years, Bud owned a modified with a variety of drivers. He loved building the cars, and that’s why he was trying to find a full time mechanic job on a race car. That wish came true in 1957, when he was hired for the crew chief position on Buck Baker’s car for the Factory Chevy Team. There were many on the team, but Bud mostly worked with Buck Baker, who won the Grand National Championship that year.
In 1960, Bud and long time friend, Jack Smith, ran a maroon #47 Pontiac for the season. The combination of a good driver and an experienced mechanic resulted in three victories for the 1960 season – A 1959 win (1st official of the 1960 season) at the Charlotte Fairgrounds, a Daytona qualifying race and the Firecracker 250 on July 4th in Daytona. Jack also had good shots at both Charlotte, for the first World 600, and the first Atlanta Dixie 500. In the 600 miler, the longest stock car race, Jack led a majority of the laps around the mile and a half track until radiator damage sidelined him, but still got a top ten. In Atlanta, Jack was honored with being the first driver to ‘test’ the track, months before the actual race. During the race, he also led many laps, but finished 3rd behind Fireball Roberts and Cotton Owens. For Bud Moore and from a car chief’s perspective, it was a good year.
In 1961, Bud went out on a limb and built a real race shop outside of Spartanburg. He hired former motorcycle racer, ‘Little Joe’ Weatherly and the team won its first race in its debut at Daytona in a qualifying race. Joe was in a Pontiac #8. Weatherly drove most of the season and won 8 races. Wanting more success, Moore occasionally entered a second car, #18, with drivers that season such as his longtime friend, Cotton Owens, Tommie Irwin, Fireball Roberts, and Bob Welborn.
For 1962, Little Joe was back in the car and he won 5 races along with the Grand National Championship. In ’63, while only running a little over half the season, he only won three races, but still had enough points to earn the 1963 Grand National Championship. For Bud, two championships in only three years was quite an amazing feat, and for Weatherly, he was only the 4th driver to win consecutive championships in NASCAR history. In 1964, Weatherly, returning as the defending champion, drove the opening race of the 1964 season. At the time, the first race was held at Riverside California, a tricky and treacherous road course. Going into the 6th turn, he lost control of his Mercury Marauder, and of course, this was before window safety nets. His head slid out the window and struck the retaining wall, killing him instantly. Bud Moore had lost a friend and his top racer. He immediately retired his #8. When he arrived back in Spartanburg, he switched to #1 and hired the previous year’s rookie of the year, Billy Wade. For 64′, he won four consecutive races and finished fourth in the points. Darel Dieringer, Bobby Johns, and Johnny Rutherford also saw the steering wheel several times throughout the season.
Tragically, again at the first of the season, but one year later, head driver, Billy Wade, participating in a tire test at Daytona, was killed in a crash. Again, Bud Moore retired the #1, and switched to #15, and #16 with drivers Darel Dieringer and Earl Balmer. Darel earned one win which placed him 3rd in the points. Earl on the other hand, had just 3 top five finishes. The next year, Moore cut back to just Darel’s car and ran a limited schedule, followed with two more victories. At the end of 1966, Dieringer left the team and Bud hired several drivers to take his car on the track, such as Tiny Lund, Bobby Allison, Gordon Johncock, Sam McQuagg, Cale Yarborough and LeeRoy Yarbrough, most of which earned at least one top 10 in the following season.
Between 1969 and 1972, Moore left NASCAR and went Trans-Am racing. He experimented with these cars in 1968 with Tiny Lund and the NASCAR Grand Touring Series. In 18 starts, the duo won 11 of them. In the Trans-Am series, he won 3 races out of 12 starts with drivers Parnelli Jones and George Follmer. The next season, the same two drivers won 6 races in 11 starts.
In 1972, long time friend, David Pearson drove Bud’s car to a 26th place finish at Riverside. The next week, Pearson found employment with the Wood Brothers whom he drove for until 1979. LeeRoy Yarbrough, Dick Brooks, and Donnie Allison all drove the #15 that season. For ’73, Bobby Isaac took over full time driving duties for the #15 until Talladega that year when he radioed to Bud that he was “quitting”. He pulled in, climbed out and retired on the spot. His reason was that ‘voices told him to get off the track”. After all, the largest track in NASCAR had been built on ancient Indian burial grounds. Bud took on a near unknown rookie at the time, Darrell Waltrip, who in his first race in the 15, had a top 10 finish at Darlington, one of the toughest tracks on the circuit.
In 1974, George Follmer drove the #15 R.C. Cola Ford at Riverside. He was released and Buddy Baker was brought in for the remainder of the season. He won two poles. In 75′, Buddy won four races; in 1976, he scored one victory and went winless in 1977. He left after 1977.
For the 1978, the #15 Ford Thunderbird was now in the hands of veteran Bobby Allison. He won the 1978 Daytona 500, along with four other races and finished 2nd in the points. The next year, he again won 5 races but finished 3rd in the points. Allison stayed on for 1980 and earned 4 wins, but finished 6th in the Winston Cup Points. Still, Bud Moore was back, as one of the most successful teams in the sport.
In 1981, the favorable Benny Parsons was on board with Melling Tool Company as a sponsor. He won three races and finished 10th in the points. Benny decided to move on for ’82, joining with Johnny Hayes and the U.S Tobacco team. Bud Moore then hit the jackpot, per se, when he signed Dale Earnhardt on as his new driver. Earnhardt was young
and was the 1980 Winston Cup Champion. He had a poor 1981 season, but he had a huge sponsor, Wrangler Jeans Company. Earnhardt was with Moore for two years collecting 3 wins at Darlington, Nashville, and Talladega. In 1984, Moore and Richard Childress switched drivers. Childress gave Moore Ricky Rudd, and Moore gave Richard, Dale Earnhardt. However, both teams still kept the Wrangler sponsorship. Ricky had a scare at Daytona during the Busch Clash that year. He flipped and wrecked violently. During the 500, with his eyes taped open, he somehow managed to finish 7th. Even more amazing, the next week he won at Richmond. That was his only win for 84′. From 1985-1987, with new sponsor, Motorcraft, Ricky took Bud Moore’s red Fords to 5 victories over the next two years and finished a season best of 5th in 1986.
In 1988, Rudd left for Kenny Bernstein’s Quaker State Buick, and in was Brett Bodine. The sponsor was Crisco Cooking Oil. Compared to his previous drivers, Brett Bodine really had a poor performance. In 1990, with Motorcraft back on board, Morgan Shepherd was Bud’s new driver. He finished a career best 5th in the points and won the Motorcraft 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In 1991, Morgan had a good start, but after dropping to 7th in the points, he switched to the Wood Brothers Team. Geoff Bodine, elder brother of former Moore driver, Brett, took over driving duties. He won two races and earned 11 top 10 finishes, but still finished 16th in the Winston Cup Points. In 1993, Geoff won Bud Moore’s last NASCAR victory at Infineon. Soon after this, Geoff left and bought Alan Kulwicki’s former team. Lake Speed soon took over.
For 1994, with Lake Speed as driver and Ford Quality Care (branch of Motorcraft) as sponsor, Lake earned 4 top 5 finishes and finished 11th in the standings. Speed left the team after 94, and in 1995, veteran, Dick Trickle joined on, but unfortunately only earned one top 10 finish for the whole year. Trickle and Ford Quality Care left the #15 and Wally Dallenbach Jr with Hayes Communication came on board. It was a bad year as only 3 top ten finishes were recorded for Bud Moore Engineering.
In 1997, without a sponsor, Bud relied on his friend’s son, Larry Pearson to qualify for that year’s Daytona 500. Unfortunately, Larry failed to make the field, and he made no more attempts that season. He began developing a 3 time ARCA champion, Tim Steele, to run Winston Cup. The deal fell through and Steele never ran for Moore. In ’98, the team did start two races with Ted Musgrave, but both resulted in DNF’s. After another failed attempt to start the Daytona 500 for 1999, Bud Moore was approached by a California family to purchase his failing team. The new owners didn’t qualify for any 1999 races. Now they were preparing for the new century. They signed on 1990 Daytona 500, Derrick Cope to drive the car until the end of 2001. Although a sponsor wasn’t secured, Cope was assured that he would drive a full season. Needless to say, there wasn’t a sponsor and a frustrated Derrick Cope left the team. Moore, who oversaw the team’s operations also left. Bud Moore was now completely out of racing. It wasn’t until a few years ago that his name was mentioned once more. Other than attending some small reunions here and there, he wasn’t recognized by the media. In 2011 however, he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, which was a great honor for a man that was once a 19 year-old being shot at in France, and became one of NASCAR’s greatest car owners.
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