1973 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, Lennie Pond's funeral was Monday, February 15 - Valentine's Day...
Here's a link to a story titled, "Richard Petty, Others Remember Lennie Pond"
Richard Petty, others remember driver Lennie Pond
By Randy Hallman Special correspondent
Feb 15, 2016
Richard Petty remembered Lennie Pond as “a hard-nosed driver who really became a star” and made it to NASCAR’s elite Cup level despite having limited resources.
Petty was one of several in the stock car racing family who sent messages of tribute and sympathy to be read at Monday’s funeral for Pond, who died Wednesday of complications from cancer. Pond, a resident of Chester, was 75.
Although Monday’s snow made driving difficult, about 200 people attended the funeral at the Chester chapel of J.T. Morriss & Son Funeral Home. Several hundred also had saluted Pond’s memory Sunday at a viewing at the chapel.
Many in the stock car racing community were in Daytona Beach, Fla., where preparations are underway for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Among those who emailed or tweeted condolences and memories were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Petty, Harry Gant and Larry McReynolds.
Richard Petty’s message fondly recalled the time of Pond’s rise to NASCAR’s top level more than four decades ago.
“Racing at the time was a smaller group,” Richard Petty said. “We were still growing the sport and everyone was just close. Lennie was a guy everyone knew because he was just one of the guys. Everyone got along with him.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Lennie’s family today.”
Ed Clark, president and general manager of Atlanta Motor Speedway, remembered Pond as a driver who was “positive, optimistic, had great determination and was a talented racer. ... His crew members, most of whom were volunteers, rallied around him to put forth a major-league effort against the top teams.”
A message from Ricky Rudd — another Virginia driver who, like Pond, won NASCAR rookie-of-the-year honors — remembered Pond, “not only for his driving skills but for his willingness to help new drivers adapt to the race track wherever we might be. When I was struggling to get started in NASCAR, Lennie was always available with advice and chassis set-ups.”
Richard Childress, one of the sport’s most successful car owners and a former driver, recalled in his message that “Lennie was a close friend when we were both getting started in stock car racing. He was always an encouraging voice and someone you could always lean on.”
Sports writer Al Pearce, a member of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame who is in Daytona to cover Sunday’s race, wrote Pond was “especially kind and accommodating to me, whether at Langley (Speedway in Hampton) or Daytona or anywhere else.”
Pearce recalled a turning point in Pond’s successful run for the 1973 NASCAR rookie title when, after his car was destroyed in a fiery crash at what was then Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway, the team showed up seven days later at the track in Dover, Del., and Pond’s No. 54 Chevrolet “was its usual immaculate self. Lennie finished ninth that day.”
Pond, who won multiple track and state championships in short-track competition, went on to make 234 career starts at the Cup level. He finished fifth in the 1976 series points race and recorded one victory, the August 1978 race at Talladega, Ala., NASCAR’s fastest speedway.
Monday’s service included fond memories from others who were close to Pond. Former crew member Barry “Hooker” Hopkins remembered Pond “taught me to be a professional at my work.”
Lin O’Neill, who won multiple Southside Speedway championships with Pond as his mentor and who was a Pond fan from his preschool days, wrote in his eulogy that Pond was his hero who “taught me everything I know about driving race cars.”
O’Neill also recalled the respect Pond commanded in his later years from everyone in the garage area at Richmond International Raceway.
As a teenager, Rob Copeland was a volunteer public relations booster for Pond. Later, Copeland earned his mass communications degree at Virginia Commonwealth University, served as managing director of public relations for NASCAR from 2001 to 2003 and now owns a New York communications and photography firm.
At Monday’s service, Copeland said Pond was “the sole reason why I chose public relations for my profession. It was Lennie. All Lennie.”
At the end of the service, those in attendance saluted Pond’s legacy with a standing ovation.
“It really showed how strong the emotions for Lennie still run all these years later,” Copeland said after the service. “It would have made him smile.”