by: Tim Leeming
It was Monday, December 8, 1941, when the unmistakably recognizable voice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the joint session of Congress beginning with “yesterday, Sunday, December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy” and went on to ask for a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan. There is no doubt Virginia and Elmer Moore of Charleston, South Carolina had heard of the strike on Pearl Harbor, but whether or not they heard the President is a matter of conjecture, as they were rather busy with a bundle of joy who had arrived on that “Day that will live in infamy.” That little bundle was named Paul H. Moore but soon became known as “Bud”
While World War II was occupying the globe, “Bud” was doing the usual childhood activities as he went through the toddler years in Charleston. Family was a big part of those activities, as his parents saw that “Bud” was raised in the way most all kids were in those years. Perhaps the one exception was that Elmer began traveling to Cayce, South Carolina with his young son in tow, to see the stock car races being run on the half-mile dirt oval known as Columbia Speedway. While Bud doesn’t recall specific races from those days, he does remember the total awe and excitement he experienced at each event. He knew, even In those early years, that stock car racing was what he wanted to do.
While a Senior in high school, Bud bought a race car from “Crawfish “ Crider, a well-known stock driver from the area and started his preparation to become a race driver. (Editor’s note: Curtis “Crawfish” Crider passed away on December 21, 2012) He can’t remember the exact date, but sometime in 1960, now a high school graduate, Bud and some friends took that car to Black River Speedway in Kingstree, South Carolina for his first race. When asked why not come to Columbia Speedway for his first try, Bud says “Columbia Speedway was the hotbed of racing so it was better to start somewhere else in order to be prepared for the competition at Columbia Speedway.” The car actually blew up in the second race and that was the end of Bud Moore being a car owner-driver. He was ready to leave the “car owning” to someone else.
Before continuing with the history of Bud’s racing career, it must be mentioned, with emphasis, that he married his high school sweetheart Ida, and even after all these years when he speaks of Ida, there is a difference in his voice that intones a deep and sincere love for her. The word that “behind every successful man there is a supporting woman” is, without a doubt, reiterated loudly in Bud’s dedication to his beloved Ida. Ida has been there all the way and continues to support Bud in all he does. Bud has a second woman behind him as well in daughter Sherry, and his voice rises with pride as he talks of her.
As Bud‘s fame in the racing circles began to expand, the complication of having the same name as the Bud Moore, who was building cars for some of the sport’s top drivers, became a little problematic. Thus, the addition of the descriptive “Lil’ Bud” to the list of drivers tearing up the dirt tracks in the Carolinas and Georgia. Everyone in racing now knows this giant of short track racing as “Li’l’ Bud”.
Back to the racing! A friend, Jimmy Brown, owned a race car… a coupe, number 2, which Jimmy Thompson, brother of Grand National Driver Speedy Thompson, suggested Li’l Bud take to the track in Savannah and race. Bud took his advice and on a Sunday afternoon on the dirt in Savannah, Georgia, Li’l Bud takes the win, the first time out in the coupe. He ran that ’39 Ford flat head in races in Georgia and the Carolinas. It was an encounter in North Carolina with one Ralph Earnhardt, that put Li’l Bud in a car built by Earnhardt and made to win races. Thankfully, because Ralph had the foresight to install side roll bars in the driver’s door, Li’l Bud survived the worst wreck he ever had when he sailed out of the speedway and hit a pine tree, half way up the tree, and suffered ONLY a broken leg. Without the side roll bar, Li’l Bud would probably not have survived. Bud managed to break that same leg several more times during the course of his career and he now laughs about wearing protective braces on that leg in the latter days of his career even when some of the other drivers found that brace a source of amusement.
In 1962, Li’l Bud won the Georgia State Championship for what was then known as the Limited Sportsman Division of NASCAR. He beat out LeeRoy Yarbrough by a “couple of points” after finishing the 100-lap race at the track in Augusta, Georgia. Bud was driving one of only two of the old “flat head coupes” as NASCAR was evolving the series into Late Model Sportsman. These cars, the 1955 and 1957 Chevrolets, Bud understood a little better. He was well suited to drive these, and drive them he did. In 1964 he entered 66 races and won 22 of those, ended the year as Track Champion for Columbia Speedway, and finished third in the National Championship in NASCAR for the year.
In 1969, while driving Late Model Sportsman for Ronnie Hopkins, one of the finest car builders on the circuit, Bud decided he has “gone as far as he could go in Late Model” and had been racing some Grand National (Now Sprint Cup Series) during his last three years with Ronnie Hopkins. Li’l Bud ran “about forty” Cup races where he had success but finally decided to hang up the helmet and return home for personal reasons, to be close to his parents as they aged. His last race was the 1973 Permatex 300 (now Nationwide) at Daytona. He was leading when an accident took him out of competition. Oh, and it should be mentioned that Li’l Bud was his own man. During those racing days his hair length rivaled some of the most recognizable male movie and music icons of the decade. He was often compared to Tim Richmond for his independence and freedom of expression. He is “Li’l Bud Moore”, no further explanation needed!
In 1980, “Humpy” Wheeler called Bud about some “opportunities to pursue” in the Charlotte area. That call started Bud on the path of working with the greats of the sport in developing the trailers you see at all the tracks these days selling the t-shirts, die casts, and other products you can buy and take home to memorialize your day at the race. Bud did that. He is imaginative and can make those things happen. He tells the story of seeing the movie “Top Gun” and leaving in the middle of the movie to rush to Dale Earnhardt, Sr.’s motel room to tell him of the Top Gun idea as a campaign for The Intimidator. He worked hard on the Richard Petty Fan Appreciation Tour. Bud did the “Seven and Seven” items for the Petty-Earnhardt seven Championships each.
These days, Li’l Bud works out of Charlotte and maintains a collection of vintage and collector cars to make the collectors drool. He remains a race fan and keeps up with what goes on in all divisions of NASCAR today, but admits, although reluctantly, that “the good old days were different in a good way”.
To go into all the racing achievements and accomplishments of Paul H. “Li’l Bud” Moore would take volumes. Most of his records and photographs were destroyed when Hurricane Hugo paid a visit to his Isle of Palms home in 1989. What a loss, not only to the historic significance to NASCAR but also to one of NASCAR true Legends. What is written here is a very small portion of a representation of a true champion, gentleman, and human being. Let these things be remembered:
- Li’l Bud Moore is a true champion in EVERY sense of the word.
- Li’l Bud Moore is dedicated to his wife of all these years, Ida, and that speaks volumes of the man he is outside of racing. He is, as well, dedicated to daughter Sherry.
- Li’l Bud goes to great lengths to talk about being “surrounded by dedicated people who supported him in his career” and names some of them as Harold Young, “Preacher Cox” Ralph Earnhardt, Dewey Wheeler, Jim Ruggles, Humpy Wheeler, Bondy Long, Joe Bessinger (of Piggy Park) , Ronnie Hopkins, and Richard Petty. He also mentions that a certain Dale Earnhardt (Sr.) was a big part of his career as well.
As for the quotable quote for the purposes of this article, Li’l Bud says of The Historic Columbia Speedway “If you won at Columbia, you could win anywhere. That’s why I tried to run there as much as possible”.
There is much more to hear from Li’l Bud. Maybe it’s time to drop the “Li’l’” and just refer to him as Bud Moore, THE RACE DRIVER.
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(Editor’s note: Tim Leeming is a member of the regular cast of the Tuesday evening racing show ” Racing Through History”, presented on Zeus Radio Network by RacersReunion®. Archives can be found by following the link. Live broadcasts can be heard from 7:00-9:00 PM every Tuesday. Please feel free to join us in the RacersReunion® Chat Room for the show.