Saturday, January 13, 2018

Ernie Irvan Born In Salinas, California - January 13, 1959

January 13, 1959
Ernie Irvan
(Photo; "ErnieIrvan1997" by Darryl Moran. Flicker)
Born in Salinas, California, USA.
A former competitor in NASCAR, he is best remembered for his comeback after a serious head injury at Michigan International Speedway. He is inducted in numerous halls of fame and was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. After a series of concussions in the late 1990s, Irvan retired from racing in 1999.

Irvan began his racing career driving karts in California in 1968 at the age of nine. He won the California Championship at the age of 15. In 1974, Irvan finished second in the country in his class at the national kart championship races. In 1975, Irvan moved up to stock cars at the age of 16 at Stockton 99 Speedway and was victorious in his first race on asphalt in a semi-main event. From then until 1981 Irvan raced every weekend at Madera and Stockton, CA, winning numerous feature events.

In 1982, Irvan left California with $700 in his pocket and everything he owned loaded into his pickup truck and a homemade trailer, and he headed east to North Carolina. Worried about running out of money, Irvan stopped in Las Vegas and managed to leave with an additional $200.

Irvan supported himself in Charlotte, North Carolina by welding grandstand seats at Charlotte Motor Speedway, unloaded Ken Schrader's moving van, built racecars, and other odd jobs. During that time, he won nine races driving in the Late Model Series at Concord Speedway. Driving a Firebird, Irvan won two races his first year and eleven races the next year.

Irvan met car-builder Marc Reno and they became partners in their racing ventures. Before long, Irvan made his Winston Cup debut on September 13 at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway driving the No.56 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The car, built and prepared by Irvan and Reno, was sponsored by Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet. Irvan qualified 20th but was sidelined after 35 laps after the car's engine overheated. He finished 29th and won $860.

And from there the rest is history, a start of a career that followed with 313 NASCAR Cup Series starts, run over 12 years, with 15 wins, 124 top-ten finishes and 22 poles.

Among his many Awards;
NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers (1998)
Super Ford Magazine Driver of the Year (1993)
True Value Hard Charger (1994)
Mike Rich Memorial Award (1994)
Maxwell House Spirit Award (1994, 1995)
Winston Cup Scene Top Story of the Year (1995)
Arete Award for Courage in Sports - Professional Division (1995)
Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award (1996)
AP Parts Meet the Challenge Award (1996)
Selected as a torchbearer for the 2002 Olympics (2001)
Inductee into the Stock Car Hall of Fame (2002)
Voted by MSNBC Top Ten Greatest Sport Comebacks of All Time (2002)
Inductee in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame (2005)

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