Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Richmond Racing Legend "Sonny" Hutchins Born - May 17, 1929

May 17, 1929 - November 22, 2005
Ernest "Sonny" Hutchins
Born in Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Ernest Lloyd "Sonny" Hutchins, was one of the greatest drivers in Richmond history and a member of the famed "Strawberry Hill Mod Squad". He was well known as a local restaurateur and up and down the east coast as a NASCAR driver. A champion on short tracks, he competed with flair and success for more than 30 years. It is estimated that Hutchins won more than 300 races despite a nine-year retirement in the prime of his career.

A charismatic competitor with a lead foot and a clever tongue, Hutchins competing in Late Models, Modifieds and Winston Cup. Though he made only 38 starts in NASCAR's premier series, he had many fierce battles with Cup champions such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.

In an interview, Hutchins recalled his favorite part of racing was "showing up at someone else's racetrack and beating them." He said with a devilish grin that Waltrip called him "the dirtiest driver he ever knew" after trumping the three-time champion at a Tennessee short track.

Even the late Dale Earnhardt, the seven-time Winston Cup champion who was long known for his aggressive driving style, came fender-to-fender and lost to Hutchins. He had a few run-ins in the mid-1970s with Earnhardt, infuriating "The Intimidator" by bumping him into the wall at back-to-back Late Model races at Richmond and Martinsville. The seven-time champion hadn't forgotten when they crossed paths again in 1990. Earnhardt told Hutchins that he taught him everything he knew about being an aggressive driver.

Hutchins, who made his Modified debut with a sixth-place finish at the old Fairgrounds track known as Strawberry Hill in 1950, also was a boyhood hero to NASCAR car owner Rick Hendrick.

"Guys like Sonny Hutchins and Ray Hendrick are the ones who put the bug in me to get into racing" said Hendrick, a Virginia native who watched Mr. Hutchins at South Boston Speedway and Southside Speedway. "Sonny was fearless. He wore glasses thicker than a Coke bottle, and I don't think he could see. But he was unbelievable. To watch him run those Modified cars with all that power and actually spin the tires all the way down the straightaway. He was quite a talent."

Hutchins was one of the "4-H Boys" along with Ray Hendrick, Runt Harris and Ted Hairfield. The foursome was a promoter's dream, drawing crowds wherever they entered together.

Hutchins built a large fan following in Virginia and was a four-time season champion at Southside Speedway. In his last full season in 1980, he won Late Model titles at Southside and South Boston. In 1981, after a race at Southside, Hutchins suffered a heart attack and promptly retired from racing, ending a 31-year racing career.

Hutchins once said he "never made never a nickel in my life racing, I gave the money back to the car owners and said give me a better car. I just loved automobiles. I spent my whole life in racing, and I don't know anything I'd trade for it."

"I never played baseball, football, basketball, golf. I couldn't tell you who is a football player or a baseball player," Hutchins says. "I just love racing."

On November 22, 2005 "Sonny" Hutchins died from heart failure. He was 76.

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