Former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey will be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (IMHOF) on Thursday, April 26, 2007.
Much of Donlavey’s notoriety comes from the conduit he developed giving young drivers a chance to compete at the top level in motorsports.
In Donlavey’s 50 years of ownership, he has placed 150 drivers in the seat of a stock car – 60 of those in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. The Richmond, Va. native may have only one NEXTEL Cup Series win as a team owner, but the various yet-to-be discovered drivers he hired early in their careers went on to claim a total of 50 wins, 323 top-5’s, 653 top-10’s and 61 poles.
Donlavey first entered the sport in 1950 when he drove for his own team. He later hired fellow Virginian Runt Harris for the 17th race of the 1950 season at Martinsville Speedway. Harris was the first of 19 drivers to whom Donlavey would give a debut in the NEXTEL Cup series.
Three of Donlavey’s drivers won Rookie of the Year honors in NASCAR’s top series, which demonstrates his recruiting expertise. Among his Rookie of the Year Award recipients is Fenton, Mo. native Ken Schrader. In 1985, Donlavey appointed Schrader to drive his No. 90 Ford full-time.
“There was simply no place where it was better for a rookie to get hooked up,” Schrader said in his biography, Gotta Race!
Jody Ridley won Rookie of the Year honors in the NEXTEL Cup Series driving for Donlavey Racing in 1980. Ridley raced a total of seven seasons with Donlavey, but only three full-time. The next year, he captured a win at Dover International Speedway, race 12 of the 1981 season. That victory uniquely was the first and only NEXTEL Cup Series win for both Ridley and Donlavey.
Multi-series champion Joe Weatherly also drove for Donlavey as a rookie, but not on a full-time basis. Donlavey hired Weatherly in 1952 to make his first Cup series start at the Southern 500 in Martinsville. After Donlavey opened the door, Weatherly furthered his career in the NEXTEL Cup series with other teams, eventually winning the 1962 and 1963 championships.
Over the years, the motorsports industry has recognized Donlavey’s efforts and dedication to the sport and has awarded him many honors, including the 1998 STP Richard Petty Achievement Award, the 1999 Ford Motor Company Spirit of Ford Award and the 2001 H. Clay Earles Award from Martinsville Speedway.
In 2002, the EMPA formed the Junie Donlavey Spirit of the Sport Award which is presented each year to individuals who best represent independent spirit of the sport and perform numerous tasks behind the scenes to make the sport better. The EMPA named Donlavey the first recipient of the award. Recipients of the award in years since include Kenny Brightbill (2003), Butch Tittle (2004), Morgan Shepherd (2005) and James Hylton (2006).
And now, Donlavey will add to his list of accomplishments this most prestigious title of “International Motorsports Hall of Fame Member” when he is inducted this April. Other 2007 IMHOF inductees are Jack Ingram, Wayne Rainey, Ray Hendrick, Warren Johnson and Bruton Smith.
About the International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum
Opened in April of 1983, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of motorsports. Each year, the annual International Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is held on the grounds of the museum to honor those men and women chosen for induction from among the greatest names in all of motorsports. This year’s black-tie ceremony consists of a reception, banquet and awards ceremony and is set for Thursday, April 26, 2007. Individual tickets are $125 and a table for eight may be reserved for $1,000 by calling (256) 362-5002. Visa, Mastercard and Discover are accepted. The IMHOF and Museum and Pitshop Retail Store are open from 9 to 4 p.m., 7 days a week with the exception of major holidays. Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $5 for kids age 7 to 17 and free for kids age 6 and younger. Tours of Talladega Superspeedway are also available at a cost of $5 for adults, $4 for kids age 7 to 17 and free for kids age 6 and younger. A discounted combo tour of both facilities is also available.
About Aaron’s Dream Weekend at Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega Superspeedway officials are preparing to welcome back fans for its first races of the 2007 NASCAR season during the Aaron’s Dream Weekend, featuring the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Busch Series and Aaron’s 499 NEXTEL Cup Series races, set for April 27-29. Tickets for and more information about the Aaron’s Dream Weekend are available by calling 1- 877-Go2-DEGA (462-3342) Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT, or by logging onto www.racetickets.com. For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). You may also purchase tickets in person at Talladega Superspeedway’s Ticket Office from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT, Monday – Friday.