RICHMOND, Va. – Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Junie Donlavey, who fielded race cars from NASCAR’s early days all the way to the 2000s, has died. He was 90 years old.
Donlavey first began fielding a race team in 1950 when he entered a car for Runt Harris at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. That was the first of 863 races for Donlavey’s team in what is now known as the Sprint Cup Series.
Despite fielding a car in the Sprint Cup Series for more than 50 years, Donlavey only scored one victory as an owner. It came in the 1981 Mason-Dixon 500 at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway with Jody Ridley behind the wheel. Among those who drove for Donlavey during his tenure as a car owner were Joe Weatherly, Benny Parsons, Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader and Dick Trickle.
Donlavey’s No. 90 was driven by three Rookie of the Year winners during his time as a car owner. Bill Dennis won the award in 1970, Ridley in 1980 and Schrader in 1985.
The No. 90 car owned by Donlavey made its last appearance in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race during the 2002 UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 13, 2002. Jason Hedlesky drove the car, which finished last in the 43-car field.
“Anytime I think about Mr. Donlavey the first thing that comes to my mind is what a tremendous human being he was and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have the career that I have now,” said Hedlesky, who also served as Donlavey’s team manager for several years. “I was a 24-year-old kid that came from Michigan to Richmond, Virginia and he gave me a chance to not only work on his cars and to drive his cars, but to learn from him. When you learn from a guy like him, who has been in the sport since the very beginning, he’s been around and seen everything. He was in the first Southern 500. He raced on the beach and he had tremendous race car drivers that not only drove his race cars, but worked with him. Through those doors in Richmond there were so many talented crew members and people that were all under his tutelage.”
In 2007 Donlavey was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.