NASCAR Beginnings Featuring ‘Tiny’ Lund

DeWayne Louis “Tiny” Lund was named as one of NASCAR’s 50 best drivers in 1998. The list is a mix of drivers with varying qualifications. Some won a lot of races and some won multiple championships. Often the reasons are not as obvious as numbers on a piece of paper but they all have one thing in common. Each had a huge impact on the sport of stock car racing.

Lund was born in Harlan, Iowa in 1929. He began his career racing motorcycles but later moved on to midget and sprint cars. Lund eventually found his way to the Modified Division where he quickly became a dominant force.

He made a name for himself as a hard charger who never lifted. Iowa was his proving ground and he excelled on every kind of short track. From dirt to clay, from flat track to banked, Lund became a master at his craft. No one can say for sure how many features that he won but estimates are as high as five hundred.

Lund was a bear of a man at 6’6” tall and weighed in at around 300 pounds. He towered over most of his fellow competitors who jokingly referred to him as “Tiny.” Those who knew him best will tell you that this big man had an even bigger heart.

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He also had a reputation as an aggressive driver who loved fast cars and wild parties but off the track he was better known for his practical jokes. His booming laugh was often heard echoing through the garage.

There was a gentle side to Lund too, especially when it came to his younger fans. It was not uncommon for him to give away a trophy to a child who came up to him wanting nothing more than an autograph.

The early part of Lund’s career was spent driving for different owners including A.L. Bumgarner and Gus Holzmueller. One of his most explosive partnerships was with Lee Petty. Lund drove about five races for Petty in 1957 but their partnership ended abruptly after the two had a disagreement.

The specifics of the argument aren’t known but they put on quite a show during driver introductions at the Greensboro Agricultural Fairgrounds on April 28, 1957.

Tom Higgins of ThatsRacing.com was researching an article on NASCAR fights and talked to Tim Flock who was there that day.

“Oh, by far the best fight I ever saw was between Tiny and the Petty family,” Tim said. “Even now, 30 or so years later, when I think about it, the thing makes me laugh so hard it brings tears to my eyes.”

“Lee and Tiny passed each other on the stage, and one of them made a remark to the other. Then the fists started flying.”

“Lee was as tough a guy as they come. But at about 6-3 and maybe 175 he was no match for Tiny.”

Petty’s sons, Richard and Maurice rushed over to help their father.

“Danged if Tiny wasn’t putting a whipping on all three of them. Tiny was so big and stout they couldn’t handle him.”

At this point Flock was laughing so hard that he had tears in his eyes, as he continued the story.

“This is when Mrs. Petty got into it,” he continued. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when she went on that stage and started pummeling Tiny in the head with her purse.”

“She was putting pump-knots on Tiny’s head with that handbag. The reason that it was such a weapon was because Mrs. Petty had a .38 pistol inside it!”

The fight ended quickly after that. Although no one is sure what started the fight, the victory clearly belonged to Mrs. Petty. Higgins later verified the story with Richard Petty and asked if his mother would be embarrassed if he included her part in the fight.

Petty’s answer says it all.

“Embarrassed? Man, she’s right proud of it.”

After his association with Petty Enterprises ended, Lund continued to work with A.L. Bumgarner but soon ended up fielding his own cars.

At the end of 1963 Lund headed to Daytona, Florida in the hope of finding a new ride. With this decision, Lund put himself in the right place at the right time.

His first career win was in 1963 at NASCAR’s biggest venue where he won the Daytona 500. But the story of how he got to compete in this particular race is almost more impressive than the win.

In 1963, the preliminary race leading up to the Daytona 500 was a sports car event named the Daytona Continental. Marvin Panch, a driver for the Woods Brothers, was testing a Maserati sports car and got together with another car. The crash sent Panch spinning out of control. His car flipped over and burst into flames.

Panch was on fire and trapped inside his car. Lund, who was a spectator at the race, immediately ran over to the burning car and pulled Panch from the wreckage. Panch suffered burns to over two thirds of his body and faced a long recovery.

Lund was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Honor for his heroic actions that day.

It is rumored that while in the hospital recovering from his injuries, Panch asked the man who had saved his life if he would be interested in driving his car for the Daytona 500. There’s another story that the decision was made by the Wood Brothers. It’s said that they simply asked themselves who was the last person they would want to see in the rear view mirror when leading a race.

Regardless of who made the decision, Lund was handed the opportunity of a lifetime.

Lund teamed up with the Woods Brothers who had already prepared a unique strategy for winning the race. Their plan was to run the entire event on one set of tires and to make one less pit stop than everyone else.

Lund patiently worked his way through the field and took the lead late in the race. The race was winding down when Fred Lorenzen passed Lund for first place but with less than ten laps to go, Lorenzen had to make a last minute pit stop for fuel and handed the lead back to Lund.

A few laps later, Lund was passed by Ned Jarrett but on lap 197, Jarrett had to pit for fuel too. Lund once again took the lead.

It was a nail-biting finish as Lund fought to hang on to first place with Lorenzen and Jarrett closing in fast. The fans were on their feet cheering. Did Lund have enough gas to finish the race?

Running on nothing but fumes, Lund hung on to capture the checkered flag and coasted into the winners circle to claim the victory.

The Daytona 500 win revived Lund’s career but success was fleeting. He continued to work with the Woods Brothers but after Marvin Panch’s return, Lund was out of a job. By 1964, he was back to journeyman status and found work with a revolving door of different car owners.

Lund teamed up with Lyle Stelter at the end of 1964. Although his association with Stelter had more downs than ups, Lund added two more wins to his resume. They parted company after the end of the 1967 season.

After teaming up with Bud Moore, Lund found more success in the newly formed Grand American division. This series was designed to run pony cars like Mustangs and Camaros. Lund won his first Grand American Championship in 1968.

He may not have been one of the most accomplished drivers but Tiny Lund went on to become one of the most loved and memorable drivers in NASCAR. His accomplishments are varied and many. Lund won races in USAC, ARCA, the Pacific Coast Racing Association and the Grand American Series.

He won the Grand American Championship three times in 1968, 1970 and 1971 and the Grand National East Championship in 1973. Lund was also a fan favorite and won the Most Popular Driver title in the Grand National American Series four consecutive years from 1969-1972.

Sadly, Tiny Lund’s life was cut short on August 17, 1975 after an accident on the sixth lap of the Talladega 500. Lund got together with J.D. McDuffie and caused a chain reaction that ended when rookie driver Terry Link was turned, running straight into the driver’s side door of Lund’s car.

Lund was killed instantly.

Link’s car burst into flames and two spectators, along with driver Walter Ballard, pulled the unresponsive Link from his car. The accident was eerily reminiscent of what Lund had done for Marvin Panch in 1963 at Daytona.

NASCAR had lost one of its most endearing stars. Buck Baker won the race that day but there was no celebration in Victory Lane. After being told that his close friend had died, Baker fell to his knees, overcome with emotion.

Achievements:

Awarded the Carnegie Medal of Honor for heroism

Won Most Popular Driver Award–Grand National American Series: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972

Won Grand American Championship – 1968, 1970, 1971

Won Grand National East Championship – 1973

Inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame – 1994

Named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers – 1998

A Tiny Lund Grandstand at Daytona International Speedway named in his honor.

The Tiny Lund Memorial Race – Annual race in Lund’s hometown of Harlan, Iowa

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