Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tiny Lund: Larger than life

By: Tom Gillispie    Published: September 22, 2011

DeWayne “Tiny” Lund, the last winner of a Cup race at Hickory Motor Speedway, was most definitely not a tiny man. At 6-6 and close to 300 pounds, Lund rarely did anything in a tiny way.
And he came up huge in the 1963 Daytona 500.
Ten days before the 500, Marvin Panch crashed a Maserati during sports-car testing in the Daytona International Speedway infield. Lund pulled Panch from the upside down and burning sports car and later received the Carnegie Medal of Honor for heroism. Since Panch couldn’t race, Panch persuaded the Woods Brothers to let Lund drive their Ford in the Daytona 500. He averaged 151.566 mph and became the first and only driver to win the Daytona 500 on a single set of tires, perhaps one of the greatest feats in racing.
He also joined the list of drivers – Derrike Cope, Mario Andretti and Sterling Marlin are among them– to get their first Cup victories in stock-car racing’s biggest race.
Lund loved fast cars, fishing, good times and children, as he often gave a racing trophy to a child after winning that day’s featured race.
Only one month before his big Daytona 500 win, Lund caught a world-champion 55-pound striped bass on Lake Moultrie near Cross, S.C., and he chose No. 55 for his car.
Lund was a four-time NASCAR Grand American champion and won a Grand National East title.
Along with his back-to-back Grand American championships in '70 and '71, Lund won two Grand National races in 1971 – the Buddy Shuman 100, a 276-lap, 100-mile race at Hickory Motor Speedway, and the Wilkes 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway. He was driving a Grand American Camaro owned by Ronnie Hopkins.
He wound up winning 5 of 303 Grand National (now called Sprint Cup) races.
His last race, one he entered while doing a favor for a friend, was on Aug. 17, 1975. After a crash eight laps into the Talladega 500 at Alabama International Motor Speedway (now Talladega Superspeedway), he died of massive chest injuries at 45 years of age.
Lund, who was born Nov. 14, 1929, in Harlan, Iowa, considered both Cross, S.C., and Harlan home. And he has been well remembered in both areas. Now-defunct Summerville Speedway near Charleston, S.C., used to hold a Tiny Lund Memorial race each year, and Shelby County Speedway in Harlan runs annual Tiny Lund Memorial race  in honor of Lund, a member of the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.
There’s also a Tiny Lund Grandstand at Daytona International Speedway.
Lund was also one of the most colorful drivers of his era. There’s the time he fought the entire Petty family to a standstill, only to be pummeled by a woman with her purse. There’s the time Buddy Baker, another colorful character, was swimming, and Lund snuck up on him, alligator-like, from below. That gave Baker, deathly afraid of gators, quite a scare. And Tiny got quite a giggle. And there’s the time Tiny was showering and Cale Yarborough dumped cold water on him. Long story short, Lund wound up flinging a mattress, with Cale clinging to it, into the motel’s pool. Lund, of course, hadn’t taken time to get dressed.
The winner of the 1975 Talladega 500, by the way, was Baker, another member of Hickory Motor Speedway’s Wall of Fame. When Baker went to the press box for the winner’s interview, he learned of Lund’s death and fell to his knees in a near swoon.
Years later, Baker always has a Tiny Lund story. He once talked about a post-race incident as Lund raised dust as he stalked toward Buddy. The men had just bumped fenders and bumpers on track, and Lund apparently wanted to dent Baker's nose.
 “I looked up and said, ‘Oh, Lord,' ” Baker said with a laugh. “Tiny was racing me, and I was racing to win. I tried to get around him four or five times, so I just moved him. It kinda made him mad.”
Naturally. Baker said he noticed part of an axle about the length of a ball bat.
“My first thought,” he has said, “was to take the axle and whop him across the head. Then it occurred to me, ‘What if I miss?’ ”
So how did Baker handle the aroused and not-so-tiny DeWayne Lund?
“I was a good salesman, and I had a boost of adrenaline,” Baker said, laughing. “I said, ‘You, of all people, are upset at me? You hit me four or five times in one corner!’ He turned around laughing and walked off. I thought, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”
Baker, who was also 6-6 but not as hefty as Lund, was asked if he was happy that the outsized Tiny departed without hostilities. “You tell me, if you were in a river and a bear got in, would you be happy when it went away?"
Absolutely. Especially a Tiny bear.

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