Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: 5 Drivers Who Had Other Careers

Although it may seem like it, many drivers in this history of NASCAR have had second jobs. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the “second job” was usually the one that actually put food on the table.

These days, it’s a little easier to make a living driving race cars. Although NASCAR doesn’t release winnings anymore, it’s unlikely that many are going hungry in the garage these days.

That said, there are some who have worked “real jobs” in the past 30-40 years. Here are five names you might recognize:

Stanton Barrett: Race fans may recognize Stanton Barrett as a long time journey-man driver in the Xfinity Series. This is only Barrett’s other career however.

Since the early 1990’s, Barrett has done stunt work in nearly 200 movies and television series. He has also appeared in some bit roles and has even turned to doing some directing work.

His IMDB page can be found right here.

Carl Edwards: Times can be a little tough when a driver is just starting out in their career. Many drivers who start out often have to race around their job that pays the bills.

Often, these jobs have to do with cars or minimum wage jobs. Tony Stewart, for instance, was once a wrecker driver. If you broke down in Rushville, Indiana in the early 1990’s, there’s a chance you may have been towed out by a future Sprint Cup champion.

Carl Edwards, though, was an exception to this rule. At one point, “Cousin Carl” was a substitute teacher in his hometown of Columbia, Missouri.

It’s doubtful Mr. Edwards ended every lesson with a back-flip off the desk, to say the least.

Hut Stricklin: Although Hut Stricklin never won, the final active member of the “Alabama Gang” had over 300 starts in the Sprint Cup Series. But after his driving career ended in 2002, Stricklin went back into the family business: the salvage yard.

“Mom and Dad each had their own, which were about 10 miles apart from each other. All my uncles had yards, too.” Stricklin said in 2005.

Opening his own in Cleveland, North Carolina in 2004, Stricklin has ran “Stricklin Auto and Truck Parts” for 12 years. According to his son’s website, Stricklin “can be found there on a day to day basis running the business, driving the loader, doing oil changes, being the janitor, or just about any other task that a normal small business owner would tackle every day”.

Just don’t call it a junkyard.

Harry Gant: Usually, the biggest star on a team is the driver. However, that wasn’t really the case with Mach 1 Racing, co-owned by director/stuntman Hal Needham and “The Bandit” himself, Burt Reynolds.

“Hollywood” Harry Gant, the pilot of the team’s No. 33 Skoal Bandit Buick, had the looks and the nickname to fit in with his owners. However, at heart, the North Carolinian was just like one of the blue collar fans in the stands.

“I’m a good driver, but a great carpenter” Gant supposedly has said in the past. Even if that quote wasn’t said by Gant, it’s probably true- he owned his own construction company before selling half of it to go racing in 1979. It’s impressive Gant had such a great career (474 starts, 18 wins, and eight top 10 finishes in points) considering that he didn’t complete his first full time season until the age of 39.

Gant is probably most famous for winning four-straight races in September of 1991. “Mr. September” was 51 at the time, and hold records as the driver with the most wins in their 50’s at eight total and the oldest overall Sprint Cup winner at 52.

Marty Robbins: There have been plenty of “celebrity impersonators” throughout NASCAR’s history. A Bill Clinton ran six Sprint Cup races in the early 1960’s, and John Kennedy ran eighteen events through the 60’s and 70’s. Reports that Kennedy was relieved by an L. Johnson in some races are unfounded. Steve Young and Bob Myers have also supposedly turned laps.

However, amongst all the namesakes in history, only one was the real deal; Marty Robbins, the singer of such country music hits as “El Paso” and “Big Iron”, ran part-time in NASCAR for much of the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s.

Robbins, who primarily used Cotton Owens-prepared Dodges throughout his career, was known for being a “stroker” most of the time, or a driver who raced near the back of the pack. Unlike a lot of drivers, who were there due to lack of money, Robbins was there because he loved being “in the pack”.

In 35 starts, Robbins had six top 10s with a best finish of fifth at Michigan in 1974. He primarily ran the big tracks of Talladega, Daytona, and Michigan throughout his career.

Robbins was well known in the racing community for his humility and honesty. In 1972, Robbins shocked the field in the latter part of a race at Talladega when he ran laps nearly 15 mph faster than his qualifying laps. Impressive, considering this came after being caught up in an accident beforehand.

After the race, it was discovered that Robbins had removed his restrictor plate mid-race just to feel “how it felt to go fast” and was promptly disqualified. Robbins refused the “Rookie of the Race” award NASCAR attempted to give him. On more than one occasion, Robbins purposely drove into a wall rather than T-bone a fellow driver during multi-car wrecks.

After he passed away just a month after his last start in 1982, NASCAR named its spring race at Nashville Speedway the next year the “Marty Robbins 420”.

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.

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