NASCAR pioneer Cotton Owens dies at age 88

Jun 08, 2012 03:01 PM EDT

Legends are born and when they die, they leave a legacy for the people behind them to remember how much they actually contributed to society.  

Just two weeks after being selected as a member of the 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame class, former car owner and driver Cotton Owens died Thursday of cancer at age 88.

According to a report in Sporting News, the South Carolina native, one of the pioneers of NASCAR, was selected May 23 as one of the Hall's fourth five-member class. He will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in February. Cotton Owens died just a few weeks after being selected as a member of NASCAR's 2013 Hall of Fame class.

"NASCAR has lost one of its true pioneers with the passing of Cotton Owens," NASCAR chairman Brian France said in a statement. "On behalf of the France Family and everyone at NASCAR, I offer heartfelt condolences to Cotton's family and friends.

"This is a sad day for the NASCAR industry, but we are all consoled by the fact that Cotton was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame before his death." Owens died at his home in Spartanburg, S.C.

"The family would like to express gratitude for the thoughts and prayers of precious friends and fans," the family said in a statement released through the Hall of Fame.

"While Cotton was a racing legend with an incredible racing 'family,' we mourn the irreplaceable great granddad, granddad, father, uncle, brother-in-law and friend we have all lost."

With roots in Modified racing, Owens won nine times in NASCAR's premier series, including the 1957 race on the Daytona Beach road course.

As an owner, he won 38 races, including 27 with NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson behind the wheel. Pearson won the 1966 title driving for Owens.

"I vividly remember when I first started following NASCAR in the early to mid-'60s watching his white-and-red No. 6 Dodge run up front with David Pearson and later Buddy Baker," NASCAR Hall of Fame executive director Winston Kelley said.

"I was just a child, but I still remember his car being a contender all the time. It was one of the ones to beat."

In 1998, the 50th anniversary of NASCAR, Owens was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers.

"Today we have lost a portion of our past," France said. "But people like Cotton Owens are the reason our sport thrives today-and can look forward to a promising future."

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