Former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey passes away at 90

Leave a comment

Junie Donlavey, notable for fielding NASCAR teams from the sport’s early days all the way into the 2000s, has passed away at the age of 90 in Richmond, Virginia. NBC affiliate WWBT is relaying confirmation of his death from family members.

Donlavey began his tenure as a team owner in 1950, when he fielded a car for Runt Harris at Martinsville Speedway. Harris finished 19th in that race, the first in what would be a span of 863 races for Donlavey’s team in what’s now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Throughout that time, Donlavey only claimed one win as an owner via Jody Ridley’s triumph in the 1981 Mason-Dixon 500 at Dover International Speedway.

But his team employed the services of many great talents including – but not limited to – Joe Weatherly, Benny Parsons, Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader, and Dick Trickle.

Primarily known for helping young drivers cut their teeth in the sport, Donlavey’s No. 90 was driven to Rookie of the Year honors three times (Bill Dennis, 1970; Ridley, 1980; Schrader, 1985).

In 2007, five years after his team ran its final Cup race, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

While Donlavey only got to visit Victory Lane once in his ownership career, he held a high level of respect from his peers in the NASCAR garage. For his part, he believed that his drivers did as much for him as he did for them.

“For me, it was always about running with good people,” he said in a 1998 interview with the Indianapolis Star. “There are so many in this sport and that’s the reason I’ve stayed in it so long.

“I think we’ve been able to help people, but I know they helped us. I learned so much from the Pearsons and the Bakers and all the great drivers who drove for me.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with Donlavey’s family and friends at this time…

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. A dream start occurred for Sebastien Bourdais and the Dale Coyne Racing team upon their reunion, followed by a nightmare in Indianapolis with a huge crash in qualifying, and ended with a rapid recovery to build confidence for 2018.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: 14th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 24 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 11.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 21st Place (8 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 74 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 11.0 Avg. Finish

The 2017 campaign for Sebastien Bourdais upon his return to Dale Coyne Racing will forever be known as both a year of “what could have been” and a year of “what a comeback it was.”

The abnormal season for Bourdais stretched eight races with a three-month break in the middle owing to his own mistake qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fracture to his right hip. His car was a rocket ship; but after two laps at 231 mph, Bourdais appeared to over-correct and destroyed the wall at Turn 2 in Indy in a massive 127G impact. It was a horrific looking accident, but one that also saw Bourdais rather lucky to have not been injured worse.

It set forth in motion an incredible recovery that saw Bourdais back testing the Monday after Mid-Ohio, just over two months since the accident, then in race action just over three months later at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval, and because Bourdais is a regulation badass, he finished in the top-10 straight out of the box. He worked as hard as he did to return earlier than anticipated to avoid an offseason of questions asking if he’d come back and if he’d be strong enough to do so.

The recovery was a welcome story to end the year after the agony at Indy that stopped a potential title run or certainly top-five in points finish in its tracks. A classic Coyne strategy special vaulted Bourdais from last to first and a popular win in his U.S. hometown of St. Petersburg to kick off the year. A second place at Long Beach backed it up and eighth at Barber kept him atop the standings.

But Indy was shaping up to be an important bounce back weekend after Bourdais got taken out in Phoenix, then incurred an engine failure in the IMS road course race. And then, of course, his loud and violent accident qualifying for the ‘500 changed the course of the season.

After three “almost there” but largely unfulfilling years at KV Racing Technology, Bourdais embraced the family atmosphere back at Coyne along with longtime engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson, determined to continue punching above the team’s weight. He crafted a remarkable story all season and will be keen to fulfill it over the course of a proper full campaign in 2018.