Ed Negre, gave Dale Earnhardt first break in NASCAR, dies

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Ed Negre, who owned the first car that the late Dale Earnhardt ever raced in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, passed away Wednesday in a hospice in Longview, Wash., according to a report in the Charlotte Observer.

Negre was 86.

Competing primarily on a part-time basis, Negre raced in 338 events in NASCAR’s Grand National and Winston Cup series from 1955 through 1979. While he never won a race in the series, he had four top-five and 26 top-10 finishes.

His best season was 1971, when he competed in 43 of 48 races, earned two top-10 finishes and wound up 12th in the final Grand National Series standings.

His career-best finish was fourth at Portland Speedway (Oregon) in 1956.

According to Tom Higgins, retired NASCAR writer at The Observer,

Negre is perhaps best known for providing a car to a young, shy, long-haired driver from Kannapolis named Earnhardt for his first Cup Series start, at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25, 1975, in the World 600.

Earnhardt finished 22nd that day, Negre was 32nd.

Earnhardt continued on to a storied career, winning seven championships to tie Richard Petty’s record before he was killed in a last-lap crash during the 2001 Daytona 500.

Negre always took pride in what he called a ‘small part’ in helping Earnhardt get started, saying he sensed Earnhardt had what it took to make it big.”

Negre moved from North Carolina to Washington state after the 1979 racing season and opened a trucking firm.

He is survived by wife Faye. The couple were married 59 years. Also surviving are four daughters and a son, Norman, who is head of fabrication for Stewart-Haas Racing, while Norman’s son Scott (Ed’s grandson) is a team engineer at SHR.

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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.