Longtime Busch Series owner Ed Whitaker passes away

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Former NASCAR Busch Series team owner Ed Whitaker passed away Friday at his home in Bristol, Va., business associate Peter Laura told the Bristol Herald Courier.

Whitaker was 76.

Whitaker was a Busch Series team owner for 20 years, from 1982 to 2002. His drivers made 246 starts, with 28 wins, 80 top-5 and 107 top-10 finishes, along with 17 poles.

Three of those wins were on his home track, Bristol Motor Speedway, which is hosting NASCAR’s Trucks, NNS and Cup series this weekend.

During his ownership tenure, Whitaker had a veritable Who’s Who collection of NASCAR drivers race for him, including providing Dale Earnhardt Jr. his first ride in the Busch Series at BMS in 1997.

Other NASCAR greats that drove for Whitaker – most while they were just beginning their careers in NASCAR’s developmental series – included 1992 Sprint Cup champion, the late Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, the late Tim Richmond, the late Davy Allison, Harry Gant and Morgan Shepherd. Gant earned 20 of Whitaker’s 28 wins as a team owner.

“He loved every driver that every got in one of his cars. They were family to him,” Whitaker’s widow, Maxine, told the Herald Courier.

Whitaker also fielded a car for six Sprint Cup (then known as Winston Cup) Series races in the late 1970s before switching to the Busch Series, the predecessor to the Nationwide Series.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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Former 5-time ALMS and Le Mans-winning team owner Dave Maraj killed in accident

Photo courtesy Dave Maraj Facebook page
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Well-known sports car team owner and automobile dealership owner Dave Maraj was killed Saturday night in a boating accident in Florida, according to SportsCar365.com.

Maraj’s Champion Racing teams won five consecutive American Le Mans Series championships from 2004 through 2008, and also captured the overall win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2005, the last American team to do so in the iconic sports car race.

IMSA President Scott Atherton released the following statement mourning Maraj’s passing:

Dave Maraj. Photo courtesy IMSA.

“All of us at IMSA are shocked and saddened by the news of Dave Maraj’s passing. As a team owner in the American Le Mans Series, Dave and his Champion Racing organization were the epitome of professionalism and excellence, as their five series championships and 24 Hours of Le Mans victory will attest.

“Dave was a tremendous competitor and a great friend to all in the paddock throughout his time in our sport. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dave’s family and friends and to all of his associates at Champion Motors.”

Maraj was a very successful automobile dealership owner, most notably Champion Motors and Champion Porsche in Pompano Beach, Florida, the latter considered the No. 1 Porsche dealer in the U.S.

Details of how Maraj died have not been released.

Maraj sold his racing operation after the 2008 season and devoted himself to his Porsche and Audi auto dealerships, as well as competitive sailing.