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Cotton Owens

Full Name:
Everett "Cotton" Owens
21st May 1924
Union, South Carolina
7th June 2012 (Aged 88)
Spartanburg, South Carolina
Most recent race (in database):

Although legendary car owner Cotton Owens made his NASCAR debut in 1950, it was in the modified division that his reputation as a driver blossomed. The 5ft 6in resident of Spartanburg scored over 100 feature race wins and was modified champion in both 1953 and 1954.

Owens was also breaking through in the senior Grand National stock car series by the end of the decade. He drove his fullest schedule in the category so far in 1957 when starting 17 races with Ray Nichels’ works Pontiac. His season started on the sands of Daytona Beach where he fought Paul Goldsmith’s Chevrolet for the lead. His rival’s engine let go with eight laps remaining and Owens cruised to Pontiac’s first NASCAR victory. It was also the first NASCAR race with a winning average speed of over 100mph. Owens was on pole for the Southern 500 at Darlington that September but was beaten into second position by Speedy Thompson on the tragic day that Bobby Myers was killed.

He won on Rochester’s half-mile Monroe County Fairgrounds in 1958 and enjoyed his most successful campaign in 1959. The highlight came at Richmond’s Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds when Owens steered his Thunder Chicken Ford Thunderbird from pole position to victory. He beat Lee Petty that day but finished as runner-up in the championship behind his fellow resident of North Carolina.

1960 began with pole position for the Daytona 500 and he extended his annual winning streak with victory in his hometown race at Spartanburg. By now he was an owner/driver and his Pontiac Catalina won four races during 1961 – the most prolific of his fifth race winning season in a row.

He all but retired from driving after 1962 but entered the likes of Junior Johnson and David Pearson in his cars. He would win once more after coming out of retirement to prove he could beat Pearson – something he duly did in the 1964 Capital City 300 at Richmond. The team-mates finished first and second in a race of attrition. Owens raced for a final time at Hillsboro’s Orange Speedway six days later when he finished second.

Pearson won the 1966 NASCAR championship in his last season with the team and that was Owens’ only such title as driver or car owner. The Cotton Owens Garage won 38 races in the top division before entering a race for the last time in 1973. He died in 2012 after fighting lung cancer for seven years.

Championship seasons