Neil Bonnett

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Neil Bonnett
NeilBonnett1985.jpg
Bonnett in 1985
Born (1946-07-30)July 30, 1946
Hueytown, Alabama, United States
Died February 11, 1994(1994-02-11) (aged 47)
Daytona Beach, Florida, United States
Cause of death Autoracing accident during practice for the 1994 Daytona 500
Achievements 1982, 1983 World 600 Winner
1979 Firecracker 400 Winner
Awards Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers (1998)
National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame inductee (1997)
International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee (2001)
Winner of the first ever NASCAR race run outside of North America, the Goodyear NASCAR 500 held in Australia (1988)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career
362 races run over 18 years
Best finish 4th (1985)
First race 1974 Nashville 420 (Nashville)
Last race 1993 Hooters 500 (Atlanta)
First win 1977 Capital City 400 (Richmond)
Last win 1988 Goodwrench 500 (Rockingham)
Wins Top tens Poles
18 156 20
Statistics current as of June 14, 2015.
1983 racecar.

Lawrence Neil Bonnett (July 30, 1946 – February 11, 1994), known professionally as Neil Bonnett, was a NASCAR driver who compiled 18 victories and 20 poles over his 18-year career. The Alabama native currently ranks 45th in all-time NASCAR Cup victories.[1] He appeared in the 1983 film Stroker Ace and the 1990 film Days of Thunder. Bonnett hosted the TV show Winners for TNN from 1991 to 1994. He was a color commentator for CBS, TBS, and TNN in the years until his death.

NASCAR career[edit]

Bonnett began his NASCAR career as a protégé of 1983 Winston Cup champion Bobby Allison, working on the team's cars. He later became part of the famous "Alabama Gang" that included himself, Red Farmer and the Allison family: father Bobby, Brother Donnie and, later, Son Davey. He began driving in NASCAR in 1974 and earned his first victory in 1977 at the Capital City 400 in Richmond, Virginia driving for Harry Hyde-Jim Stacy Racing. He had another victory in 1977 at the Los Angeles Times 500, which would be the last Dodge win in NASCAR until 2001. Many in racing circles thought 1978 would be his year to dominate, but troubles with his cars (the new for '78 Dodge Magnum) and financial problems between Hyde and Stacy caused his cars to fail and to drop out of many races. In 1979 he hooked up with the Wood Brothers Racing Team and got his career back on track with three victories. He later won back-to-back World 600s (NASCAR's longest race, now the Coca-Cola 600) in 1982 and 1983 and back-to-back Busch Clash (now Bud Shootout) victories in 1983 and '84, including his first in which he did not win a single pole from the previous season, but was selected as a wild card entry.[2]

In 1984, Bonnett joined Junior Johnson's team, becoming a teammate to Darrell Waltrip. In 1985, he had one of his best seasons, finishing fourth in the points standings while Waltrip went on to win his third championship.

Bonnett participated in International Race of Champions (IROC) during three seasons (1979, 1980, and 1984), and finished second twice.

Bonnett holds the distinction of being the winner of the first ever NASCAR race held outside of North America when he won the 1988 Goodyear NASCAR 500 at the A$54 million Calder Park Thunderdome in Melbourne, Australia (at the time the newly opened Thunderdome was also the first NASCAR style speedway to be built outside of North America). The race, run two weeks after the Daytona 500, was not a Winston Cup race but featured some drivers from the series including fellow Alabama Gang member Bobby Allison, Michael Waltrip, Dave Marcis and Kyle Petty who were up against Australian drivers somewhat new to NASCAR racing. Bonnet, who had won the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway the previous weekend, started from the pole driving his Valvoline sponsored Pontiac Grand Prix. He and Allison (who had won the Daytona 500 two weeks previous), driving a Buick LeSabre, dominated the crash marred, 280 lap 500 km (310 mile) race finishing first and second ahead of Dave Marcis on a day when cabin temperatures were reported to reach over 57° Celsius (135° Fahrenheit) as the race was held during Australia's notoriously hot summer.

On April 1, 1990, Bonnett suffered a life-threatening crash during the TranSouth 500 at Darlington, South Carolina, when his car slammed into Sterling Marlin’s car during a 14-car crash on lap 212. He was left with amnesia and dizziness, he retired from racing and turned to television, becoming a race color commentator for TNN, CBS Sports, and TBS Sports, and hosting the TV show Winners for TNN.

However, Bonnett still desired to continue racing. In 1992, he began testing cars for good friends Dale Earnhardt and car owner Richard Childress. Cleared to race again in 1993 and upon Earnhardt's suggestion, Childress gave Bonnett a ride for the 1993 DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway which was numbered 31 and sponsored by GM Goodwrench. But his comeback race was marred by a crash in which his car spun, became airborne, and crashed into the spectator fence. He was uninjured and called the rest of the race from the CBS broadcast booth after being cleared at the infield care center. He would also start the final race of the 1993 season in Atlanta, but he dropped out after just three laps. The reason the team gave for removing the car from the race was a blown engine; however, he was teamed with points leader Earnhardt, and the car was retired to assist Earnhardt in winning the season's championship. Earnhardt needed to maximize his finishing position, and by Bonnett quitting the race he was assured of those three championship points. That was Bonnett's final cup start of his career.

Death[edit]

Despite the setbacks, Bonnett was encouraged because he had secured a ride and sponsorship for at least six races in the 1994 season with car owner James Finch, including the season opening race, the Daytona 500, for Phoenix Racing. But on February 11, 1994, during the first practice session for the 1994 Daytona 500, a shock mount broke causing him to lose control of his Chevrolet on the track's high-banked fourth turn. The car swerved onto the track apron, and then up the steep bank before crashing into the wall nearly head on. Bonnett did not survive the accident; he was 47 years old.

That weekend, another racing death occurred, as 1993 Goody's Dash (four-cylinder) champion Rodney Orr was also killed in a racing crash during the practices surrounding the first weekend. In the middle of the second Goodyear-Hoosier tire war, Hoosier withdrew from the race immediately.

Bonnett is buried in Pleasant Grove's cemetery, Forest Grove Memorial Gardens. A road called "Allison-Bonnett Memorial Drive" in his hometown honors him, along with fellow native Davey Allison, who died seven months earlier.

When Earnhardt, Bonnett's colleague, won the 1998 Daytona 500, he dedicated the victory to Bonnett among others.

Three years later Earnhardt himself died in a racing accident during the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. About three weeks after the accident, magazine photographers released photographs of Bonnett's autopsy, as well as those of another driver who died a few days later, Rodney Orr, to the public, which led to a lawsuit.[3]

When Brad Keselowski scored Phoenix Racing's first Sprint Cup win 15 years later in the 2009 Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Finch dedicated the win to Bonnett. During the 2013 season, Finch designed the No. 51 car's paint scheme in the Cup and Nationwide Series like Bonnett's 1994 Country Time Chevrolet that he drove shortly before his death.

In popular culture[edit]

Bonnett was portrayed by the actor Sean Bridgers in the TV movie 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story.

Motorsports career results[edit]

NASCAR[edit]

(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)

Winston Cup Series[edit]

NASCAR Winston Cup Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 NWCC Pts Ref
1973 K&K Insurance Racing 1 Dodge RSD DAY RCH CAR BRI ATL NWS DAR MAR TAL
DNQ
NSV CLT DOV TWS RSD MCH DAY BRI ATL TAL NSV DAR RCH DOV NWS MAR CLT CAR NA - [4]
1974 Roberts Racing 77 Chevy RSD DAY RCH CAR BRI ATL DAR NWS MAR TAL
45
NSV DOV CLT RSD MCH DAY BRI NSV ATL POC 87th 3.52 [5]
Bobby Allison Motorsports 1 Chevy TAL
39
MCH DAR RCH DOV NWS MAR CLT CAR ONT
1975 12 RSD DAY RCH CAR BRI ATL NWS DAR MAR TAL NSV DOV CLT RSD MCH DAY NSV
14
POC TAL
35
MCH DAR DOV NWS MAR CLT RCH CAR BRI ATL ONT NA 0 [6]
1976 Bonnett Racing RSD DAY
5
CAR RCH BRI ATL
8
NWS DAR
30
MAR
19
TAL
39
NSV DOV CLT RSD
29
MCH DAY
33
TAL
38
MCH
6
BRI DAR
24
RCH DOV MAR NWS
28
CLT
35
CAR ATL
8
ONT 32nd 1130 [7]
Penske Racing 2 Mercury NSV
QL
POC
1977 K&K Insurance Racing 71 Dodge RSD
17
DAY
37
RCH
7
CAR
5
ATL
12
NWS
21
DAR
33
BRI
4
MAR
12
TAL
29
NSV DOV CLT
7
RSD MCH 18th 2649 [8]
Jim Stacy Racing 5 Dodge DAY
8
NSV
21
POC TAL
25
MCH BRI
17
DAR RCH
1*
DOV
17
MAR
22
NWS
3
CLT
8
CAR
28
ATL
38
ONT
1*
1978 RSD
4
DAY
27
RCH
9
CAR
6
ATL
33
BRI
26
DAR
32
NWS
24
MAR
2
DOV
5
NSV
5
RSD
10
MCH
36
12th 3129 [9]
Olds TAL
39
CLT
35
MCH
9
Osterlund Racing Chevy DAY
23
NSV
28
POC
36
TAL
8
BRI
20
DAR
34
RCH
3*
MAR
4
NWS
5
CLT
30
CAR
31
ATL
34
ONT
37
Olds DOV
29
1979 Jim Stacy Racing Chevy RSD
34
26th 2223 [10]
Olds DAY
32
CAR
33
RCH ATL NWS BRI
Kennie Childers Racing 12 Olds DAR
13
Wood Brothers Racing 21 Mercury MAR
25
TAL
17*
NSV DOV
1
CLT
25
TWS RSD
28
MCH
4
DAY
1*
NSV POC
8
TAL
34
MCH
33
BRI DAR
32
RCH DOV
21
MAR
18
CLT
31
NWS CAR
29
ATL
1
ONT
6
1980 RSD
34
DAY
3
RCH CAR
6
ATL
41
BRI DAR
36
NWS MAR
6
TAL
27
NSV DOV
18
CLT
5
TWS RSD
2
MCH
4
DAY
34
NSV POC
1*
TAL
1
MCH
2
BRI DAR
5
RCH DOV
6
NWS MAR
19
CLT
30
CAR
25
ATL
2
ONT
2
19th 2865 [11]
1981 Ford RSD
27
DAY
33
RCH CAR
4
ATL
28
BRI NWS DAR
29
MAR
2
TAL
32
NSV DOV
13*
CLT
29
TWS RSD
4
MCH
9
DAY
30
NSV POC
34
TAL
37
MCH
28
BRI DAR
1*
RCH DOV
1*
MAR
4
NWS CLT
29*
CAR
35
ATL
1*
RSD
33
22nd 2449 [12]
1982 DAY
25
RCH
7
ATL
27
CAR
19
DAR
24
MAR
3
TAL
19
DOV
19
CLT
1
POC RSD
5
MCH
11
DAY
32
NSV POC TAL
16
MCH
9
BRI DAR
34
RCH
5
DOV
21
NWS CLT
28
MAR
22
CAR
3
ATL
11
RSD
4
17th 2966 [13]
Rogers Racing 37 Buick BRI
22
NWS
10
NSV
5
1983 RahMoc Enterprises 75 Chevy DAY
22
RCH
3
CAR
12
ATL
2
DAR
7
NWS
4
MAR
16
TAL
15
NSV
13
DOV
28
BRI
4
CLT
1
RSD
13
POC
7
MCH
31
DAY
28
NSV
6
POC
4
TAL
35
MCH
35
BRI
10
DAR
4
RCH
8
DOV
7
MAR
6
NWS
13
CLT
26
CAR
4
ATL
1
RSD
3
6th 3842 [14]
1984 Junior Johnson & Associates 12 Chevy DAY
4
RCH
5
CAR
28
ATL
33
BRI
11
NWS
9
DAR
10
MAR
5
TAL
23
NSV
2*
DOV
15
CLT
12
RSD
2
POC
14
MCH
17
DAY
9
NSV
10
POC
19
TAL
19
MCH
13
BRI
23
DAR
30
RCH
7
DOV
6
MAR
5
CLT
16
NWS
4
CAR
33
ATL
21
RSD
6
8th 3802 [15]
1985 DAY
10
RCH
23
CAR
1
ATL
3
BRI
19
DAR
6
NWS
1*
MAR
5
TAL
26
DOV
8
CLT
15
RSD
27
POC
5
MCH
8
DAY
12
POC
2*
TAL
2
MCH
11
BRI
3
DAR
4
RCH
9
DOV
5
MAR
9
NWS
10
CLT
42
CAR
15
ATL
12
RSD
3
4th 3902 [16]
1986 DAY
32
RCH
7
CAR
9
ATL
34
BRI
30
DAR
4
NWS
11
MAR
26
TAL
40
DOV
28
CLT
13
RSD
8
POC
23
MCH
25
DAY
11
POC
31
TAL GLN
5
MCH
34
BRI
11
DAR
24
RCH
5
DOV
2
MAR
8
NWS
12
CLT
3
CAR
1
ATL
6
RSD
9
13th 3369 [17]
1987 RahMoc Enterprises 75 Pontiac DAY
12
CAR
3
RCH
22
ATL
7
DAR
6
NWS
3
BRI
11
MAR
9
TAL
7
CLT
13
DOV
9
POC
8
RSD
3
MCH
17
DAY
18
POC
7
TAL
32
GLN
37
MCH
9
BRI
10
DAR
32
RCH
10
DOV
3
MAR
4
NWS
11
CLT
36
CAR RSD ATL 12th 3352 [18]
1988 DAY
4
RCH
1
CAR
1*
ATL
22
DAR
19
BRI
11
NWS
19
MAR
30
TAL
14
CLT
36
DOV
35
RSD
10
POC
11
MCH
19
DAY
18
POC TAL GLN
38
MCH
40
BRI
14
DAR
16
RCH
9
DOV
8
MAR
19
CLT
18
NWS
28
CAR
10
PHO
21
ATL
13
16th 3040 [19]
1989 Wood Brothers Racing 21 Ford DAY
42
CAR
14
ATL
7
RCH
21
DAR
39
BRI
12
NWS
13
MAR
10
TAL
9
CLT
7
DOV
7
SON
11
POC
8
MCH
24
DAY
21
POC
23
TAL
10
GLN
36
MCH
15
BRI
9
DAR
15
RCH
7
DOV
26
MAR CLT NWS CAR
6
PHO
34
ATL
9
20th 2995 [20]
1990 DAY
11
RCH
25
CAR
36
ATL
18
DAR
30
BRI NWS MAR TAL CLT DOV SON POC MCH DAY POC TAL GLN MCH BRI DAR RCH DOV MAR NWS CLT CAR PHO ATL 43rd 455 [21]
1993 Richard Childress Racing 31 Chevy DAY CAR RCH ATL DAR BRI NWS MAR TAL SON CLT DOV POC MCH DAY NHA POC TAL
34
GLN MCH BRI DAR RCH DOV MAR NWS CLT CAR PHO ATL
42
67th 98 [22]
1994 Phoenix Racing 51 Chevy DAY
Wth
CAR RCH ATL DAR BRI NWS MAR TAL SON CLT DOV POC MCH DAY NHA POC TAL IND GLN MCH BRI DAR RCH DOV MAR NWS CLT CAR PHO ATL NA - [23]
- Qualified for Bobby Allison · - Fatal accident
Daytona 500[edit]
Year Team Manufacturer Start Finish
1976 Bonnett Racing Chevrolet 13 5
1977 K&K Insurance Racing Dodge 11 37
1978 Jim Stacy Racing Dodge 12 27
1979 Oldsmobile 20 32
1980 Wood Brothers Racing Mercury 3 3
1981 Ford 3 33
1982 14 25
1983 RahMoc Enterprises Chevrolet 4 22
1984 Junior Johnson & Associates Chevrolet 7 4
1985 19 10
1986 12 32
1987 RahMoc Enterprises Pontiac 15 12
1988 14 4
1989 Wood Brothers Racing Ford 38 42
1990 31 11
1994 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet Wth
- Fatal accident

Busch Series[edit]

NASCAR Busch Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 NBSC Pts Ref
1983 Butch Mock Motorsports 75 Pontiac DAY
3
RCH CAR
6
HCY MAR NWS SBO GPS LGY DOV BRI CLT
2
SBO HCY ROU SBO ROU CRW ROU SBO HCY LGY IRP GPS BRI HCY DAR
1*
RCH NWS SBO MAR ROU CLT
5
HCY MAR 29th 820 [24]
1984 89 Olds DAY
22
RCH CAR HCY MAR DAR ROU NSV LGY MLW DOV CLT SBO HCY ROU SBO ROU HCY IRP LGY SBO BRI DAR RCH NWS CLT HCY CAR MAR 87th 97 [25]
1985 Darrell Waltrip Motorsports 17 Chevy DAY CAR HCY BRI MAR DAR SBO LGY DOV CLT
2
SBO HCY ROU IRP SBO LGY HCY MLW BRI DAR RCH NWS ROU CLT HCY CAR MAR 66th 170 [26]
1987 51 Pontiac DAY
35
HCY MAR DAR BRI LGY SBO CLT DOV IRP ROU JFC OXF SBO HCY RAL LGY ROU BRI JFC DAR
4
RCH DOV MAR CLT
26
CAR MAR 45th 303 [27]
1988 DAY
41
HCY CAR MAR DAR BRI LNG NZH SBO NSV CLT DOV ROU LAN LVL MYB OXF SBO HCY LNG IRP ROU BRI DAR RCH DOV MAR 71st 164 [28]
Bobby Allison Motorsports 12 Buick CLT
13
CAR MAR
1993 Dale Earnhardt, Inc. 3 Chevy DAY CAR RCH DAR BRI HCY ROU MAR NZH CLT DOV MYB GLN MLW TAL IRP MCH NHA BRI DAR RCH DOV ROU CLT MAR CAR HCY ATL
35
106th 58 [29]

International Race of Champions[edit]

(key) (Bold – Pole position. * – Most laps led.)

International Race of Champions results
Year Make Q1 Q2 Q3 1 2 3 4 Pos. Pts Ref
1978–79 Chevy MCH
4
MCH RSD RSD
7
ATL
1
2nd NA [30]
1979–80 MCH
1
MCH RSD RSD
7
ATL
7
7th 20 [31]
1984 Chevy MCH
1
CLE
6
TAL
11
MCH
1
2nd 55 [32]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sprint Cup / Nextel Cup / Winston Cup all time Victory Records
  2. ^ From 1979 until 1997, and again in 2001, drivers who had the fastest times in second-round qualifying (discontinued after the 2000 season) were entered in a random drawing at the end of the season (from 1981 until 1996, it was held during the New York Awards Ceremony) to determine which driver, not in the Busch Clash, would make the feature. In 1998, the Budweiser Shootout entered those drivers instead in a 25-lap Sunday morning last chance race before the 25-lap Bud Shootout feature. This practice was discontinued after the 2000 race, and a drawing was used for the 2001 Shootout, the last before NASCAR discontinued second-round qualifying.
  3. ^ Lyons, Andrew (May 24, 2001). "Father of NASCAR crash victim Rodney Orr sues Web site over autopsy photos". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  4. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  5. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1974 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  6. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1975 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  7. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1976 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  8. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1977 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  9. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1978 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  10. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1979 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  11. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1980 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  12. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1981 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  13. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1982 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  14. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1983 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  15. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1984 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  16. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1985 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  17. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1986 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  18. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1987 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  19. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  20. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  21. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1990 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  22. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1993 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  23. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1994 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  24. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1983 NASCAR Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  25. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1984 NASCAR Busch Grand National Series Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  26. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1985 NASCAR Busch Grand National Series Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  27. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1987 NASCAR Busch Grand National Series Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  28. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1988 NASCAR Busch Grand National Series Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  29. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1993 NASCAR Busch Grand National Series Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  30. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1979 IROC Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  31. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1980 IROC Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  32. ^ "Neil Bonnett – 1984 IROC Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2016.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
J. D. McDuffie
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fatal accidents
1994
Succeeded by
Rodney Orr