Wilbur Rakestraw (June 6, 1928 – May 7, 2014) was an American racing car driver. He was born in Dallas, Georgia into a family of racers. His career included racing in the SRE (Southeastern Racing Enterprises) organization as well as the 11 NASCAR Grand National (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) and 30 Convertible races. Rakestraw was known for his toughness and thoughtfulness of other drivers due to one incident at Lakewood Speedway in 1957 when he drove through a fence and into the infield lake to avoid T-boning another driver who had crashed in front of him. After he retired from racing, Rakestraw went to work as a mechanic and later became a service manager for a local grading company.
Wilbur Rakestraw began his career in 1956 racing at his hometown track, the Dallas Speed Bowl. He drove a 1937 Ford Coupe with the number 999 in honor of Henry Ford’s first race car, which had been driven by Barney Oldfield. He continued racing in the SRE circuit at various local tracks including Fairburn, Gainesville, Lakewood, Cornelia, Canton, Macon, and the Peach Bowl.
Rakestraw had 30 starts at 19 different tracks including the last Beach Race in Daytona Beach, Florida in the NASCAR Grand National Division (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) from 1956-1961. He placed a top five finish at Columbia, South Carolina and 6 other top ten finishes at various different tracks. He started in three Daytona 500 Speedway races where his best finish was 22nd at the inaugural event in 1959. He raced in several NASCAR Convertible Series events in 1958 and 1959, where he picked 3 top fives and 4 top tens. His best unofficial finish was a second place drive in a non-points race at Daytona behind Junior Johnson and immediately ahead of Fred Lorenzen.
Rakestraw was a member of the Midwest Association of Race Cars (MARC) (now ARCA), where he collected numerous wins and top ten finishes. Due to lack of funds, Rakestraw retired from racing after the 1961 season. In a 2008 interview, Rakestraw said "I was considered a very good race driver. A lot of my friends hated to see me get out of it. If not for financial problems, I’d have been there until I got too old. I enjoyed it as much as anybody could." In 2008, Wilbur Rakestraw was inducted into the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame (GRHOF).
- 30 starts in the NASCAR Cup and Convertible series from 1956-1961
- 1 top five and 6 top ten finishes in the NASCAR Grand National Division
- 3 top five and 4 top ten finishes in the NASCAR Convertible Series
- 3 Starts in the Daytona 500 (22nd-place finish in the inaugural event)
- Numerous wins in the MARC series
- 2008 GRHOF Inductee
Rakestraw died on May 7, 2014 of congestive heart failure.
- "Pioneer racer Wilbur Rakestraw dies". Atlanta Journal Constitution. 2008-02-08. Retrieved 2014-05-09.
- "Georgia House Resolution 1264" (PDF). Georgia House. 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-24.
- Minter, Rick (February 17, 2008). "Georgians recall Daytona 500 memories". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved 2009-02-24.
- "2008 Georgia Racing Hall of Fame Inductees Announced...". Thunderroad USA. June 20, 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-24.