Guest Author - Debbie Lester
Once again NASCAR mourns the loss of one of their own. Sam McQuagg, former NASCAR rookie of the year, died on January 3rd of 2009. McQuagg was 73 years old and was suffering from cancer.
Sam had come a long way from the banks of the Chattahootchee River in Columbus, Georgia where he was born in 1935. He had a great love for cars and for speed. Racing seemed to strike a cord in him and he never looked back. He quit his construction job and began competing on the local dirt track circuit. He became almost unbeatable on the dirt at Valdosta 75 Speedway.
He began racing in the 1950ís and entered his first NASCAR race in 1962. In 1965 McQuagg racked up 5 top 10 finishes in 16 races, which gave him the Rookie of Year honors. But, one other event in 1965 is probably more remembered than the Rookie honors. Sam McQuagg was involved in one of the wildest NASCAR wrecks of all time.
In the 1965 Southern 500, McQuagg was in the lead. Cale Yarborough tried to go around him and ended up in a huge wreck sending Yarborough over the guardrail, rolling six times and into the parking lot. Fortunately Yarborough was able to wave to the fans as he headed back to the pits, but footage of that wreck was used by ABCís Wide World of Sports for years afterwards.
McQuagg was eventually hired by Dodge, who supported him using the spoiler for the first time. He used the spoiler in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona and won the race. McQuagg was also one of the first drivers to bring a motorhome into the garage area at Daytona.
After a series of wrecks and set backs McQuagg scaled back his racing career to mostly local tracks and eventually retired from racing to become a commercial pilot, a skill he learned in traveling quickly from race to race. He retired from active racing in 1974.
He and his wife Joy traveled in their motorhome all over the country before his death. They celebrated their 54th anniversary while McQuagg was in the hospital on New Yearís Eve.
Sam McQuagg drove in 62 races over a period of eight years. He had one win and 21 top-ten finishes. He had no poles, but he was the 1965 Rookie of the Year. He was also inducted into the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall Of Fame. His accomplishments will not be forgotten and he will be sorely missed by the NASCAR world.