NASCAR Hall of Famer to make stop here

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A recent inductee into the NASCAR Hall of Fame who also happens to be the oldest-living points champion of its top division is scheduled to make a stop in Mount Airy Saturday.

Rex White, a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2015, will be at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History as part of a two-pronged sports program Saturday, initially devoted to NASCAR and which later in the day will focus on Mount Airy High School football.

All the activities are free and open to the public.

Museum Executive Director Matt Edwards, a longtime motor sports fan and auto enthusiast, said the museum is happy to be hosting one of stock car racing’s legendary figures who joined the Hall of Fame in January.

White will be part of a “NASCAR Racers Roundtable” discussion to begin at noon on the museum’s third floor. Edwards said others from the racing world also are expected to attend and he was working to finalize those appearances at last report.

The roundtable will be set up by two talks earlier Saturday at the museum, including one beginning at 10 a.m. to be led by NASCAR Hall of Fame historian Buz McKim. He will discuss the evolution of the sport from its beginnings in the South to the nationwide phenomenon NASCAR is today.

Then at 11 a.m., the racing theme will be continued with another program led by Dr. Dan Pierce, a history professor at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.

Pierce, the author of the book “The Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay and Big Bill France,” will speak about early dirt track racing and NASCAR’s formation.

Saturday’s sports programs at the museum are part of a weekly series being held there in conjunction with a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution, “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America.” It is on loan here through April 11.

Activities dedicated to NASCAR originally were scheduled for Feb. 28 when that exhibit opened but were postponed, leaving museum officials scrambling to find a replacement date in a manner similar to pit crew members going over the wall.

“I didn’t want to lose the NASCAR program because it’s one of the fun parts of this exhibit,” Edwards said.

White Going Strong

Despite being 85 years old, White remains in a relative fast lane as far as public appearances and his willingness to discuss the sport he helped pioneer.

In addition to presently being the oldest-living points champ — having won the Grand National crown (the forerunner to today’s Sprint Cup Series title) in 1960, White is the smallest man ever to capture the championship at 5 feet, 4 inches tall.

Yet White, a product of Taylorsville, who was one of the drivers originally competing for the Ford racing team, is considered a giant in the sport.

During his championship run in 1960, he won six races, and in his career scored 28 wins, took 36 poles and finished in the top five in nearly half of his 233 starts in NASCAR’s elite division.

White had a reputation for running up front even if he did not win, as evidenced by White finishing in the top 10 in the points standings in six of the nine years he competed in that division.

He also captured most-popular-driver honors in 1960.

Football Program

After the NASCAR-related events at the museum Saturday, the program dedicated to Mount Airy High School football will gear up, beginning at 2 p.m.

Doug McDaniel will present “The History of Mount Airy Football from Roots to Present” as part of the museum’s sports “History Talks” series.

McDaniel lives in Missouri, but has a local link.

“He’s originally from Mount Airy,” Edwards said, and has maintained a keen interest in the storied history of Bears football. “He started compiling the history and statistics about the Mount Airy football team years ago.”

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association, which he has contributed statistics to, is among the beneficiaries of McDaniel’s knowledge of the Bears’ gridiron exploits. He also frequently is cited as a reference in newspaper articles.

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