The man who never won

The following is the story of J.D. McDuffie, a racer who never stopped chasing his dreams, no matter what obstacles were thrown his way.

The man who never won

J.D. McDuffie; most of you don't know who that is. For the contingent of you that do, I applaud you. For those of you that don't, I'd advise you to keep reading.

Beginnings

J.D. McDuffie was a North Carolina native and like many of his generation, he had dreams of going fast. He attended a race at the legendary Bowman Gray Stadium when he was ten years old and was mesmerized by the fearless racers who threw caution to the wind in pursuit of the checkered flag. 

He watched as Turner, Wood, Myers, and other NASCAR pioneers battled fiercely for the win. It was at that moment he knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to be a race car driver.

Dirt track domination

McDuffie would go on to make a name for himself as a formidable opponent in the southeastern United States. On the dirt, he could run with the best but on asphalt, he had a lot more trouble keeping pace.

Now he could have stayed in his comfort zone and dominated dirt track races until the cows came home, but he didn't. He strived for more, he wanted a challange. He found that challenge in the form of the emerging stock car series we know today as NASCAR.

NASCAR career

He made his debut in 1963 at the age of 24 at Rambi Raceway in Myrtle Beach, SC. He finished 14th driving a '61 Ford he prepared himself. As the months and years passed, he continue to try and secure that illusive first win. Other independent racers had done it and he wasn't about to bow out and go take the easy victories at local dirt races. That wasn't his style. 

He was able to grab top fives here and there but the win still didn't come. In 1979 however, it looked like fate was going to finally shine down on J.D. He dominated the race, leading over 100 laps and holding off attacks from superstars such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, and Bobby Allison. However, it just wasn't meant to be. He would finish fifth after leading much of the event. 

Fiery crash and cutting back

At the conclusion of 1987, McDuffie had been a part of the sport for 25 years and was still winless. He was very likable and popular among the fans despite failing to reach victory lane. He cut back his schedule to just a handful of races as he neared the age of 50.

While trying to qualify for the 1988 Daytona 500, McDuffie was involved in a fiery crash that left him with second and third degree burns over 15% of his body. He was back behind the wheel within a couple months, undeterred.

The day

On August 10th, 1991, he won a local race in Owego, New York before competing the Cup event at the Glen the following day.

This Cup race, McDuffie's 653rd career start, would be the most remembered race of his career. You think this is the moment when I tell you how J.D. triumphantly took on the best NASCAR had to offer and pulled off the upset, right? Wrong.

On the fourth lap, he crashed on entry to the fifth turn. The car spun out of the car and violently slammed the tire barrier and catch fence that waited at the other end of the grass. The car was launched upward, flipping in the air and coming to a rest on its roof.

J.D. McDuffie was dead.

Epilogue

I'm not telling you this tragic story just because this is the 23rd year anniversary of his death, but also to enlighten you. J.D. McDuffie holds the record for the longest no-win streak in NASCAR history, going winless  653 times over a period of 28 years.

He left behind the success he knew as a young racer to pursue a dream, a dream that he was never able to attain, a dream that ultimately cost him his life. After years of struggles and defeats, McDuffie's desire to compete never wavered. His obstinate attitude and admirable fortitude make him a legend in his own right.

They say that J.D. McDuffie is the man that never won. I say that he's the man whose victories were not made up of checkered flags and trophies, but of passion and determination. He's the man who refused to give up, who wouldn't stop following his dreams, and he chased his dreams all the way until the man upstairs called him home.

We should all take a moment to remember and honor a true NASCAR hero today; J.D. McDuffie.

shares
comments
Allmendinger continues amazing journey with win at Watkins Glen

Previous article

Allmendinger continues amazing journey with win at Watkins Glen

Next article

Patrick finishes 21st at Watkins Glen

Patrick finishes 21st at Watkins Glen
Load comments
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020