The biggest race in NASCAR history is coming up, the Daytona 500. This springs up the 40-year-old mystery that so many fans are wondering about. Who is this guy and how did he do this.
In May of 1982, L.W. Wright had the shortest NASCAR career in history to this day.
In the 9th race of the season, Benny Parsons made the headlines being the first driver to reach over 200 miles per hour in the qualifiers. Then an unheard-of driver steps in with his NASCAR debut.
The story of L.W. Wright begins in Nashville where he calls the local newspaper to let them know that he was going to be racing with Merle Haggard and T.G. Sheppard, both famous country stars, as his sponsors.
Ken Martin, a Senior Manager of Archive Development for NASCAR said, “There’s a gentleman named Gary Baker who was the promoter of the Nashville track, part-owner of the Bristol track and Gary’s like, ‘I’ve never heard of this guy and it just so happens I represent T.G. Sheppard.’”
Martin added, “I think L.W. wanted to use Sterling as here’s my gravitas.”
But he was missing a few things. First, he needed to find a car. He bought his car from Sterling Marlin for $17,000 in cash and $3,700 in a check.
Then he needed tires and a license. He wrote checks to both Goodyear for tires and NASCAR for a license.
Wright’s debut was a short one. He crashed his car in the second lap of qualifying but was able to fix the car and join back into the race. The race went on for 13 more laps when he was black-flagged for not keeping up with the minimum speed required.
Martin said, “He went to the garage area and left the track and left his car behind. Sort of like, ‘I’m gonna escape this place.’”
When he left, he left behind many unpaid bills. The real identity of this mysterious NASCAR driver remains unknown today.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said in an interview on NBC, “I just can’t believe the guy did what he did and scammed a bunch of people and got onto the racetrack and run the race. How do you do that?”
Earnhardt Jr. said later, “It’s kind of this fun mystery. Maybe we don’t ever want it to be solved.”
NASCAR hired a private detective to try to find Wright and get all of the money back but was unsuccessful as they gave up after a few years.