Everett “Cotton” Owens was born on May 21, 1924 in Union, South Carolina and passed away this morning, June 7th, 2012, at the age of 88. While the dates are all but meaningless, what Cotton did between those dates was nothing short of spectacular.
Owens began professionally driving a race car in the 1950s in the Modified series, which later became the NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour. Winning over 100 feature wins, Owens was the 1953 and 1954 Series Champion, and became known as “The King of the Modifieds.”
Owens also ran in NASCAR’s Grand National Series in the 50’s, a few races here and a few races there, but never a win. Then Owens got serious and in 1957, He won NASCAR’s premiere event at the Daytona Beach and Road race on February 17th. Owens drove a 1957 Pontiac to the checkered flag marking his first win in the series and the first win for Pontiac in a NASCAR series.
Owens finished second behind 1959 NASCAR Grand National Champion in the race for the ’59 Championship, despite having won only one race. 1961 was his most productive season with 11 Top 5s and four wins in only 17 starts.
Cotton Owens went on to become a car owner and is responsible for launching the careers of many of the NASCAR greats. Hiring Junior Johnson in 1962, Owens combined with David Pearson for 6 seasons and 27 wins. Drivers for Cotton Owens included many legends: David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Pete Hamilton, Marty Robbins, Ralph Earnhardt, Bobby Isaac, Junior Johnson, Benny Parsons, Fireball Roberts, Mario Andretti, Charlie Glotzbach, and Al Unser. In all, a total of 25 drivers climbed behind the wheel of Owens’ cars in 291 races, earning 32 victories and 29 pole positions. In total, as a car owner and as a driver, Owens’ career statistics include 41 wins and 38 poles in 487 races.
Owens was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007. In April of 2012, Owens wife Dot passed away. On May 23rd, Owens was elected to NASCAR’s Hall of Fame 2013 class.
Cotton Owens’ Awards and Achievements:
- Announced as a member of the 2013 Inductee Class at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23,2012.
- Inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.
- Owens was announced as a 2008 inductee in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
- In 1970, Owens was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame at Darlington Speedway.
- Cotton Owens was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers during NASCAR’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 1998.
- Recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor awarded by the Governor of South Carolina, created in 1971 to recognize lifetime achievement and service to the State of South Carolina. September 16, 2006
- Member Darlington Records Club
- Member NASCAR Mechanics Hall of Fame
- Member NASCAR Legends
- Pioneer of Racing Award, Living Legends of Auto Racing, February 15, 2006
- Presented with the Smokey Yunick Award for “Lifetime Achievement in Auto Racing” on May 28, 2000
A statement from the Owens family stated, “The family would like to express gratitude for the thoughts and prayers of precious friends and fans. While Cotton was a racing legend with an incredible racing “family,” we mourn the irreplaceable great granddad, granddad, father, uncle, brother-in-law and friend we have all lost. The family respectfully requests privacy at this difficult time.”