Exceprts from "Forty Plus Four", the first supplement to the "Forty Years of Stock Car Racing" Series
TRAGEDY AT WATKINS GLEN
........The Winston Cup Series next stop was at Watkins Glen International, a road course in upstate New York. The 18th event on the 1991 Winston Cup schedule had attracted 40 cars. One of the entrants was John Delphus McDuffie.
McDuffie's dark blue tow trailer was parked in the far side of the garage. It was scarcely noticeable because of all the expensive big rigs used by virtually every other team.
The 1991 season had been tough on McDuffie, one of the last of the independents -- drivers and owners who race with worn out parts and very little finances. He had made the starting field for only four races in 1991. Most of the others he had failed to earn a starting berth.
But J.D. McDuffie was never discouraged; never complained about his plight. He towed his ragged Pontiac to each and every stop on NASCAR's schedule because he loved to race.
McDuffie made the field at Watkins Glen. He had quaified 35th in the field of 40.
The night before, McDuffie had been invited to paticipate in a celebrity race at Shangri-La Speedway in Owego, NY. He was racing against members of the RCR Enterprises pit crew.
Starting in the second row, J.D. drove to the front immediately and went on to win the race. It was one of the proudest moments as the spectators cheered him as a winner.
The next day, he strapped himself into his Pontiac for the Budweiser At The Glen. It was his 653rd start in a NASCAR Winston Cup race.
In the fifth lap, McDuffie's Pontiac slid off the race course and slammed into a retaining barrier. He died instantly.
SALUTE TO J.D.
Some men try to conquer life in a number of ways. Race car drivers are courageous men who try to conquer life and death and they calculate the risks. J.D. McDuffie was aware of the risks, but more importantly, he was aware of the joys racing had given him over the years.
J.D. was both serious and frivolous. He was fun and a wonderful gentleman. On the race track, he was a familiar presence. While success didn't follow with glowing statistics, J.D. was still a winner.
They say that it is God's will to lose J.D. and we must accept our loss. In a sense, we are all speeding toward death at the rate of 60 minutes per hour. The difference is that we don't know how to speed faster, but J.D. did.
Since death has a thousand or more doors, J.D. exited this earth in a race car. Racing was his first love -- and we must assume that's the way he would have wanted it.
Racing will continue, but without J.D. McDuffie.