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Everett "Cotton" Owens lived to realize selection into the 2013 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame but succumbed at 88 at his home in Spartanburg, South Carolina the morning of June 7.
One of the early NASCAR community's great multi-talented members, Owens was a successful driver, mechanic and team owner, winning nine times a a driver in NASCAR's premier stock car series - including the 1957 Daytona Beach road course that marked Pontiac's first NASCAR victory. He nearly won the 1959 championship, finishing second to fellow Hall of Fame member Lee Petty.
"Cotton Owens was one of the first heroes of NASCAR," said Buz McKim, NASCAR Hall of Fame historian. "He was exciting to watch as he thrilled early-day fans with his patented broad-sliding on dirt tracks. Not only a gifted driver, he was a fine mechanic and was a championship car owner."
It was as an owner that Owens stood out among the great achievers during NASCAR's early years. Among the drivers he sought out and hired were Junior Johnson, whom he hired in 1962, the same season in which Owens began a future championship relationship with David Pearson, both members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Pearson won 27 of his 105 NASCAR premier series races in Owens' cars and the pair teamed to win the 1966 championship. In 1998 Owens made NASCAR's list of its 50 greatest drivers and he was elected to the 2013 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23, 2012, with induction slated for February 8, 2013.
The Owens family produced this statement: "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," the statement concluded.
NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France agreed the NASCAR community "lost one of its true pioneers with the passing of Cotton Owens. On behalf of the France family and everyone at NASCAR, I offer heartfelt condolences to Cotton's family and friends. Today we have lost a portion of our past, but people like Cotton Owens are the reason our sport thrives today - and we can look forward to a promising future."