Sam McQuagg, the 1965 rookie of the year in what was then NASCAR’s Grand National Series (now Sprint Cup), died Saturday morning. He was 73.
McQuagg competed in 62 races in NASCAR’s top series, getting a victory in the 1966 Firecracker 400 at Daytona in a Dodge owned by Ray Nichels.
He won more than 250 feature races at local tracks, highlighted by his 1963 season at Thunderbowl Speedway in Valdosta, Ga. That year, McQuagg won 35 of 37 features and caught the eye of a woman named Betty Lilly of Valdosta. She gave McQuagg $25,000 and he used that to finance his rookie NASCAR campaign in 1965, when he had five top-10 finishes.
McQuagg was leading the Southern 500 during his rookie year when Cale Yarborough tried to pass him. Yarborough wrecked, flying over the guardrail and rolling several times before ending up in the parking lot. Yarborough was not injured.
McQuagg got a shot with the Dodge factory-backed team in 1966 and then drove for car owner Cotton Owens the following year. At Darlington in 1967, McQuagg wrecked in his own car, rolling several times and going over the guardrail. He scaled back to more local track racing after that and made his final Cup start in the 1974 World 600 at Charlotte..
McQuagg worked as a commercial pilot after retiring as a racer. He was a member of the Jacksonville Speedway and the Georgia Automobile Racing halls of fame.
Patrick, Howard together again in endurance race
Danica Patrick will race in the Rolex 24 for the second straight year, joining the lineup for a car co-owned by NASCAR team owner Richard Childress.
Patrick will compete along with Casey Mears, a former Rolex 24 winner, as well as Rob Finlay and three-time winner Andy Wallace in the Childress-Howard Motorsports No. 2 Pontiac Crawford.
Three days of testing for the Jan. 24-25 event began Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. Three-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is among the other drivers participating this year, as are Kurt Busch, Scott Pruett and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Robby and the rally update
The Dakar Rally began its 16-day journey scheduled to cover more than 6,000 miles on Saturday.
NASCAR’s Robby Gordon completed the stage in 2 hours 50 minutes 40 seconds, leaving him 17th in the overall standings, 14 minutes 25 seconds behind the leader. The stage went from the start in Buenos Aires to Santa Rosa de la Pampa in Argentina.