Spartanburg resident and 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Cotton Owens has died.
FOX Carolina spoke with Owens' granddaughter Thursday, who said Owens, 88, passed away. Owens' wife, Dot, died in April.
On May 23, Owens was announced as one of five picked for the NASCAR Hall of Fame and will be inducted in 2013.
Owens earned the name "King of the Modifieds" during his successful racing career, which included a win at the Daytona Beach Road Course in 1957.
FOX Carolina last spoke with Everett "Cotton" Owens in March, who told us he still spent time with friends, racing legends David Pearson and Bud Moore.
"We discuss racing among ourselves like always when we get together," Owens said.
Owens won nine times on NASCAR's top circuit. He was perhaps better known as an owner, fielding cars for Hall of Fame drivers like Junior Johnson and David Pearson. In all, Owens had 41 wins and 38 poles in 487 races as an owner.
In 1998, he was also named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers.
"Cotton Owens was one of the first heroes of NASCAR," Buz McKim, historian for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, said Thursday. "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."
His family released a statement following the announcement of his death:
"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."
Several NASCAR officials also released statements Thursday following Owens' passing.
"NASCAR has 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," said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO. "This is a sad day for the NASCAR industry, but we are all consoled by the fact that Cotton was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame before his death. Today we have lost a portion of our past. But people like Cotton Owens are the reason our sport thrives today - and can look forward to a promising future."
NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley recalled when be began following NASCAR during the mid-60s, the height of Owens' title-winning career.
"I vividly remember when I first started following NASCAR in the early to mid-60s watching his white and red No. 6 Dodge run up front with David Pearson and later Buddy Baker," said Kelley. "I was just a child, but I still remember his car being a contender all the time. It was one of the ones to beat."
"Another chapter of history closes today as the racing world has lost a great friend and pioneer, Everett 'Cotton' Owens," said McKim.
Owens was born in Union and lived in Spartanburg for years.
Funeral services for Owens were scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at Milestone Church in Spartanburg. A private burial service is set for Monday.
Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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