Remembering Earl Brooks, a driver who won in the right places

You won't see his name honored in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, though he was featured on more than one NASCAR post card. He never won a NASCAR Cup series race in his 262 starts, where his best finish was fourth place.

But Earl Brooks, who passed away just a few weeks ago, won the hearts and minds of the people of his hometown, Lynchburg, Virginia. He never moved away from home, and kept his garage on Mayflower Drive open during the week to work on the community's cars, as well as his own. He didn't go for corporate sponsorship either, but owned and worked on his own cars until that huge "Big One" at Talladega 1973, after which he ran several more races in others' cars.

Earl is best remembered by all who knew him as a friendly, honest, and caring guy, who loved to race, but always had time for friends and family. Despite never winning at Cup level, he took more than two hundred checkers in lower tiers.

Friend and fellow garage owner Harlow Reynolds had this to say upon Earl's passing: "It wasn't about Earl's driving ability. No one ever questioned that. He just didn't have the money it took to compete. He had to drive according to his equipment, because he had to feed his family."

It's said that Earl's best friend in life was Wendell Scott, the black driver who suffered career-ending injuries in that same Big One at 'Dega in '73. Earl and Wendell would get together and pool their resources and efforts to help keep the both of them running. Earl had time and a kind word for one of our own Marbles readers as well; Larry Eanes (aka Frevic) has fond memories of meeting him several times, and says that Earl personally gave him an Earl Brooks card that young Larry didn't yet have! How cool is that?

So he won't make it into the Hall of Fame. He does not go unremembered. He's a member of the Lynchburg Area Sports Hall of Fame, which probably meant more to him than almost any win could have. "When I got the call," he said in 1997, "I don't mind telling you that I sat down and cried."

Earl Brooks passed away this past July 21 at the age of 81; one of the last true sporstsmen of the "do it yourself" era of Nascar.

(Thanks to Larry Eanes for the suggestion and the memories!)

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