Earnhardt Sr. legacy loses key person

A young, shy, long-haired driver from Kannapolis, N.C., was looking for a ride in NASCAR’s premiere series in 1975. Ed Negre, an independent car owner/driver, provided Dale Earnhardt Sr. his first ride in the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Earnhardt finished 22nd that day, Negre was 32nd.

Negre died Wednesday in a Hospice care center in Longview, Wash. He was 86. Without drivers such as Negre, who started 338 races in the top series from 1955-79, the Cup series race grid would have seemed skimpy during the 1970s.

Negre, Baxter Price, Frank Warren, Walter Ballard and Dave Marcis are some of the sports “independents” without big sponsorship dollars. They assured there would be full fields at most events.

Racing Dodges out of his own shop in Concord, N.C., Negre posted four top five finishes and 26 top 10s in his Cup Series career. His best finish was fourth in a 150-lap race at Portland Speedway in 1956, an event won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Herb Thomas.

After retiring from racing in 1979, he founded Bee Lin Truck in Longview. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Faye, four daughters and a son.

Independent car owners are few in numbers around NASCAR tracks, but Negre provided a legend with his start and that memory will last forever with his fans.

Race tracks are building new facilities to attract newer generation race fans. Two tracks constructing additions are Daytona International Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Daytona has added approximately 2,000 seats in the new grandstand near Turn One. These seats will be available in time for Budweiser Speedweeks 2015. The Speedway expects to install a total of 40,000 new seats by 2015. The Speedway also continued escalator, elevator shaft and steel installation during the last month of construction on the new infield area and now is focused on preparations for the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola. Some other important activities going on at the track are asphalt paving and patching, installation of existing stairway fencing, installing entrance chutes for ticket gates and setting up of the new tent lobbies at Sprint Tower.

A section of grandstands is gone in turn 3 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, comments on the construction projects: “Sporting venues like New Hampshire Motor Speedway must compete with other venues to attract fans and corporate partners. There is constant demand for new amenities and new experiences for visitors to the speedway. The construction process is underway on our new trackside hospitality area, located in the turn 3, next to Laconia Grandstand.”

“Some old seats from the end of the structure have been removed to make room for the hospitality footprint that will include tent chalets and mobile hospitality structures. Some of this hospitality will be in place and utilized for our July NASCAR weekend.” Since the project is still in the construction process, the total number of seats being removed and replaced with the new venue has not yet been determined.

The construction going on at these tracks is more inclined to suit their corporate footprint instead of tracking toward a fan’s experience.

Contact Eddie Thomas at ethomas@newsandsentinel.com