NASCARís Golden Boy - Fred Lorenzen

                                                           By Allen Madding  orenzen was born in December 30, 1934 in Elmhurst, Illinois a suburb of Chicago. He gr
Fred Lorenzen was born in December 30, 1934 in Elmhurst, Illinois a suburb of Chicago. He grew up listening to the NASCAR stars of the day, Tim Flock, Herb Thomas, Fireball Roberts, Buck Baker, Curtis Turner, and Joe Weatherly on his transistor radio. At age 12, the local police seized his homemade go-kart after complaints from neighbors and a report that he had outrun a police car. At age 16, he had saved enough money working with his father, who was a carpenter, to buy an old Plymouth which ended up getting rolled over. He began to test his racing skills by racing local hot-rodders on the roads outside of town.

Lorenzenís first NASCAR Grand National race came in 1956 at Langhorne, but after 7 events and being dead broke due to the long trips to the predominantly southern schedule of NASCAR, Lorenzen parked his NASCAR dreams. Lorenzen decided that it would be more economical to compete with the USAC Series, as it would require less traveling. He competed in the USAC Modifieds and then moved to the USAC Late Model Stock Division. He won the USAC Series Championship in 1958 and 1959. With the confidence of two USAC championships under his belt, Lorenzen returned to the NASCAR Grand National Series for the 1960 season campaigning a Ford. With sponsorship from a seat belt manufacturer, Lorenzen made 10 starts and posted 3 top-5s and 5 top-10s. By the end of the season, Lorenzen was swimming in debt and was forced to sell his car and equipment and resumed working as a carpenter. His equipment had not been as competitive as the stars of the series, but his driving talent spoke for itself. Ralph Moody of the Ford factory backed racing empire of Holman-Moody was quite impressed. Moody called Lorenzen on Christmas Eve and offered him the driving duties of one of the Holman-Moody cars for the 1961 season. Lorenzen quickly accepted.

Lorenzenís first NASCAR Grand National Series win came in the 1961 Rebel 300 at Darlington. He finished the year with 3 wins, 6 top-5s, 6 top-10s, and 4 poles. In 1962, he won at Atlanta and Augusta, netting 2 wins, 11 top-5s, 12 top-10s, and 3 poles. In 1963, Lorenzen won at Atlanta, Bristol, Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, Indianapolis Raceway Park and Darlington, finishing the year with 6 wins, 21 top-5s, 23 top-10s, and 8 poles. He finished 3rd in the NASCAR Grand National Championship points.

In 1964, Lorenzen won 8 events, posted 10 top-5s, 10-top10s, and 7 poles. But during the season, he lost two friends and competitors in the series, Joe Weatherly, who died in a crash at the season opener at Riverside, California, and Fireball Roberts, who died from complications that resulted from burns he received in a crash in the World 600 at Charlotte.

Lorenzen won 4 events in 1965 including the Daytona 500. He posted 5 top-5s, 6 top-10s, and 6 poles. In 1966, he won twice, had 6 top-5s, 6 top-10s and 2 poles. In 1967, Lorenzen won at Daytona, had 2 top-5s and 2 top-10s. But after 5 events, at the age of 32, Lorenzen retired from the sport after the running of the Atlanta 500 citing stomach ulcers. Lorenzen fielded a car for and up and coming Bobby Allison for the remainder of the 1967 season

In 1970, Lorenzen returned to the sport he loved to compete in 7 events driving for Charlotte track promoter Richard Howard. He posted 1 top-5, 1 top-10, and 1 pole.

In 1971, Lorenzen drove Plymouths for Ray Nichols sponsored by STP. The legendary Wood Brotherís offered Lorenzen the opportunity to drive for them in the 1971 Southern 500 but Lorenzen destroyed the car in practice and the Wood Brothers lost interest. At the end of 1971, Lorenzen had started 14 events, posted 7 top-5s, 9 top-10s, and 1 pole.

In 1972, Hoss Ellington fielded cars for Lorenzen. With a dismal performance, Lorenzen quit mid-season after entering 8 events and returned to Illinois.

Lorenzen scored wins in seven of the 12 years he competed in the NASCAR Grand National Series. Lorenzen had been smart over the years of racing while enjoying the spoils of success; he had invested his earnings in the stock market in real estate.

Lorenzen was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame in 1978, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1991, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001.   October 17, 2004 

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