Article by Kenny Bruce, scenedaily.com
Rex White looked to his left and saw the line of fans that snaked around a row of tables and back through Memory Lane Museum.
“I’m more popular today,” the easy-going White said with more than just a hint of surprise in his voice, “than when I won the championship in 1960.”
White was central figure Sunday in a room full of NASCAR legends, all of whom had come to pay their respects for the former champion in the fourth annual Legends Helping Legends of Racing.
Between 1956 and 1964, White won 28 races in 233 starts, finished in the top 10 163 times and won 36 poles. He finished 10th or better in the points battle six consecutive years (from 1958-63). His career earnings for nine successful years in the sport was just a little more than $200,000.
“There’s no comparison between racing today and racing back in the late ’50s and early ’60s,” White said. “Everything from the money to the cars has changed. The chassis, as far as the adjustments you’re making, that’s still somewhat alike.
“The biggest difference is air. We had nothing to do with aerodynamics. Now, that’s everything.”
Ironically, White was one of the people responsible for Jarrett’s success in the early 1960s.
“He helped me,” Jarrett said of White. “At his suggestion, Chevrolet took me on, gave me some manufacturer help in 1961. Rex was a great racer and Chevrolet understood that. They knew he would go out and win races and contend for championships. He was one of the great racers of the day.”
In 1962, White won eight more times with his popular white-and-gold No. 8 Chevrolet, but he finished fifth in the point standings.
Now 80, White continues to keep up with the sport and still attends a handful of events.
“I think NASCAR owes them both some money,” he said, “because of the publicity they’ve generated. It’s been on every news channel, in every newspaper. The idea of letting drivers fight it out [on the track] is a good deal as far as it’s made a lot of publicity.”
But that’s likely not how White and his fellow racers decades ago would have handled a similar situation, he said.
“We would have handled that after the race in the pits," White said. "You’d have gone over and cussed him out or whatever. But NASCAR would have never gotten involved. They didn’t get involved in stuff like that back then.
“I think they got all the publicity they wanted out of it, though.”