Clay Hair drives Legends race cars so well that he has been a reliable teacher for rookies jumping into the short-track, entry-level vehicles.
Hair, a 52-year-old resident of Mount Pleasant, N.C., retired as a Legends instructor last year to concentrate on his most important student – himself.
Hair won the U.S. Legend Cars International Masters Asphalt Oval championship last year and has won dozens of Legends feature events. He has raced Legends cars across the country and internationally but this year is concentrating on competition at his home track, Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Hair will be one of a handful of drivers considered favorites in Saturday night’s Legends Million on the CMS quarter-mile oval. He knows the track well, has a reliable car and boasts a proven record.
SPEED will televise the unique event from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET Saturday, with pre-race coverage beginning at 7:30.
The winner of the program’s featured 100-lapper will win $250,000, and the last-place driver is guaranteed at least $10,000 – remarkable numbers for short-track racing.
Weekly Legends car racing typically features bumper-car type contact. Put $250,000 on the line for drivers who usually race for $250 and a trophy, and you ratchet up the potential excitement considerably.
“You can’t predict this race,” Hair said. “I have no clue. I don’t think somebody is going to lead flag to flag. There’ll be a lot of pushing and shoving, but I think the people who are more patient are going to come out on top.”
Legends cars are stamped out in a factory located about two miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway. In the 17-year history of the program, developed by former speedway president Humpy Wheeler, more than 5,000 cars have been sold, many to international buyers. At $13,000 per vehicle, it’s an inexpensive introduction to racing.
The cars race with sealed engines and spec tires, and very few modifications are allowed. There are a few preparation tricks of the trade, but, generally speaking, the results are in the hands of the driver.
“These cars are built with the driver in mind, as opposed to the engineer,” Hair said. “The car is not designed so that you can re-engineer it and make it better. It’s 75 percent driver.”
Although the field will include former Daytona 500 champion Geoffrey Bodine and current Sprint Cup regular David Ragan, Hair figures he and other CMS Legends veterans have better knowledge of the road ahead.
“You always have that home-field advantage,” he said. “Anywhere I’ve raced in the United States, you always have somebody who’s raced there and knows the track, knows the ins and outs, knows how to race there.
“This is a flat track, and that makes it hard. This is the hardest car in the world to drive, and this is one of the hardest tracks to win at. And it’s $250,000. Go figure.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.