Hall of Famer Cotton Owens dies

Cotton Owens, recently elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, has died. He was 88 years old.

According to the NASCAR website, Owens died Thursday morning.

Owens was elected to the 2013 Class of the Hall of Fame late last month. He is set to be inducted with Rusty Wallace, Buck Baker, Herb Thomas and Leonard Wood in the five-member class.

"NASCAR has lost one of its true pioneers with the passing of Cotton Owens," said NASCAR chairman Brian France in a statement. "On behalf of the France family and everyone at NASCAR, I offer heartfelt condolences to Cotton's family and friends. This is a sad day for the NASCAR industry, but we are all consoled by the fact that Cotton was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame before his death. Today we have lost a portion of our past. But people like Cotton Owens are the reason our sport thrives today -- and can look forward to a promising future."

As a driver, Owens won nine times on NASCAR's premier circuit, including the 1957 Daytona Beach road course. He nearly won the 1959 championship, finishing second to Hall of Famer Lee Petty.

Owens also won 38 races as an owner and had some of the top drivers in his cars. Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and David Pearson each drove for Owens, with Pearson capturing the premier circuit title in 1966 for Owens.