Dale Earnhardt's first car owner, Ed Negre, passes away

Former NASCAR owner/driver Ed Negre died Wednesday in Longview, Wash., at the age of 86. Negre is best known for providing the car that the late Dale Earnhardt made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in at the 1975 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As a driver, Negre made 338 starts in what's now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series between 1955-79. All told, Negre had four top-five and 26 top-10 finishes, mostly racing in his own cars as what was then known as an independent -- an owner/driver with a shoestring budget and minimum sponsorship. His career earnings were $344,180.

His most successful year as a driver came in 1956, when in just five starts, he had finishes of fourth, fifth and sixth, all at Portland (Ore.) Speedway.

The Kelso, Wash., native is credited with 294 starts as a car owner. All but 13 of those starts were with the Negre driving. He also employed Earnhardt, D.K. Ulrich, Joe Frasson, Walter Ballard and Buddy Arrington, among others, as his drivers.

In the 1975 World 600, Negre fielded two cars, the No. 8 for Earnhardt and the No. 2 for himself. Negre finished 32nd in that race, 10 positions behind Earnhardt.

Negre moved to the Charlotte area in the late 1960s and returned to Washington after his retirement.