Cotton Owens often lent his expert advice to fellow members of the Ray Nichels teams. Here
HPP: Hedge's Pontiac was in Indianapolis. Why were they willing to support a South Carolina racer?
CO: This came from Ray Nichels, who was in Highland, Indiana. Ray actually got this sponsorship set up for me.
HPP: From 1960-1962, how many race cars did Hedge's Pontiac supply you with, and how were they outfitted?
CO: In 1960, they sent me one. Then in 1961 and 1962, I had one No. 6 car and one No. 5 car. In 1960, we ran 389s and three-speed manuals. In 1961, we ran 389s and four speed manuals. In 1962, Hines Pontiac was my sponsor, and we ran 421s and four-speed manuals.
HPP: Did Ray Nichels perform all of the race prep-work on your Pontiacs and then provide the turn-key race cars to you?
CO: We took the stock vehicle and Ray did some engine work for us. He balanced the engines and that type of stuff for us. As far as the assembly work, I did all of that.
HPP: Do you prefer to build your own motors, or to have them supplied to you?
CO: I was building my own engines in the modified division so when I went to Grand National, I started building my own engines there, too.
HPP: In 1960, who invented the trademark white-body-with-red-decals color combination on the Cotton Owens race cars?
CO: That was my own combination. I like it because it shows up real good on the racetrack. If you've got a scorer in the stands, you've got to keep up with the number of laps that you're running. You want to be able to see it and spot it real quick so you won't miss it, and get you a lap behind.
HPP: And how about the No. 6 on your race cars? What is its origin?
CO: Well, that was a good friend of mine who had that No. 6-Marshall Teague. When he went to USAC from NASCAR, it left the No. 6 open, and I took it from him.
HPP: Did you ever feel any serious rivalry between you and the other Pontiac teams/builders such as Fireball Roberts/Smokey Yunick and Jack Smith/Bud Moore?
CO: It was all very competitive. We took everything very seriously.
Joe Weatherly, Cotton Owens, and Glenn "Fireball" Roberts smile in 1961 during the work fo
HPP: What was your favorite race of all time in a Pontiac?
CO: I guess it had to be the [February 14,] 1960 race on live TV [CBS Sports Spectacular]. I sat on the pole at 149.892 mph.
HPP: What was the toughest race for you ever in a Pontiac?
CO: I guess you could say Daytona in 1957 [February 17, 1957] was one of the toughest because we lost a lot of time in the pits and got us behind, going from the lead to being so many seconds behind, I'd say 1957. [Cotton Owens still won the race.]
HPP: What year Pontiac worked best for you?
CO: I would say '60-'62 worked real well. The '57 Pontiac, though, I really loved to drive.
HPP: What else do you want HPP readers to know about you and your Pontiac racing years?
CO: Well, I have to tell you about a race against Fireball Roberts [the inaugural speedweeks race of the Daytona 500 in February 1959.] Fireball Roberts had a new '59 Pontiac. I didn't have one. So I went to my shop where I had four '58s that were wrecked. I took those four wrecked cars and put them all together into one race car. I showed up at Daytona a week later [than the other racers], and Fireball Roberts had the pole at 140 mph. I set a record by 3 mph faster than Fireball in my '58 Pontiac at 143.198 mph.
HPP: How did the inaugural race of the Daytona 500 end up for you?
CO: I ran fourth in the race with my '58. I had sold my '57 Pontiac to Charlie Griffin, and he ran third.
HPP: Why did you stop driving Pontiacs in NASCAR?
CO: I stopped driving [regularly] in 1962 because of double vision, and David Pearson started working for me.
HPP: Who is your favorite Pontiac race car driver of all time?
CO: I would have to say me. I enjoyed driving Pontiacs, and I've got to tell you, David Pearson is a great driver, too. He drives a lot like me.
HPP: How do feel about your career with Pontiac from 1957-1962?
CO: I was proud to be a Pontiac driver because I won the race for them [in 1957], and in 1961 , and beyond, Pontiac took third place in [national] sales.
To learn more about Cotton Owens and his incredible racing career, visit Cotton Owens Garage at www.cottonowens.com.