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Former NASCAR Competitor and Talladega Pre-Race Icon John Ray Has Passed Away

Talladega Superspeedway has lost an icon and the Ray family has lost their patriarch as John Ray has passed away on Sunday at the age of 82 after a lengthy illness, according to the Talladega Short Track Facebook page.

The news was confirmed on Twitter by Ray’s son, Kevin.

Ray competed in the NASCAR Cup Series in eight events from 1974 to 1976, scoring a best finish of 22nd at Talladega in 1974. Ray’s NASCAR driving career was ended after a horrific crash in the 1976 Daytona 500, but he would go on to be a car owner in the series through 1978.

Ray even provided Dale Earnhardt with a car for his third-career NASCAR Cup Series start in 1976 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

After his competitive NASCAR career, Ray achieved legendary status at Talladega Superspeedway when he decided to create a new form of pre-race entertainment. Following the loss of Earnhardt and the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, Ray felt the country needed a way to huddle together.

He came up with a brilliant idea.

Take a gold semi-truck around the race track and fly an enormous American Flag on the back of the truck. What would be more American than that? And at the same time he’d be doing it at a track that his friend Earnhardt had so much success at.

So, Ray did it, and the reception from the fans was incredible. It has been a pre-race tradition of the speedway ever since.

Rick Ware Racing ran a special paint scheme as a tribute to Ray last year at Talladega Superspeedway.

Toby Christie View All

Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.

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