Former Talladega 500 winner Lennie Pond passed away today at the age of 75.
Pond, who had been battling cancer for a number of months, died at VCU Medical Center in Richmond, Va. He was a prolific winner in NASCAR’s Modified and Late Model Sportsman divisions – on both asphalt and dirt – in the 1950s, `60s and `70s, winning five Virginia State championships in the Late Model Sportsman ranks.
He was NASCAR’s 1973 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, and is best remembered for an upset victory in the 1978 Talladega 500, where he prevailed in a rare, caution-free race at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
His victory came in dramatic fashion, when leader Benny Parsons hit debris from Bill Elliott’s blown tire on the final lap, cutting his own right-front tire. Debris also damaged the windshield of runner-up Donnie Allison, forcing him to slow. Pond overtook Allison just before the checkered flag, winning the race by two car lengths at an average speed of 174.700 mph; then a world record for a 500-mile closed course race.
"It was a long time coming," said Pond, who had previously been dogged by rumors that he would be released from his Harry Rainer-owned WIN Inc., ride. "When I started the race today, I felt like the whole world was against me. I think a whole lot of people needed to see it today, the way they’ve been talking. I’ve got to talk to a whole lot of people and get a few things straight."
Pond ran his final Winston Cup Series race in 1989, ending with 88 Top-10 finishes in 234 career starts. In recent years, he was active in the automotive industry, working as a salesman at Heritage Chevrolet in Chester, Va.