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Local History

Fairground Racers: Part 2

This article is part 2 of Fairground Racers and how the Ozarks racers fared in the Daytona 500.

How They Finished

The Ozarks racers had mixed results on stock car racing's biggest stage. Rusty Wallace survived a violent crash in his qualifying race. Rick Wilson made contact with Wallace's car as they raced down the backstretch. Wallace's car flipped several times before landing upside down in the infield grass. He spent two days at a nearby hospital where he received treatment for a mild concussion and a strained neck. Saying the accident was the biggest disappointment of his life, Wallace retuned to the speedway and watched part of the Daytona 500 from Mark Martin's transporter. Wallace was soon a successful NASCAR driver. He won the 1989 NASCAR championship and retired in 2005 with 55 victories. Wallace joined ESPN as a television analyst in 2006 and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2013.

Martin's Daytona 500 experience was also frustrating. Though he ran well, Martin brushed the wall in turn four, damaged the right side of his car, and only completed 136 of the scheduled 200 laps. Martin enjoyed modest success with the Stacy team early in the 1983 season. Despite a third place finish in the Trans-South 500 at Darlington, SC, Martin was fired and replaced by Morgan Shepherd. Though the team praised Martin's efforts and predicted future success for him, they wanted victories. Once again, he raced on short tracks in the Midwest and returned to NASCAR's top series with Jack Roush in 1988. Mark Martin still competes in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. He has 40 career wins and drives for Michael Waltrip Racing.

A true underdog, Dean Roper performed well in the big race. Unfortunately, his team miscalculated his fuel mileage and Roper ran out of gas before his first pit stop. Still, he learned a lot and finished 15th, an impressive effort for his independent team. Roper remained a very successful regional racer. He died of a heart attack in 2001 while competing in an ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) race at Springfield, Illinois.

The Springfield-Greene County Library District has biographies of Martin and Wallace, Mark Martin: Driven to Race by Bob Zeller and Rusty Wallace: The Decision To Win by Bob Zeller

To see footage of Wallace's crash, click here. To see Martins' crash, click here. Mark Martin will race in the 2013 Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 24, 2013.

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