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NASCAR Roots Run Deep In Rutherford County

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Later in his career, Jimmy Means was on the racing crew - giving advice.

Jimmy Means made one of his final public appearances last summer at Tri-County Speedway's Pepsi Firecracker 400 for a pre-race autograph session in Granite Falls. Means and members of his team and family met the public on the bright sunny day, signed autographs and talked about his history in racing for more than 50 years. Twenty of those years Jimmy took the wheel of the race car and enjoyed racing all over the country. For the next 30 years he'd continue to race his cars with different drivers and was successful in the business as an independent racer.

Means was also inducted into the Alabama Auto Racing Pioneers Hall Of Fame in 2023. Known by many as the man who did so much with so little, Means began his racing career at Huntsville Speedway, making his first start in the NASCAR Cup Series, one of 455.

At the end of 2023, Means closed down Jimmy Means Racing shop on Withrow Road in Forest City and is taking it easier after 50 years in the racing business. Although he admits quickly, "I still go over there and piddle (racing shop)," Means has primarily stepped away from the business he fell in love with as a teenager.

He was a 14-year-old driver's education student in Huntsville when he told his coach/instructor he wanted to be a race car driver. The coach told Means he could do what he wanted to do if he wanted it bad enough.

In 1976 Means made his debut in the Daytona 500 fulfilling his teenager dream. He took the advice from his driving instructor. Not only could he sit in the driver's seat, Means worked on the cars he wanted to drive.

Means says he could have never stayed in the business if he hadn't been an independent driver.

Before coming to Forest City, while racing in Huntsville, at one time he won more races than any other driver. He was the track champion at Huntsville in 1973 and Nashville in 1974.

He spent 20 years behind the wheel of a race car, but stepped away following the deaths of Neil Bonnett and Rodney Orr, two good friends. Later he would built and fix cars for other drivers.

He learned early on to rely primarily on his own equipment, competing in the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit for about 20 years. Over the years he had a number of top 10 finishes, including seventh in the 1983 Talladega 500.

According to one writer, "Jimmy Means was one of these underfunded gladiators competing with the big teams." In 1982 Jimmy moved out of his hometown Huntsville, Alabama and moved to Forest City.

The writer said the roof of Jimmy Means Racing shop in Forest City "has seen NASCAR race cars prepared under it for 40 years". Means would later compete in the Xfinity Series.

He was known in the racing world as one who never threw away any parts and had the ability to do his own engines in house.

Over the past few weeks, Jimmy Means has been posting on his Facebook page various messages and photos of the equipment he is selling as well as message to race driving families.

He sent condolences to the family of his racing friend Cale Yarborough. "RIP Cale. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family during his difficult time," he wrote on Dec. 31, 2023.

Friend Wylie Young posted this, "One of the great independents of the last five-plus decades. Sorry to see this, but I suspect Jimmy deserves some well-deserved retirement. Nov. 2023"

Another friend, JP Roberts of Forest City met Jimmy Means at the Huntsville, Alabama race track and he and Means became fast friends. After Means and his family moved to Forest City, JP Roberts followed close behind and came to Rutherford County.

JP and Dorlis Roberts owned and operated Green's Restaurant on Main Street in Forest City and often fed the celebrity racer/friend and his family.

Another friend and follower Pat Nanney recalls the days "way before the internet" when the radio station where Nanney was working would get a press release from NASCAR with point standings after the latest race.

"I would take that by Jimmy so he would know where he stood in points," Nanney said.

Nanney also shared that as a kid Dale Earnhardt, Jr. said Jimmy Means was his favorite driver.

He said Jimmy's son Brad and Dale Jr. were friends as young boys and played together as their dads raced.

Means said he'll keep up with NASCAR but not as he once did. When asked who he'd like to see win this year he said he's like to see Kyle Bush win.

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