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Obituaries

Ralph Moody, 86; Partner in Famed Stock Car Racing Team

June 11, 2004|Shav Glick | Times Staff Writer

Ralph Moody, the mechanical partner in Holman-Moody, one of American stock car racing's most famous teams, died Wednesday at his home in Mooresville, N.C., after a long illness. He was 86.

Between 1958 and 1972, Moody and John Holman built Ford racing cars that earned 83 poles and took 93 checkered flags in 366 NASCAR Winston Cup races. With David Pearson driving, they won consecutive championships in 1968 and '69, grossing more than $1.5 million in purse money.

"Whenever I was in one of his cars, I felt pretty good," Pearson said. "You felt like you had a chance to win. Ralph had a lot of good ideas."

Holman, who looked after promotion and sales for the team, died of a heart attack in 1975 in Orangeburg, S.C.

The partners rarely got along with each other, but the combination produced winning cars at many levels.

In 1957, when the American Manufacturers Assn. called for a ban on its members' participation in racing, Ford suggested to Moody that he and Holman form a team to keep their ideas alive in case Ford returned to the sport -- which it did in 1962.

To start the company, Moody borrowed $12,000 on an airplane he owned, and he and Holman opened a speed shop, building their own chassis and equipment for all types of racing. It later became Holman-Moody Racing.

"Ralph wanted the fastest race cars in the world, John wanted the biggest business in the world," said Howard DeHart, one of the company's first employees.

When Ford pulled out of racing a second time in 1971, though, that was the beginning of the end for Holman-Moody. Bobby Allison, with Coca-Cola sponsorship, won nine times in 1971 in Holman-Moody colors, but after the opening race of 1973 at Riverside, the team closed up shop.

Moody sold his share to a Japanese trading company and opened Ralph Moody Inc. in Charlotte, N.C., where he did research and development on high-mileage automobiles. Holman continued in the racing- and marine-engine business until his death.

Besides building successful NASCAR autos, Holman-Moody made Ford-powered sports cars that finished third in 24-hour races at Daytona and Le Mans in 1966 and second at Sebring in 1967, with A.J. Foyt as one of its drivers.

Moody was born Sept. 10, 1917, in Taunton, Mass., where he learned to race in a Model-T Ford. After driving a tank in World War II, he returned home and resumed racing in New England. In 1956, he moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and drove in NASCAR's Grand National circuit, which later became Winston Cup and is now Nextel Cup. In 47 starts over two seasons, Moody won five races and five poles, all in Fords, and finished sixth in points in 1956.

As one of stock car racing's premier teams, Holman-Moody drew many of the sport's top drivers, including Pearson, Allison, Fred Lorenzen, Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly and Mario Andretti.

Moody was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994, the National Motorsports Press Assn. Hall of Fame in 1990 and the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame last year.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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