Race drivers might be the ultimate illustration of the Type-A personality — competitive, achievement-driven and with a short fuse. So it’s natural that over the years, the sport has produced some notable “bad boys.” Here are five of our favorites:
1. Dale Earnhardt: “The Intimidator” was a rookie in 1979 when the incident described in Nos. three and four (below) occurred. He learned from some of NASCAR’s best bad boys ever. He preferred wearing black (which spawned numerous Darth Vader references) there were few cars he couldn’t pass and, according to his reputation, he’d just wreck those.
2. James Hunt: If Austrian Niki Lauda and German Michael Schumacher were the prototypes for the analytical, automaton Formula One driver, well then Englishman James Hunt was their exact polar opposite. Hunt’s heyday was during one of Formula One’s most dangerous eras, and he lived a rock star’s life with celebrity good looks and the charisma to back it up. Drugs, booze and women were all part of the equation for someone whose life reflected the realization that it was likely to be a short one, indeed. His intense rivalry with Niki Lauda is depicted in the upcoming Ron Howard film “Rush.”
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3. Cale Yarborough and 4. Donnie Allison: Both Yarborough and Allison (along with equally famous brother Bobby) were known for a “take-no-prisoners” style of racing, and nowhere was that on better display than at the 1979 Daytona 500. Allison was leading the race with Yarborough on his tail. Yarborough attempted a pass, the cars made multiple contacts and the two leaders wound up taking each other out, allowing Richard Petty to coast to an easy victory. After settling in the grassy infield, Yarborough and Allison proceeded to beat the crap out of each other. You can’t make this stuff up, particularly when it’s caught on national television. Both were fined $80,000 (a pretty large sum in 1979), and both will likely go to their graves complaining that they shouldn’t have been.
5. John Paul Sr.: Paul’s story is perhaps the most bizarre in all of motorsports and probably held that title for all of sports until Aaron Hernandez began to hit the front pages. Paul had a Master’s Degree in Business from Harvard, was a highly successful racer in the SCCA Trans Am series and the IMSA Camel GT series, and was the elder part of one of racing’s few successful father and son teams. In 1982, John Paul Sr. and John Paul Jr. won two of America’s most prestigious endurance races, the 24 hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Paul was later indicted as the leader of a drug trafficking ring and fled to Switzerland on a fake passport. He served time in a federal penitentiary until his 1999 parole. After violating said parole in 2000, Paul simply vanished. The case remains open.
Are you a fan of Formula One racing? Join us on Aug. 15 at 10 a.m. for a free seminar in Monterey featuring drivers from one of the sport’s most dangerous eras — the 1970s. Click here to reserve your spot. Can’t attend in person? Watch the discussion live — and ask the participants your questions — by clicking here