Rutherford Weekly

March 02, 2023

Rutherford Weekly - Shelby NC

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ISSUE NO. 9 • March 2, 2023 ISSUE NO. 9 • March 2, 2023 • • • 828-248-1408 • 828-248-1408 To donate, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit The need for blood is constant! Every 2 seconds someone in the US needs a blood transfusion! WEEKLY NEWSPAPER WEEKLY NEWSPAPER Our 31 st Year • Over 25,000 Weekly Readers Johnny McFadden knows a lot about milking cows, raising beef cattle and racing cars. He has met two United States presidents, talked for about 25 minutes — in person — with one of the most beautiful and famous actresses of all time and also ran a productive dairy farm in Rutherford County for 70 years. Today he's a beef cattle farmer off Hudlow Road. McFadden doesn't race cars or milk cows anymore, but he has a lot of racing stories to share and he is still a "country boy on his farm" in his beloved Mt. Vernon community. McFadden shared some of his racing career as NASCAR's season is underway. NASCAR's Las Vegas race is Sunday, March 5. He won the fi rst NASCAR Limited Sportsman race he ever entered driving a 1976 Chevrolet Nova in Greenville-Pickens in 1972, although McFadden started that race in last place due to an oil problem. His fi rst ever race was at the Rutherford County fairgrounds dirt track driving a 1956 Ford in the Limited Sportsman Division. He did not win. McFadden earned a reputation in the Winston-Cup Series world as the man who raced "just" when he wanted to do so. If he didn't want to race, he didn't. McFadden's racing career began in 1972 and concluded in 1989, with a few extra races for Jimmy Means in 1992. The love of racing began when McFadden was fi ve years old. He was at the Tri-City Grill in Forest City with his parents for a hamburger and fries when he heard the roar of racing cars just over the highway at the nearby Rutherford County Fairgrounds. He never forgot the excitement of those sounds and told his parents he wanted to race cars. Although among the best punters in the history of R-S Central football back in his high school days, McFadden turned down two serious offers to play football at Clemson University. He was not interested in leaving the farm to play football, plus he was already caught up in the midst of "toying with the racing world." McFadden raced 17 years and won some Limited Sportsman Division races and some Late Model, "but never won a Winston-Cup" race, although he ran many of them. The fi rst car Johnny raced in a Winston-Cup race was one he built with sheet metal from McCurry Deck Motors. "Back then we built all our own bodies." He joined the Alliance racing team and remained until about 1989, rubbing shoulders with some of the racing world's best drivers. McFadden says his biggest racing fan of all was his high school classmate and neighbor Keith Champion. "He never missed a race. He was always there for me," he said. One year when McFadden was planning to race his Chevy Nova in Martinsville, Virginia, the car was not ready, so he and Champion traveled to Martinsville as spectators. While waiting for the race to begin McFadden said he happened to look over to the side of him and spotted Elizabeth Taylor in the stands. At that time she was married to Virginia Senator John Warner, who was taking care of offi cial welcomes at the racetrack that day. "She was sitting alone and I told Keith I was going to talk with her and he tried to talk me out of it. "I went right up to her and introduced myself and told her why I was there and I couldn't race that day because my car wasn't ready," McFadden recalled. " She asked me to sit with her." "She was a beautiful person and really a country girl. She wanted to know all about what I did and about my racing and the farm." During his early days of racing McFadden ran the dirt track in Shelby where he met Dale Earnhardt. "He'd race there and then go on to Hickory or Concord," McFadden said. "We became good friends and ran two years together on dirt against each other," he said. "We'd hit the dirt fairground tracks together. I never beat him. He was really good." Continued on page 3. WE OUR READERS! WE OUR READERS! Story by Jean Gordon; contributed photos McFadden looks back on racing McFadden looks back on racing career and why he called it quits career and why he called it quits Johnny McFadden with a piece of memorabilia from racing days at Harris Speedway — a full page story in the Rutherford County News in the 1970s. - Jean Gordon photo Racing at Harris making the local weekly paper.

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