Buddy Arrington, a longtime independent racer who competed in the NASCAR Cup Series throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, has died at the age of 84. News of Arrington’s death was first shared by Brock Beard of LASTCAR.
A native of Southern Virginia and one of NASCAR’s last true independents who both owned and drove his cars, Arrington became famous for his extreme loyalty to Mopar cars and engines, as well as his very recognizable red and blue No. 67. Making his debut in 1963, Arrington raced throughout the next 25 years on a limited budget and with a volunteer crew, financing his racing career through various occupations: Arrington worked as a tobacco farmer, as a used car salesman and even had a stint as a moonshiner.
Arrington was exceptionally devoted to Mopar products, driving Chryslers and Dodges throughout his career even after the manufacturer ended its factory support of NASCAR in the late 1970s. He built a close relationship with the Petty family, often fielding used equipment from Petty Enterprises. When Richard Petty switched from Dodge to Chevrolet after the 1978 season, it was Arrington who bought Petty’s Dodge stock, and he stuck to racing Mopar products into the 1980s even as his equipment became dated.
“You just get used to all the pieces,” Arrington said in a 1985 Sports Illustrated story, “I’m the old die-hard Chrysler man, and I’d say 75 percent of my fans are Chrysler nuts.”
Arrington made a total of 560 Cup Series starts without a single victory, the second-most of any winless driver behind J.D. McDuffie (653), one of Arrington’s contemporaries and a fellow independent racer. The closest Arrington ever came to winning was the 1979 Winston 500 at Talladega, where he led two laps early and was in position to win late when a pit crew error on his final stop cost him a chance at victory. Arrington finished third, tying his career-best finish first set at Nashville in 1965.
While he had his successes here and there — Arrington earned 15 top fives, 103 top 10s, and finished seventh in points in 1982 — he spent most of his career doing what he could with the budget and equipment he had, eventually becoming a true throwback to NASCAR’s past as the sport became increasingly dominated by drivers with manufacturer support and lucrative sponsorships.
“You have to have racers out here like me,” Arrington told the Birmingham Post-Herald in July of 1980, “If for no other reason than to give Petty somebody to pass.”
Arrington raced until his money finally ran out in 1988, retiring after making his final start in the 1988 Pepsi Firecracker 400 at Daytona. His son, Joey Arrington, would follow Buddy into NASCAR and become a highly successful engine builder.
Arrington’s death comes just one week after his 84th birthday on July 26.