An off-duty Metro patrolman was killed last night when his race car slammed into a retaining wall at Fairgrounds Speedway in the fourth lap of a late-model sportsman race.L.D. Ottinger broke Nashville's track record with his qualifying lap. But less than a minute later, fellow NASCAR national LMS division competitor, Harry Gant, set his own track record.
Bobby Hunley was dead on arrival at Baptist Hospital after the speedway accident.
Hunley's 1964 Chevelle collided with another car in a group of five autos jockeying for positions on the straight-away. Hunley's auto flipped over several times, then struck a retaining wall at a turn on the quarter-mile track.
Two other cars were involved in the track collision, but there were no other injuries. Hunley's wife, Wilma, and children reportedly were in the fairgrounds audience when the crash occurred. The patrolman was scheduled to go on duty with the police department at midnight following the race.
In an interview last year, Mrs. Hunley said she could seldom relax at home, knowing her husband was a police officer during work hours and a race car driver on his off nights. "A night never goes by that I don't worry about his welfare," she said. "When he leaves out of here, especially on that midnight shift, I never know if I'll see him again.
"Then when he's racing, I have to sweat out each turn he makes. I never take my eyes off him when he's on the track. Even though I can't stand to watch Robert race, I can't stand to stay at home and wonder what's happening. If something ever goes wrong, I want to be there," she said.
In addition to his widow, Hunley is survived by a son and two daughters.
When the green flag fell, Ottinger got the jump on Gant and grabbed the lead. From there, it was all L.D. - all night - all race. He won handily over the rest of the field.
|Credit Jim Phillips and MRM Racing Photos|
|Source: The Tennessean from TMC Archives|
I had listened to the race coverage on WENO-AM radio on Saturday night and knew Gant was quickest. Woody's race report in the Sunday paper included the same info.
|Source: The Tennessean|
A few days later on a Saturday morning, our black, rotary phone rang in the kitchen. My mother answered, acknowledged a couple of uh-huhs, handed the phone to me, and smirked a bit as she said "It's for you."
After saying hello, the voice on the other end said "Chase? Larry Woody from The Tennessean. How are you?" I nearly puddled on the kitchen floor. I recall Larry was pleasant though I kinda hemmed and hawed. Yet I was able to re-state my understanding about Gant's lap, and Larry understood the mix-up between his Sunday and Monday articles.
When the call ended, I'm sure I broke out in sweat and hives. I have no memory of what my mother said afterwards - if anything. She may have just gone back to making biscuits for my dad or helping my brother or sister with a school project
Though I've spoken with Larry a time or two by phone on local racing radio shows, I've never had the opportunity to meet him face to face. I'm hopeful that day will still come so I can remind him of this story and hopefully share a laugh with him about it.