Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Wesley Christian Donlavey, better known to his fellow racers as Junie, passed away Monday at the age of 90.
The popular and affable Richmond native first fielded a car in the NASCAR Grand National Series for Runt Harris at Martinsville Speedway in 1950, when Harris drove Donlavey’s Oldsmobile to a 19th-place finish in a 21-car field.
Donlavey would continue to field cars in NASCAR’s top division all the way until 2002, amassing 863 starts as an owner, with one race victory, 60 top-five and 218 top-10 finishes. His lone victory would come in 1981, when Jody Ridley drove the No. 90 Truxmore/Sunny King Ford to victory in the Mason-Dixon 500 at Dover International Speedway.
Among the men who drove for Donlavey were NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson, Fred Lorenzen and Joe Weatherly, along with Tiny Lund, Bobby Isaac, Benny Parsons, Ken Schrader and Harry Gant. Ridley, Schrader and Bill Dennis all won rookie of the year honors driving for Donlavey.
From his start in 1950 up until 1977, Donlavey usually only ran a handful of races each season. From 1977-87, he ran at least 27 races per season, before scaling back again.
Though Donlavey’s teams were never among the elite of NASCAR, he was well respected among his peers and highly regarded as one of the true gentleman competitors.