We don’t remember Delma Cowart the same way we remember other racing drivers. He never won a NASCAR race (but, as the saying goes, he never lost a party). He never even competed in a full season. But Cowart, nicknamed “the clown prince of racing” made his legacy off the track. Today, we’re sad to report that Cowart died at the age of 80, a tweet from his daughter confirmed.
Cowart was an independent NASCAR competitor in an era of serious competition and even more serious budgets — but that never seemed to matter to the driver of the No. 0 car. It didn’t matter if Cowart failed to qualify or withdrew from races more frequently than he actually competed (that’s 61 races compared to 21, by the way). He was there to have a good time. And have a good time he did.
He was cut from an older cloth. By day, Cowart was a swimming pool contractor in his native Georgia. When he had the money, he’d head to the race circuit with a crew of volunteers and see what he could make of the weekend. It was the model that had once been familiar to just about every NASCAR competitor, but by the time Cowart came around, NASCAR had become a multi-million dollar sport.
Why bother racing? Cowart, as usual, had a colorful response: “The only way I can answer that is why do gamblers gamble? I’m a racer, man, that’s all I know.”
Observations like that became Cowart’s calling card, and he attracted a dedicated group of fans who just wanted to see him show up and have a good time. He once admitted that he got into racing so he could gain access to the best parties at Daytona Beach, but he gained a large following all the same.
“Delma was an absolute fixture every year at Daytona when I was growing up,” one Twitter user wrote in response to the Twitter obituary. “I always cheered for him every time I saw him race —not to win, but just to have fun, which he always did better than anyone else.”
“You know I never get down about it all,” Cowart once said of his racing career. “This is a dream that came true for me and for my guys, too. The worst crime you can commit is never to try.”
Here’s to one of racing’s finest personalities. We’ll be raising a glass in your honor tonight.