Fugitive NASCAR driver resurfaces after 40 years on the run


LW Wright, the mysterious driver who ran one NASCAR race then disappeared, leaving a trail of bouncing cheques, arrest warrants and private detectives in his wake, has apparently been found

TALLADEGA, AL - AUGUST 1, 1982: Geoff Bodine (No. 50) and Talladega 500 winner Darrell Waltrip pace the field on August 1, 1982 at the Talladega Speedway in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

Wright entered himself for the 1982 Talladega 500, then promptly disappeared

ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Stories of bouncing cheques and unpaid sponsorship are rife in motor sport, but a driver tricking his way onto a professional grid then going into hiding for decades to avoid paying the sizeable bill? Somewhat less heard of.

That’s exactly what’s said to have happened though in the case of Larry ‘LW’ Wright, sometime Nashville tour bus driver, one-time NASCAR entrant and alleged confidence trickster, who apparently spent 40 years in hiding after not paying his racing debts.

Now the ‘Scene Vault’ podcast series says it has found the suspected conman, with a person interviewed claiming to be the absent racer and saying the tales of tall bills are in fact the real myth, stating: “If you could find someone that says I owe them $30,000, you tell ’em I’ll face ’em.”

Wright’s story passed into legend almost as soon as it happened: purporting to be a NASCAR driver with Grand National-level (second tier, now Xfinity) experience, the then-33-year-old American managed to persuade Nashville promotions man Bernie Terrell to provide the $30,000 needed to secure the car and equipment required to run at one of NASCAR’s most prestigious events: the 1982 Talladega 500.

TALLADEGA, AL - MAY 2, 1982: Cale Yarborough (No. 11) keeps in front of an oncoming barrage of cars in the Winston 500 on May 2, 1982 at the Talladega Speedway in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images)

Wright was ultimately flagged off for being dangerously slow

ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Wright was somewhat lacking in other areas though, namely driver skill: he crashed in qualifying before being flagged off 13 laps into the race for being too slow.

The one-time racer then did what any self-respecting conman would then do: he abandoned his car at the track and absconded, apparently leaving sizeable debts, never to be seen again.

NASCAR organised arrest warrants and Terrell hired a private investigator to track down their man, but all to no avail.

Wright’s story has become mythologised over the last four decades, but now the ‘Scene Vault’ claims to have finally found said fugitive driver.

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The interviewee’s assertions in the brief audio excerpts come across as slightly confused, but this only plays further into the murky story line.

After claiming that country music associates Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Merle Haggard helped fund his Music City Racing team, ‘Wright’ admits some bills went unpaid due to a reneging sponsor, but at the same time he disputes owing money.

The mystery racer also claims he simply wasn’t billed for some aspects of his budget, and that the myth has just grown over time.

“If you could find someone that says I owe them $30,000, you tell ’em I’ll face ’em.” he says. “I wanna see who they are, and I wanna know how it come about. And if that makes them stutter, you’ll know what I’m talking about.”

The relatively short interview unfortunately doesn’t manage to establish much in relation to the missing money and where Wright has been all these years, but does apparently fill in some background, claiming that his car’s number was in tribute to Wendell Scott, the first black person to win a NASCAR Cup race.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 17, 1980: NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. sits in his car at the Daytona International Speedway prior to the start of the 1980 Daytona 500 on February 17, 1980 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

‘Wright’ claims Earnhardt gave him advice before taking to the track, but did it actually happen?

Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images

“He was one that tried to race, but didn’t have the means or the money,” says Wright, before recalling the advice NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt gave him pre-event.

“He said now “Look ‘a here, you get out the back of someone who’s been here before, and follow ’em, stay with ’em and then make your move.’ I said ‘OK buddy, I do appreciate that,’ and he hit me on the arm as he walked off.”

Whether or not these are just the embellished details of conman imitating conman or are in fact detail to the true story, podcast host Rick Wilson appears confident he has the right person, asserting that, along with his interviewee appearing similar to his 40-year-old picture from the race, that the race suit Wright still owns is a “perfect match” with that shown in the one picture of him from that weekend in Talladega.

Wilson says more parts of the interview will be revealed at a later date – NASCAR fans will be on tenterhooks as they hope to find out more about the runaway race driver.