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The life of a NASCAR champion

By Anthony Rhoads

Even from his early childhood, Rex White's life was filled with struggles.

Coming out of the mountains of western North Carolina, it was not an easy road for White as his childhood was filled with struggles every day just to survive. It was made even more difficult when he was diagnosed with polio - he survived the disease but it left him with a lame right leg.

But despite the setbacks early in life, White went on to become one of the greatest drivers in the history of NASCAR.

He raced in the organization's premier division, the Grand National, from 1956-64 and when it was over, he made his mark in the record books with 28 wins, 110 top-fives and 163 top-10s.

The pinnacle of his success came in 1960 when he won the Grand National championship and was voted Most Popular Driver and Stock-Car Driver of the Year.

Gold Thunder - Autobiography of a NASCAR Champion, a book recently released by McFarland and Company Publishing, chronicles White's life and tells the story of a man who was determined to work hard and succeed despite the obstacles that were in front of him.

White was a man constantly struggling to overcome those obstacles whether it was on the family farm in Taylorsville, N.C. or on the race tracks competing against NASCAR legends Lee and Richard Petty, Fred Lorenzen, Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Fireball Roberts and many others.

Even though White was one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR, his career was not without struggles even during the best of times.

When he won his championship, he made about $70,000 but by the time the awards ceremony were held in Daytona, his race team was nearly broke just from trying to maintain the cars and providing for their families.

The biggest blow to his career came in 1963 when Chevrolet pulled out of racing. Without the support of Chevrolet, White's career never got back on track.

White then went to work at a car dealership where he made more money selling cars than he did racing them. He later became a truck driver, retiring at the age of 71.

Gold Thunder not only chronicles White's life story but it goes back in time to the early days of racing.

It gives a glimpse of what NASCAR's pioneers went through to help make NASCAR one of the premier professional sports leagues in the country.

Gold Thunder, a collaboration by White and Jonesboro's Anne B. Jones, goes a long way in helping preserve the legacy of a true NASCAR legend and pioneer.

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com .