Bob Bondurant, a tireless tire racer who put instruction manuals in the hands of actors who would play NASCAR drivers in movies, died Saturday in Carmel, Calif. He was 88.
The cause was bladder cancer, according to a statement on his website, www.bluelaceupdates.com.
An avid sportsman and marathon runner who ran in New York City’s 14-mile Run for Charity more than 50 times, Bondurant was best known for his tire manufacturer tire brand, Speed. He first marketed the quality of his balls, tire products that were durable and fit perfectly, before he became a tire racer.
When he started out, he ran courses at 16 racetracks and in 21 states on an array of cars with varied engines and drive trains. He invented rules to govern his races, all the while working around the clock on his marketing skills, salesmanship and design for his tire brand.
With the help of his innovative technologies, speed began earning its way from an international consumer electronics company in the 1970s into the sport of stock car racing. Dozens of films and several television shows have been produced using mechanical crews, including “Jimmy Dean’s Outdoor Driving School,” “Chevy Chase’s Volga-Mazda Raceway,” “Nova’s Day in the Life of Tom Sawyer” and “Cannonball Run: The Races.”
As a tire racer in real life, Bondurant won in a number of races.
His racer’s career ended with the passing of racing legend Richard Petty, who was a mainstay on the NASCAR circuit from the late 1950s until his retirement from competitive racing in 2005. Bondurant assisted Petty and won a number of races against him in the 1970s and ’80s.
The tire racer was also involved in television and public relations, launching the “Speed Nation” television show that aired on NBC. The one-hour series featured Bondurant, along with longtime friend and competitor Jeff Allen, rounding up rowdy fans at a variety of tracks to teach them safety and giving them tips on handling different cars and driving style.
Bondurant and Allen created a drive for clean sport and backed the Tread Smart drive, helping drivers to be safer when handling during racing events. The drive also helped fund Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.