2008 UPDATE:

Houston reflects on career upon NMPA Hall induction

By Rick Houston
January 19, 2008
02:37 PM EST

There are a handful of elite athletes who are so closely identified with their sports, mere mention of their names stir memories of greatness.

Breathe the initials MJ, and everybody knows you're talking about Michael Jordan and basketball immortality. The Babe, Babe Ruth, is the most legendary figure in all of baseball lore. Joe Montana ... football. Wayne Gretzky is The Great One in hockey. Pele ... soccer.

And then there's Tommy Houston.

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Houston, then

Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

Houston, now

For 15 years, Tommy Houston was the very definition of what it meant to be a driver in the division now known as the Nationwide Series. Houston was the Babe Ruth of NASCAR's No. 2 national series. He won the second race in series history, at Richmond, in 1982. He started its first 360 races, a record likely never to be topped. Houston held the record for most starts in the series until just last year, when Jason Keller topped his mark of 417. (read more)


When all was said and done, Houston won 24 races and captured nearly 200 top-10 finishes. On Saturday, Houston will be inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in recognition of his achievements in and contributions to NASCAR's No. 2 series.

"To be inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame, it's just such a great honor," Houston said. "It's just really exciting. I don't know ... it's hard to put into words."

For Houston, racing has always been a family affair.

"It's something that I never dreamed would happen out of our racing career, and I call it 'our' racing career because I have to include my wife, Martha, and I have to include our sons, Scott, Marty and Andy and their families. It goes way back, a long time. My brothers introduced me to racing."

There may be more fans in the stands for a Cup Series race, Houston says, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the competition is any better. Races in NASCAR's No. 2 series, he continues, don't afford time for riding around. No ... in the Nationwide Series, you've got to race.

It's old school, from the drop of the green flag.

"The Nationwide Series ... you have to put it back-to-back with the Cup Series," Houston said. "There's no question about it. It's one of the major deals, one of the major series in the country. Whether you race in the Nationwide Series or whether you race Cup, it doesn't matter. There's a lot of notoriety there.

"What is better, 300 miles or 500 miles? Preferably, I like the 300-mile races. The 500-mile races, I think it gets to a point where you run a couple hundred miles where you're just running them, making sure you keep your nose clean."

Houston is so closely associated with the NASCAR's No. 2 series, it might come as a surprise to some that he did in fact make a total of 13 Cup starts between 1980-85. His best finish was an 11th in the fall of 1981 at North Wilkesboro.

He tested for Bill Elliott, and qualified Ken Schrader's Hendrick Motorsports entry at Martinsville in 1989 as much of North Carolina cleaned up from Hurricane Hugo. Make absolutely no mistake about it. Tommy Houston could get the job done on the racetrack, regardless of what division he happened to be racing at the moment.

"It's something I don't regret," Houston said of his decision to stay in the NASCAR's No. 2 series. "We had some good people with us. Our sons were really coming of age, and they knew a lot about racing as teenagers. I got to thinking, 'You've got a pretty good thing going here, so don't jeopardize it.'"

Another mark that Houston still holds is his pole-winning speed of 194.389 mph for the 1987 season opener at Daytona International Speedway, the fastest qualifying lap ever turned in NASCAR's No. 2 series. And while series teams take to the track for tests during Preseason Thunder, it's interesting to note that Houston didn't test at Daytona prior to his record-setting performance.

He did put the car through its paces at Talladega Superspeedway and, in fact, made a couple of trips to the wind tunnel, an almost unheard-of luxury at the time. Still, 20 years ago, Houston admits that there simply wasn't the emphasis on testing that there is now.

"We didn't really get into all that [testing]," Houston said. "We were just trying to keep our cars ready to go to the next race."


Back in 1994 Tommy was sponsored by Red Devil Enamels. Red Devil was owned by Thompson-Formby in Memphis, TN.  I worked for TF at that time and when the marketing department came to me and asked who they should sponsor I told them we would be heroes among the fans if we were to sponsor Tommy Houston.  Tommy had lost his long time sponsor, Roses Discount Stores and was in desperate need of a sponsor.  Tommy and his family run team were one of the original teams when the Busch Series was formed (From the former NASCAR Late Model Stocks Division) and was campaigning an all white Thunderbird.  All white means 'I need a sponsor' and their consecutive starts streak was in danger of ending.  By sponsoring Tommy we helped continue that streak and keep Tommy racing for a couple more years.


Here are some photos from my time with the Houston's and their DAHRT Racing Team.

The first race for the Red Devil sponsored #6 Ford Thunderbird.
Talladega Super Speedway, Talladega Alabama 1994
(That's me in front of the car)


Tommy "setting the pace" during the Kroger 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1994.



Leonard unloading the car off the transporter.




Tommy and I after the Opryland 320 at The old Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.  Tommy always enjoyed one of the series sponsor's adult beverages after a race.



This is the original artwork
used for both the back of the t-shirt
and promotional material.
Both Tommy and Martha Houston autographed this for me.

The hood from Tommy Houston's 1995 Red Devil Enamels Thunderbird.

This hood was about all that was left

click on the photo to enlarge

after the car flipped 5 or 6 times at Talladega during
The Hummingbird Fish Finder 300k Busch  Grand National  Race.

The right front tire and rim from Tommy's Car pictured above.

This is my Pit Crew uniform shirt.
I had the honor of working with Crew Chief Scott Houston
and the rest of the Red Devil Crew.
I worked pit road on race day with them at
The Talladega Super Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway,
Indianapolis Raceway Park and The Nashville Speedway USA.


The entire crew signed the back of my t-shirt
after my last race with the team.

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