A former NASCAR driver, trucker, and patriotic Talladega Speedway big rig driver has passed away, racing officials announced on Monday.
On January 27, the Talladega Speedway announced that driver John Ray had passed away at age 82.
Ray was a trucker who owned the John Ray Trucking Company in the 1970’s as well as a NASCAR driver, who drove in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1974-1976 until a crash in Daytona ended his racing career.
But Ray was best known for opening up races at Talladega with his gold and brown Peterbilt topped with a giant American flag.
Ray said in an interview a few years ago that he got the idea to run the racetrack in his truck with the American flag in 2001 after the tragedy of 9/11 and the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr.
It was 2001, we just had the 9/11 attacks and Dale had also passed away earlier that year. I had a crazy idea to run my rig out on the track with an American flag attached to the back. It started off as a tribute to the country and to Dale. I never thought it would become the heart-felt moment that it has over the past some-odd years, but I’m glad it has become a tradition that means so much to the fans and the Talladega family. It represents such a sense of pride that we all share together as a nation and as a community. It is my honor and privilege to do it.
Ray eventually gave over driving the Peterbilt to his friend Roger Haynes and then to his son Johnny.
Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of one of our most cherished friends. John Ray was a racer, trucking legend, and a treasure in our community and Talladega family.
Our love and prayers are with the entire Ray family.
— Talladega Superspeedway (@TalladegaSuperS) January 27, 2020