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Ernie Irvan - poverty, success, injury & comeback

Discussion in 'NASCAR chat' started by Elliott_Fan_9, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. Elliott_Fan_9

    Elliott_Fan_9 Formerly JJ_14

    In 1982, Irvan left California with $700 in his pocket and everything he owned loaded into his pickup truck and a homemade trailer, and he headed east to North Carolina.[1]Worried about running out of money, Irvan stopped in Las Vegas and managed to leave with an additional $200.

    Irvan supported himself in Charlotte, North Carolina by welding grandstand seats at Charlotte Motor Speedway, unloaded Ken Schrader's moving van, built racecars, and other odd jobs.[1] During that time, he won nine races driving in the late model series at Concord Speedway.[1] Driving a Firebird, Irvan won two races his first year and seven races the next year.

    He made it to the Cup in 1988 & ran 25 of the 29 races, nearly winning rookie of the year. He totalled $96,370 that year!

    He was very successful in the early 90's, winning the '91 Daytona 500 & ending the season with $1,079,017 in earnings!

    By the end of the '93 season, he had accumulated 12 victories already, including The Great American Race.

    His contention for the championship in '94 ended during a Friday early-morning practice session at Michigan. According to drivers on the track, the car cut a right front tire, sending Irvan into the turn two wall at over 170 miles per hour. Emergency workers at the track extricated him from the car, and he was immediately airlifted to Saint Joseph's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was diagnosed with critical brain and lung injuries and given only a 10% chance of surviving the night.

    He returned to cup series the very next season & made his comeback on October 1 @ North Wilkesboro. He won two races the following year in '96 & his last win came @ Michigan in '97, the track that nearly cost him his life.

    His last couple seasons he went winless but was very competitive nonetheless. He announced his retirement in '99 due to another injury once again @ Michigan.

    Irvan finished his Winston Cup career as a driver with 15 victories, 22 poles, 68 top-fives, 124 top-10s and over 11 million dollars in career earnings.

    Fantastic story. From watching the 500 in a white & black T.V. to winning it a few years later is insane. This guy deserves a ton of respect.

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernie_Irvan
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
    DUN24, Whizzer, be9ak7ts16 and 6 others like this.
  2. mack

    mack Team Owner

    KodiakRusty89 and Elliott_Fan_9 like this.
  3. MRM

    MRM Team Owner

    I had the honor to meet him several years ago. Nice guy. He still struggles with a few things from his '94 accident. It's amazing what he did when he came back.
    2 Sweet, Kiante and Elliott_Fan_9 like this.
  4. IanMcVittie

    IanMcVittie Team Owner

    I remember when Ernie hopped in the 4 car and I can’t remember if it was re-skinned from an Olds to Chevy just prior to or after. Swervin Irvin had to address the drivers at a meeting to apologize to them for his driving style. He was a good one.
    Kiante and Elliott_Fan_9 like this.
  5. LouieLouie

    LouieLouie Team Owner

    I remember Ernie winning that last Michigan race in '97. He was later replaced by Kenny Irwin Jr. who later passed away when his throttle got stuck at NHMS. The exact same thing happened to Adam Petty a year or two later. Really sad stories because both drivers were really talented. Adam Petty was close to being the next Richard. Definitely better than Kyle!

    Correction, Adam Petty died in May 2000, and Kenny died two months later in July 2000 in nearly the exact same location on the track too!
  6. 2 Sweet

    2 Sweet Legend

    Ernie was the first favorite driver I ever had, and was still one of my favorites from 1993 until his retirement. His comeback after the '94 wreck was incredible.
    gnomesayin likes this.
  7. KodiakRusty89

    KodiakRusty89 Team Owner

    The "Swirvin Irvan" moniker is a bit misleading imo. Ernie had a bad 3 month stretch in 1991 where he caused two huge wrecks a Talladega and Pocono due to carelessness. After his debacle at the July Pocono race he had to address the drivers the following week at Talladega. Ironically, he got in a bit of dust up with Buddy Baker in that race which triggered a pretty big wreck. Irvan was not blamed for the incident but he wasn't truly absolved either. After that weekend Irvan kept his nose clean for basically the rest of his career.

    He was a helluva of driver and easily one of my favorites. He had a little Earnhardt in him, a little Rusty Wallace and a little Kyle Busch in him. He would drive the wheels off the car. He had races where fell behind charged back and won. Others were he simply dominated from the start. Irvan also had a little different personality at that time due to his West Coast roots. Some thought he was a little too arrogant which is the reason Yates let him go. Apparently, Irvan had a less than favorable interaction with Texaco suites at some point in 1997.

    I nearly saw him win at Dover in June 1997 (last 500 mile race there) but he hit oil between turns 3-4 while having the race well in hand. My dad was a huge Elliott fan and I think he even settled for Bill's runner-up finish to Irvan a couple of weeks later at Michigan.
    DUN24, 2 Sweet, Zerkfitting and 2 others like this.
  8. superchuck500

    superchuck500 Team Owner

    I started watching Cup regularly in 1995, a year after the Michigan accident - but I remember when it happened, it was all over the news and Sportscenter. I watched the ‘97 Michigan race he won, I remember thinking what a triumph it was for him.

    That 28 team sure had a rough go for a few years there. I can’t imagine what that must have been like.
  9. Yogisd1

    Yogisd1 Resident Retard

    Ernie and Mike Skinner were competitors of ours, on the local stock car scene, that made it to the top level of NASCAR. They are both great guys to talk to. Too bad we will never know how good he would have been, if it weren't for the crashes.
    aunty dive and mack like this.
  10. Zerkfitting

    Zerkfitting Team Owner

    I also remember the Swirvin Ervan deal, a couple incidents over a short time and he was blamed for every accident he was near for some time.
    LewTheShoe likes this.
  11. Whizzer

    Whizzer Retired entrepreneur

    There is more to the monicker, "Swervin' Irvan" than a few incidents. I worked with a NASCAR team when Ernie was given the name. Ernie was somewhat wild, even during practice, always pushing the envelope and on one particular day, it might have been at Pocono, Jimmy Means came into the garage area after practice and was speaking to Dale Earnhardt, Sr., and uttered this comment, "It was hard to figure where "Swervin' Irvin" was going to go next". Earnhardt, Sr., a always a jokester, went through the garage area repeating what Jimmy had said and the name, "Swervin' Irvan", stuck.

    Shortly after that, Ernie apologized at a drivers meeting. Ernie was an honest to goodness wheel man of the Wallace, Rudd, Earnhardt, style. He raced hard every race and one can only imagine what his stats would have been had his career not been cut short.
    2 Sweet, Team Penske and Zerkfitting like this.

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