BY KEITH WALTZ
Bobby Hillin Jr. made his NASCAR Cup Series debut at North Wilkesboro Speedway on April 18, 1982, at the age of 17. A few years later, on July 27, 1986, the young racer from Midland, Texas, outran a field of seasoned veterans to score an upset victory in the Talladega 500 at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway.
At the age of 22 years, 1 month and 22 days, Hillin Jr. became the third youngest NASCAR Cup series race winner behind Donald Thomas and Fireball Roberts.
Driving the No. 8 Miller American Buick entered by Mickey and Billy Stavola, Hillin Jr. led the final nine trips around the 2.66-mile superspeedway and was just ahead of a massive crash in turn one of the final lap.
The winning move came on lap 181 of 188 when Brooks took command from David Pearson, who was nursing a failing engine. Brooks beat Buddy Baker to the checkered flag by 7.2 seconds while Pearson hung on to finish third.
“The car ran hot throughout the race,” Brooks said in Greg Fielden’s “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing.” Frankly, I expected it to blow any minute. It wasn’t until the last five laps that I realized I could win if the thing held together.”
Brooks made 358 starts during a 17-year NASCAR Cup Series career that ended in 1985. He had a total of 57 top-five finishes but his only victory was at Talladega in 1973.
After hanging up his helmet, Brooks spent some time as an announcer for MRN’s NASCAR coverage.
Injuries suffered in a 2004 plane crash plagued Brooks later in life and he died on Feb. 1, 2006, due to pneumonia.