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Chicago, Illinois







Hurley Haywood

By H.A. Branham

The numbers. It’s always the numbers. Their collective effect is overwhelming and that just seems … right. Hurley Haywood used to overwhelm the competition in endurance sports car racing, on a regular basis.

Those numbers – a record five Rolex 24 At Daytona championships, three victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two victories in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring – are a large part of his legend but not the only part.

Here’s some impressive window dressing for his other-worldly endurance racing statistics:

· IMSA GT titles in 1971 and ‘72

· SCCA Trans-Am title in 1988

· IMSA SuperCar title in 1991

· Four-time IROC participant

· Eighteen IndyCar starts, 18th in 1980 Indianapolis 500

· Grand Marshal, 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans

Bill France Sr. once called Haywood a superhero, doing things “no one had ever done before.”

In 1973, the career of Harris Hurley Haywood took off. Winning the Daytona and Sebring endurance classics – the “36 Hours of Florida” – back-to-back was the catalyst. Those victories had tentacles.

They legitimized the faith his co-driver and Brumos Posche team owner, the more accomplished Peter Gregg, had in Haywood’s ability. The Florida sweep also back-handed naysayers of the dashing Porsche-driving duo. Glimpses of greatness will do that sort of thing.

“That did change the course of my career, because it got the [serious] attention of Porsche,” Haywood said, 50 years later. “It was fun for me because I was 23 and

I’d only been racing for two years. Suddenly, I was at Daytona in a factory car … that was a real learning curve for me and exciting.

“After those races, Peter assigned me to the Porsche 917/10, which was a Can-Am car. I raced Can-Am in 1973 and finished third [in the series championship]. That was key to set my path with Porsche.”

Haywood’s auto racing beginnings seem almost coincidental, perhaps even pre-ordained. In 1967 while attending Jacksonville University, he met Gregg at an autocross held in a Winn-Dixie parking lot where he hoped to turn heads in his pride-and-joy, a Chevrolet Corvette.

Gregg’s turned. Haywood, all of 19 years old, beat him that day.

“If destiny didn’t take me to a Winn-Dixie that day, what did?” Haywood asked.

Destiny – let’s call it that – would eventually lead to a Porsche test at an actual racetrack, arranged by Gregg. Haywood was faster that day, too.

“The plan was, he was going to show me how to drive,” Haywood said.

In 1969, Haywood’s first race in a Porsche was at the famed Watkins Glen six-hour event, in a new 911 Gregg lined up for him, through the manufacturer. He and Gregg won their class, Grand Touring 2000.

The draft board could not have cared less about Porsche 911s. Haywood went to Vietnam in 1970, serving as a specialist 4 in the Army with the 164th Aviation Group near Saigon.

He was back home in his native Chicago in time for Christmas, 1970. The rest is sports car history.

Since retiring the distinctive red, white and blue Brumos livery in 2013, Haywood has continued to be visible in his sport. While he won races as a factory driver for Jaguar and Audi throughout his career, Haywood is most synonymous with Porsche and continues to serve as one of the manufacturer’s most revered ambassadors.

Vintage races are a natural fit as are Grand Marshal appearances, including at Le Mans four years ago – and the Rolex 24 more than once. Daytona International Speedway, where he has found his most success, remains his self-proclaimed “home track.”

“I remember very distinctly driving through the tunnel for the very first time,” Haywood said. “Daytona actually was my very, very first race of my career. I was there for a regional sports car race [in the 1960s]. I remember rolling through that tunnel, coming up into the speedway and going, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?’”

What he was doing, was stepping over a threshold that would lead to auto racing immortality.

Said Haywood: “I never dreamed in a million years that [my life and career] would turn into what it has.”

Hurley Haywood