OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee’s Paul Connors was selected as one of the inaugural inductees into the Hendry County Motorsports Park Hall of Fame on Jan. 11.
Paul joins Frank Drapel, Don Turner and Craig Montessi in the first inaugural class of hall of fame inductees.
Connors debut came in 1966, when he competed at Daytona in a qualifier event. Starting 27th in the Daytona 500 Qualifier event, Connors fell two laps down to finish 17th and missed the Daytona 500. But Connors still rebounded nicely, following that effort up with a career-best sixth place run at Charlotte in the prestigious World 600 and also placing 12th in a late-season event at Moyock.
Paul raced in Daytona again in 1969, starting 39th in a field of only 40. Connors was able to work his way into the 33rd spot before an engine failure scuttled his chances.
Paul’s career saw him race with, and against, some well-known legends of early stock car racing including Richard Petty, Jack Ingram, Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund, Bobby and Donnie Allison, Tiger Tom Pistone and more.
Tiny Lund proved to be one of Paul’s more interesting friends on and off the track. The two faced each other in plenty of races throughout their career and Tiny, who despite his nickname was actually over six feet tall, would often find unusual ways to get the upper hand.
One race in South Carolina saw Lund and Connors starting side by side in the second and third position behind Richard Petty. Right before the starting flag was signaled Lund tossed a full cup of water at Paul, and drove off laughing while Connors attempted to dry off his visor while driving.
Paul made his final professional stock car appearance at the 1970 Rebel 400 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. This race would become infamous in NASCAR history for a crash involving Richard Petty that caused the association to implement the window net, which is now mandatory in all NASCAR vehicles.
Connors started the race 30th in a field of 36. He lost his engine halfway through the race but still managed to place 24th.
The plaque presented to Paul by Hendry County Motorsports Park reads, “Your hard work in the shop, talent on the track and overall love of the sport of stock car racing brought you the success to become a hall of famer and true legend in our sport.”