August 11, 1991. Watkins Glen, New York. 52-year-old John Delphus “J.D.” McDuffie, Jr. climbs aboard his No. 70 Pontiac, lined up 35th on the grid for NASCAR’s Budweiser at the Glen. For the 653rd time, he pinches a cigar between his teeth and fires the engine. Few take notice of No. 70 as it rolls onto the 2.428-mile road course – only a small group of volunteers, fans, and family back home in Sanford, North Carolina. Even they knew McDuffie had never won a NASCAR race, and likely never would before the big-money teams squeezed him out of the sport. But no one knew that just five laps later, McDuffie would be dead, killed in a terrible two-car accident with fellow racer Jimmy Means.
“J.D.: The Life and Death of a Forgotten NASCAR Legend” tells the true story of J.D. McDuffie, one of stock car racing’s most beloved owner-drivers. It’s the tale of a man who honed his skills as a mechanic and built his own team from the ground-up, his No. 70 banging fenders with the likes of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. It’s also about the close-knit group of supporters who came together to make sure McDuffie made it to the track in a rapidly-changing sport. And it’s about that tragic weekend at Watkins Glen, the investigation that followed, and the legacy he’s left behind. Top to bottom, it’s one of the most comprehensive stories of any race car driver, and a tribute to NASCAR’s blue-collar past.