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Walter Payton, the racing driver

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#1 josh.lintz

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 19:12

A lot of Americans here know who Walter Payton was; a star running back for the Chicago Bears, setting all sorts of rushing records in football. Sadly, he died in November of 1999 of bile duct cancer. He was only 45.

But after his football career ended, he raced in the SCCA Sports 2000 series and later, the Trans-Am series. I seem to recall a bad accident in the early-90's that perhaps halted his racing career, and turned to team ownership.

Does anyone know of any information regarding the post-football career of "Sweetness"?


#2 Richard Jenkins

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 21:36

Many people remember Walter Payton, who died on November 1, 1999, broke numerous records on his way to being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But the two-time Most Valuable Player, who rattled many defensive players during his 13-year career in the National Football League, also broke through barriers in 1994 to become one of a few African-American owners of top level motor sports teams.

Payton, who retired from the NFL in 1987, drove in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Sports 2000 series in the early 1990s. In 1992-1993, he raced frequently in the high profile Trans-Am series, where highly modified Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros and other popular sports cars do battle.

In 1994, he stepped from the cockpit of his sports car into the pits of the high profile Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), where he became co-owner of the Payton-Coyne Racing Team with veteran driver and car builder Dale Coyne.

Although the team did not set records in auto racing that Payton had set in football, the Hall of Famer will be remembered by the racing community according to Coyne "as a great friend and competitor."

--by Reg McGhee
from www.automag.com.. doesn't really add much - but I can't find much else, especially regarding the 'crash'. He was very keen on NFL ownership at the same time so maybe he just decided to move in auto racing management himself, without a crash prompting him, but I could be wrong.

#3 aportinga

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Posted 23 April 2003 - 02:50

He also was a heavy sponsor for Willy T Ribbs during the tail end or the "IndyCar" years.

#4 911

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Posted 23 April 2003 - 03:02

Didn't he have a top-10 finish in Trans-Am? I remember watching him on Speedweek (remember that?) in '87, or '88. He was taking a Jim Russell racing course (TDC) at Laguna Seca.

Sweetness was my favorite football player. RIP, Walter.

#5 theunions

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Posted 23 April 2003 - 06:28

Originally posted by aportinga
He also was a heavy sponsor for Willy T Ribbs during the tail end or the "IndyCar" years.

No, you're thinking of Bill Cosby, who basically was involved in all of Willy T.'s CART endeavors.

Payton, OTOH, was solely associated with Dale Coyne. The day before he died, at the '99 Fontana CART finale, the Payton-Coyne cars of Michel Jourdain Jr. and Dennis Vitolo (!) briefly ran 1-2 during a caution period, the only time in CART history the Coyne team has ever achieved that.

It's said, nonetheless, that Walter died the following day because he was particularly close to Greg Moore.

#6 josh.lintz

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Posted 24 April 2003 - 02:49

Thanks for the info. I hadn't been able to find much in the way of his racing results on the web.

I do have to admit; I watched the Superbowl (can't remember the Roman numerals) in January 2000. The pre-game part about Walter Payton had me and the rest of the sports-bar absolutely quiet...