March 15, 2016
In late 1987, former NASCAR Dash Series champion Hut Stricklin made his Winston Cup debut in the Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Stricklin, driving a No. 76 Oldsmobile for Skip Jaehne, came home with a 28th place finish. He went on to drive two more races that season, finishing a career-best 16th at Atlanta.
His first break came in 1989, when he piloted the No. 57 Heinz Ketchup Pontiac for Rod Osterlund. Stricklin found some success, finishing a season-high fourth at Michigan, while finising runner-up to Dick Trickle in the Rookie of the Year battle.
A few races into the 1990 season, Hut moved over to the No. 12 for Bobby Allison, a car where he found the most success throughout his career.
Over parts of three seasons with Allison, Stricklin posted a career-best finish of second at Michigan, while finishing a career-high 16th in the points standings. The next few years saw him bounce around the Cup Series, driving one year for Junior Johnson, Travis Carter and Kenny Bernstein before settling in with the Stavola Brothers for three seasons.
Over his 328 race career, he never found Victory Lane but had two dominant runner-up finishes come up short in 1991 and 1996.
Late last week, we talked with Hut about his career and his life in 2016.
Keep It 35: Whats a day in the life of Hut today?
Hut Stricklin: I just recently went to work for an old friend that owns a company here in Mooresville called Stock Car Steel. We sell all kind of metal products and parts to Cup teams and I’m having a blast. I get to see family and friends there each and every day.
35: What do you like to do for fun?
Hut: Work on race cars 24/7! That’s pretty much it. I hunt in the winter but most of the time our hobby (son Taylor) is working on race cars. He keeps us pretty busy and we help other people out too.
35: How close do you follow NASCAR today?
Hut: I try to watch it when I can, I listen to it on the radio more than the TV.
35: Have you made it out to the track for any races since you retired?
Hut: I’ve been out a handful of times but I really haven’t had the desire once I quit driving in 2002. I just really didn’t care much about going back. I’ve been to Charlotte a few times and got to see old friends around the pits but thats about it.
35: How would you describe your career?
Hut: I feel really fortunate. I never won a race but had a lot of second place, third place and fourth place finishes. I was with a few teams that were capable of doing it but we weren’t able to get everybody clicking at once to be able to win a big league race.
I had a really good career. I feel like I got to walk away on my own terms but I just feel real fortunate to have been able to do what I did and have success at it.
35: What were some of the most memorable moments of your career?
Hut: I’ve had a lot. One of the more memorable was when I finished second to Davey Allison at Michigan in 1991. We had led the race on and off all day and it came down to a pit stop but he beat us off pit road. We just couldn’t recover but we wound up finishing second.
The biggest thing I really remember is that particular weekend everyone from Alabama won the races. It was a good weekend to be from Alabama. Davey and I flew back together that night on the plane and we were high-fiving each other and talking about what all of us guys from Alabama did that weekend. It really made us proud to accomplish that. It was really cool and special to look back on it now.
Another one is when I finished second to Jeff Gordon at Darlington in 1996. There again, I led the race and led the most laps. Then with about 15 laps to go my left front fender got caved in and I lost downforce. It allowed Jeff to run me down and get by me. I got beat at that time by the best, a guy in his prime when nobody could beat him. It was our race to lose but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Those two stick in my mind that kind of got away from us.
35: Looking back at your career, is there anything that you would do differently if you had the chance to do it over?
Hut: I was very fortunate to be able to drive for a lot of great people. Probably the one golden opportunity that I missed out on was that I had the chance to drive for Joe Gibbs when he first started his team. It was a time when Bobby and I were on the brink of what we felt was greatness there. I just felt like I was in a good place and looking back, I didn’t know Joe and the success he had in football. It was a golden opportunity and hindsight is 20/20 but you can’t change things now.
35: It was definitely a wild card to leave a team that you had success with for a new team.
Hut: I had just drove the 1989 season for Rod Osterlund which didn’t turn out well. I just had a vision of that happening all over again with this team and I wasn’t ready to leave the security at Bobby’s and jump out on a limb for a new team. If I would have stayed with Bobby in 1993 and not left for Junior Johnson, I feel like I could have ended up having a better career
It’s kind of like Robert Yates told me a long time ago, he said “Hut, the problem throughout your entire career is that your timing has always been off. You end up on teams that were on their way out and not on their way in.” That’s basically what happened with my career, with the exception of Bobby’s team.
I always wanted to drive for Junior Johnson and when that opportunity came up and McDonalds had great money behind it, it just seemed like it was going to be a step in the right direction. It just turned out to be one of those things.
35: Out of everybody competing in NASCAR today, who do you see out there that reminds you the most of yourself?
Hut: I’ve always had a huge amount of respect for Jimmie Johnson. He is one of the guys who eat, drinks and sleeps racing. The workout program that he is on, his family life and different things like that, those things remind me of myself. He is one guy that I just enjoy seeing win each week.
35: It might be the same answer, but if you started a team up today, who would you pick to drive your car?
Hut: I’d certainly like to find another Jimmie. I think he has a few more years left in him. He definitely is the guy without a doubt. Right now, if I had to pick someone, I’d pick my own son just because I’ve seen him mature through the years. He has an awful lot of talent and has a good feel for the race car. Those are the things you look for when you start up a team.
35: Where is his career at today?
Hut: We’ve been running the Whelen All American Series and running around different race tracks. He runs out of his own pocket and get sponsorship here and there, whenever we can.
Over the winter, a guy who used to sponsor me Jim Lemonds, who owns a big paint and body shop in Alabama, got behind us. We built a new car and we are currently on our way to race at Montgomery Speedway. It’s going to be a pro late model race there, which is a pretty good money race for that type of car. Probably going to race down there about 7-8 times this year and race as many times as we can this year.
Taylor works at Joe Gibbs Racing and we both have real jobs now so it’s tough to race as much as we want to but we’ll continue to race whenever and wherever we can.
35: We wish you both all the luck this weekend and beyond! Thank you so much for your time.
Hut: Anytime guys, I enjoyed it!