RACING

Son remembers tragic death of NASCAR Great Butch Lindley

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  • Butch Lindley suffered a head injury in a racing accident in Bradenton, Florida, and was in a coma for five years and two months before dying of pneumonia on June 6, 1990.
  • Lindley was a two-time NASCAR Late Models Champion.
  • Son Mardy has become an excellent racer and top-flight NASCAR team leader.

    Mardy Lindley was 12 when he answered the phone at his home in Greenville, South Carolina, late on the evening of April 13, 1985.

    A longtime Lindley family friend was calling from Bradenton, Florida, where Mardy’s father, Butch, had been in a late model race that night. He asked Mardy to put his grandmother online.

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    The news, as the rest of the Lindley family would soon discover, was bad. Butch Lindley, the 1977 and 1978 NASCAR Late Models champion and widely regarded as one of the nation’s top short-track stock car racers, was seriously injured in a single-car crash at DeSoto Speedway.

    Butch Lindley won back-to-back NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Class Championships in 1977 and 1978.

    RacingOneGetty Images

    Mardy, her mother Joan and several other family members boarded a private plane for the Bradenton area later that night. Butch, 37, had suffered a head injury when his car slammed into the outside wall. Doctors hinted that he might not survive the night.

    Butch Lindley would never run again. He remained in a coma for five years and two months after the accident, dying of pneumonia on June 6, 1990.

    Obviously, the Lindley family has been broken up. Joan, Mardy and others had been at Butch’s bedside for much of the fight. It was sometimes hoped that a medical breakthrough would provide a way out, but years passed and Lindley lay in a coma.

    “It was terrible,” Mardy said. “I remember our last time together before he went to Bradenton. You always have some kind of hope and hope that it will work. They sent him to a facility in Richmond to make an experimental drug They said he woke up with it, but I don’t think he really did. He couldn’t get over it. I felt bad. Now that I’m older, I wish he never had to deal with all of this, that it ended that night in Bradenton.

    Mardy was about to enter his teens when his father was injured. Despite losing what would no doubt have been expert advice from Butch, Mardy began racing competitively in go-karts.

    Like so many other sons of racers, he had the wild gene.

    And he still does.

    racecourse mardy lindley richmond

    Mardy Lindley, right, talks to driver Corey Heim during this year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Richmond Raceway.

    Mike Hembree

    Mardy, now 50, is crew chief for driver Corey Heim and the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports team in the Camping World Truck Series. Lindley had an adventurous motor racing career, crossing paths with Dale Earnhardt Sr., Richard Childress, Jack Roush, Kyle Busch and other key names as he went from following his father in the driver’s seat to calling shots on pit road for others.

    He first competed in a stock car race on April 13, 1990, exactly five years after his father’s accident and two months before Butch’s death.

    Mardy had success on the short track, following his father as track champion at Greenville-Pickens (SC) Speedway, their hometown track, and went on to claim 11 victories in the 2000s on the usually difficult Tour des latest Pro Cup models.

    The goodwill that Butch Lindley had accumulated over years of racing with – and often beating – those who were the best at the short track game paid off for his son.

    “I would pick up the phone and call the people my dad relied on,” Lindley said. “Dale Earnhardt Sr. took an interest in me. He really went out of his way to help me when I started. He helped me financially, especially at Greenville-Pickens. I would go to his shop and talk, and he was nice enough to help me. He always gave me money.

    Lindley’s success led to what amounted to a tryout in a Richard Childress Racing Xfinity (then Busch) Series car at Indianapolis Raceway Park on August 2, 2003. Lindley qualified midfield and was lapped, but a pair of pit stops resulted in a faster car, and he raced with the leading group the rest of the way, albeit one lap down. He finished 16th.

    That ride ultimately went to Clint Bowyer, who had a successful Xfinity and Cup career.

    jake elder and butch lindley

    Mechanic Jake “Suitcase” Elder, left, talks to Butch Lindley during a race weekend in the 1970s.

    RacingOneGetty Images

    Lindley raced a few more years in short track series but eventually got tired of spinning his wheels while trying to progress.

    “My son was growing up,” Lindley said. “You run all these years and try and try. Eventually, you have to earn a living. My child was getting old. I needed to support him.”

    Thus began a long journey through the workshops of various racing teams as Lindley built a new career as a mechanic and, eventually, crew chief. He has earned a reputation as a crew chief who works well with young riders, including Harrison Burton, Zane Smith, Sam Mayer and now Heim.

    “I have no regrets,” Lindley said. “I love it as much as driving. I think back to dad and how fun it would be for him to be here now. But I’ll see him again someday.

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