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NASCAR journeyman Mike Potter dies at 73

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Credit: Super Cup Stock Car Series

Mike Potter, a journeyman of the NASCAR Cup Series for nearly fifteen years, passed away on Monday morning at the age of 73. He had long been battling an illness.

“Some sad news to share on this Monday – we have learned that Mike Potter passed away this morning,” reads a statement from the Super Cup Stock Car Series, in which Potter was a regular as both an owner and driver.

“Mike Potter first came to the Super Cup Stock Car Series in 2013 with a storied racing career at tracks such as Kingsport Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway as well as 60 official starts in the NASCAR Cup Series, including the 1992 Daytona 500. His first successes in the SCSCS were as a team owner, starting with Ben Ebeling’s win at Lonesome Pine in 2016 in his first career start. In 2019, Jon Kerley would win the Veterans Classic at Shenandoah Speedway in a car fielded by Potter, a fitting victory as both served our country in the Marines. Mike Potter would even have his time of achievement behind the wheel later in 2019, taking the checkered flag at Midvale Speedway.

“More important than all those accomplishments was his sheer friendliness in the pit area, always checking in to see how everyone was doing. He was so appreciative to have the chance to see all the competitors and team members while at Tri-County Speedway only nine days ago. We will surely miss Mike Potter and ask that you please keep all of his family and friends in your thoughts.”

Potter competed in the Cup Series from 1979 to 1993 for a litany of teams owned by the likes of Buddy Arrington, Roger Hamby, Elmo Langley, current Xfinity Series team owner Jimmy Means, Bobby Wawak, and himself. His series debut came at the 1979 Southeastern 500 at Bristol, where the great Dale Earnhardt scored his first of seventy-six wins. While he did not see much success due as they were middling-at-best operations, he recorded ten top-twenty finishes in sixty tries. His best career finish was fifteenth at Nashville in 1981.

He also ran the inaugural Xfinity Series race in 1982 at Daytona, where he finished thirty-second. Nearly a decade afterr his last Cup start, he reunited with Means for the occasional start in the series in 2001 and 2003 before joining up with Johnny DavisJD Motorsports (also still active today) between 2003 and 2008. Although relegated to start-and-park and backmarker cars for much of his starts, his final race saw him complete the full distance and finish twenty-ninth at New Hampshire in 2008.

“Mike Potter was a lifelong friend to our owner, Johnny Davis, and an all around loving and compassionate soul,” said JD Motorsports. “He loved and lived this sport, you could usually find him walking around the infield checking on everyone and making sure they had what they needed. He will be greatly missed by everyone who had the honor of meeting him. ‘A true friend is never truly gone. Their spirit lives on in the memories of those who loved them.'”

Potter’s younger brother Gary has also raced at the Xfinity level, making five starts in 1982 and 1983 for the family team, before becoming a mechanic; in 1995, Gary won a Cup championship on the crew for Terry Labonte’s #5 Hendrick Motorsports car. Their father Jess, who like many of stock car racing’s early pioneers was a bootlegger to make ends meet, owned a Cup team in the late 1950s through early 1960s.

Outside of NASCAR, Potter enjoyed success at the regional and grassroots levels. He recorded three top fives in ARCA and nearly won at Talladega in 1980. Potter also served in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, following in his father’s footsteps as Jess was in the Army.

Mike Potter: 4 July 1949 – 31 October 2022

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