RUDY BRANHAM

Darlington native and local racing legend Rudy Branham, left, will be Saturday's Memorial Race honoree at the Florence Motor Speedway.

FLORENCE, S.C. – It was almost inevitable that auto racing would be a big part of Rudy Branham’s life.

A Darlington native, Branham’s father owned an airport minutes from Darlington Raceway and most of the drivers would land their planes there during race weekend when he was young.

That left a big impression, and it wasn’t long before Branham made a name for himself racing dirt and asphalt tracks across the Southeast and competing in the NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series as well.

“He actually fought cancer twice, and won races after having cancer,” Florence Motor Speedway owner Stacy Wiggins said. “He’s just a local hero to a lot of people.”

FMS will honor Branham this weekend with its Memorial Race on Saturday at 8 p.m. Grandstands open at 6 p.m. and tickets are $10.

All grandstand proceeds will go to the Shriners Hospital with the Red Fez Club from Darlington County selling tickets.

Branham raced nearly everywhere in South Carolina and North Carolina, Wiggins said, and he even raced against Dale Earnhardt Jr. years ago.

“He raced on everything from dirt to asphalt and was just really involved with the sport for a number of years,” Wiggins said. “He was also on ‘That’s Racing’ on Eagle 92.9 (FM) every Monday for over 10 years.”

Saturday’s festivities will include $2,000-to-win races, and the Memorial Race will qualify Late Model drivers for a $6,000-to-win race on Aug. 3.

The next Memorial Race will be July 6 and will honor Junior Johnson of Florence. The event will feature a $4,000-to-win truck race.

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