Heaven's checkered flag waves for NASCAR's Kinder


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Harold Kinder, stock car racing's best-known flagman, generally will be remembered for three things:

* He was the only NASCAR official ever to have a fan club.

* The good-natured way in which he took the frequent practical jokes and gibes of Winston Cup Series drivers, crewmen and broadcaster Barney Hall.

* The courage he showed in maintaining his post and discharging his duty with Bobby Allison's airborne car approaching at 200 mph during the 1987 Winston 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

Kinder, 65, of Mint Hill, N.C., died Monday at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte of complications from the colon surgery he underwent in May of 1990 that led to his retirement.

"All of us are going to miss that ol' rascal," said Dick Beaty, the Winston Cup director who was Kinder's boss for 12 of the 20 years the flagman manned the stand. "Harold did a good job and was a fine ambassador for the sport."

Kinder was so popular that a group of fans formed a "club" for him several years ago. They brought him treats and sought his autograph.

Kinder attained near-hero status at Talladega in '87 when Allison's car cut a tire, sailed backward into the frontstretch fence and ripped away wiring and posts. Although it seemed the machine would smash into the flagstand, Kinder staunchly grabbed the yellow flag and waved it furiously.

"I knew instantly it was going to be a bad wreck and I wanted to get the other boys slowed down to keep it from being worse," he later said.

L The car slammed back onto the track just short of the stand.

The Winston 500 of 1990 was Kinder's last official race.

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