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NASCAR’s Ghosthunt Ends In a Tennessee Jail

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Picture of Bryan Moyers

Bryan Moyers

These articles are written perfect and staggered special. If you wanna read em, they CAN inform you. -Harry Hogge, probably.
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Nearly 41 years after a driver conned his way onto the Talladega starting grid before vanishing into thin air, the notorious L.W. Wright has been found and is in police custody.

What’s Happening?

What isn’t happening? Merely a week after Dirty Mo Media and the Dale Jr. Download asked Sterling Marlin about the infamous L.W. Wright, Scene Vault’s Rick Houston reports the mystery man was apprehended after a two-and-a-half week pursuit that involved a high-speed chase with Tennessee Highway Patrol.

What You Need to Know:

  • A man known as L. W. Wright conned his way into the 1982 Winston 500 in Talladega.
  • 13 laps into the race he vanished for 40 years, becoming the ghost of NASCAR lore.
  • Pop culture has Frank Abagnale of “Catch Me if You Can” fame. D. B. Cooper intrigues detectives worldwide – both professional and amateur. NASCAR has the legend of L. W. Wright to carry the torch in the race of history’s most notorious con men.

The story began in May 1982 when Wright swindled several Nashville names, including Waylon Jennings, into funding an entry into the Winston 500. With the ill-gotten sponsorship agreed to, L. W. went to fellow Middle Tennessean Coo Coo Marlin and purchased a car ready for the high speed, high danger track of Talladega – on credit, of course, with the payoff to come upon completion of the race. Wright went on to crash in qualifying and was black-flagged by NASCAR for failing to maintain minimum speed just 13 laps in to the race.

The events that followed the black flag became the stuff of legend. When Coo Coo and son, Sterling, made it off of pit road and arrived where the trailer had been parked, the yet-to-be-paid-for car and its mysterious driver were nowhere to be found. This would be the last time anyone from the NASCAR community would see L. W. Wright for 40 years. That’s when Scene Vault and Houston published an interview on their podcast with a man claiming to be L. W. Wright.

The story’s validity was brought into question when news spread that someone who had heard the story had been mislead into paying $5,000 and then attempted to receive compensation for evidence against Wright. The proverbial waters are always muddy when dealing with a notorious conman. As Houston pressed forward and remained in communication with the man claiming to be L. W. Wright, the story became clear. This man was, without question, NASCAR’s ghost.

Main Characters

Houston writes in his article:

On February 4, I received a phone call from a hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. A person registered under the name Ernest Tuccio had left his cell phone there and, according to the clerk, my name and number was the only saved contact on the abandoned device. It could not possibly have been anyone other than Wright.

So add that one to the list of Wright’s known aliases.

L.W. Wright.

Gary Gilbert.

Robert White.

Ernest Tuccio.

Rick says his connection to the story began when he reached out to Chris Wright, who based off a social media post, was “Larry” Wright’s son. After a yearlong, intense investigation into these men, Houston believed he had found THE L.W. Wright.

What 40-year crime saga would be complete without a high speed chase? Not this one, as Houston tells:

“I was just given some information that he was at the residence (where) we had looked for him earlier in the day,” said Detective Richard “Rico” Collins of the Jefferson County, Tennessee sheriff’s office. “I went over there, and when I did, I passed him on the road. I just attempted to make a traffic stop on him due to the fact that I had active warrants for his arrest. He fled in the car.”

On Your Screen

Much has been said about L. W. Wright on YouTube. Some speculation, some fact, even more mystery.

Bologna Burger told the story soon after Scene Vault revealed they had found and interviewed Wright.

Popular car and all-around motorsport channel Donut Media even picked up on the legend and shared their amazement at the events of 1982.

Even before Rick Houston found Larry Wright, Black Flags Matter shared the legendary tale equating Wright to the infamous and still at large D.B. Cooper who successfully hijacked a passenger plane before vanishing.

Out of the Groove’s Eric Estepp also told the story, with the update from Wright’s arrest.

In Your Ear

Just as true crime style podcasts grip the minds of millions of listeners, NASCAR’s own crime drama is woven into several channels.

Where better to start than the beginning? Perhaps an equally prudent starting point is the interview that uncovered Larry Wright 40 years after his enigmatic disappearance.

The day after Sterling Marlin’s appearance on the Dale Jr. Download, Dale felt the urge to call Sterling back and ask for his insight into the story as well as if he believed Houston’s interviewee was who he claimed. Marlin admitted that he had not paid much attention to the Scene Vault story, but he did give more detail to the story.

From the Pressbox

ESPN’s Ryan McGee illuminated the background of Scene Vault’s resurfacing story in his May 2nd, 2022 article. Quoted in the article was Hall of Fame writer and fellow Tennessean, Larry Woody. He said, “If he could have driven as fast as he talked, L.W. Wright would be a NASCAR champion now.”

Last year, McGee wrote, “Regardless of who said what and what really happened, all will be stunned that Wright has resurfaced.”

No one, however, will be stunned at the latest news of Wright’s legal troubles.

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Picture of Bryan Moyers

Bryan Moyers

These articles are written perfect and staggered special. If you wanna read em, they CAN inform you. -Harry Hogge, probably.
All Posts