Hurley Haywood was born with the gift of speed, and the ability to master the razor-thin line between “not enough” and “a little too much” behind the wheel of a racing car. He’s won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times, the 24 Hours of Daytona five times, and the 12 Hours of Sebring twice, and his CV includes series championships in IMSA and Trans-Am, as well as a start in the Indy 500. On Friday, October 26, Haywood will be at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 7-10 p.m., discussing his recent biography Hurley, From the Beginning with coauthor Sean Cridland.
Haywood wasn’t born to a racing family, and he wasn’t a competitive karter while his peers were still struggling to master bicycles with training wheels. As he related to Motorsport magazine in a 2016 interview, his early adventures in motoring came in “borrowed” cars on his grandmother’s farm in Northern Illinois at age 12, but he wouldn’t begin competing behind the wheel until his college years in Florida.
There, he ran his Corvette in local autocross events, and soon learned that he had a knack for driving. When racer (and Porsche dealership owner) Peter Gregg showed up in a professionally prepared Porsche 911, backed by a full team, Haywood wasn’t intimidated, matching Gregg’s fastest time of the day. In a run-off, Haywood beat Gregg, earning the established racer’s admiration and launching a friendship and partnership that would last until Gregg’s suicide in 1980.
It was Gregg who first put Haywood behind the wheel of a racing car, and after a day’s worth of testing in Savannah, Haywood proved faster than his mentor. Though Haywood had no formal racing experience (and no SCCA racing license), Gregg signed him up to compete in a six-hour endurance event at Watkins Glen as his trial-by-fire, and there the duo drove a Porsche 911 S to a first-in-class finish. Then, Haywood received a draft notice, and spent the next two years in Vietnam.
When he returned stateside in 1971, Gregg hired him at Brumos Porsche in Jacksonville, Florida, and the pair resumed racing, earning an IMSA championship the same year. His first 24 Hours of Daytona win came in 1973, the same year as his first 12 Hours of Sebring victory. In 1977, Haywood earned his initial victory on the Circuit de la Sarthe, sharing a Porsche 936 with Jürgen Barth and Jacky Ickx. His second win at Le Mans came in 1983, in a Porsche 956 shared with Vern Schuppan and Al Holbert, while his last win at Le Mans was in 1994, driving a Dauer Porsche 962 with Mauro Baldi and Yannick Dalmas.
Haywood dabbled in the Can-Am series as well, driving a Porsche 917/10 for Brumos Racing in 1973-’74, and in 1980 passed his rookie test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Driving for Lindsey Hopkins Racing, Haywood qualified the turbocharged V-6 Hopkins Lightning inside row nine, in 25th position. Though his day would end early as a result of a fueling system failure (and subsequent fire with every refueling stop), Haywood still managed an 18th-place finish. He’d go on to drive in other IndyCar events, but this was his single appearance in an Indy 500.
Haywood’s four-plus-decade career as a professional racer ended at Daytona in 2012, where he finished 13th overall driving a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car with Leh Keen, Andrew Davis, and Marc Lieb. He remains active as a driving instructor with the Porsche Sport Driving School at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama.
Haywood and Cridland will present Hurley, From the Beginning, and copies will be available for purchase in the museum’s gift shop. The presentation will be followed by a book signing, and tickets are priced at $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (over 65), and $8 for students with school ID. Simeone Museum members get free admission; for more information, visit SimeoneMuseum.org.