STRANGE BUT TRUE: WYATT EARP IV RACED AT THE THUNDERDOME

Wyatt Earp IV competed in two round of the 1990/91 Australian NASCAR Championship. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

YOU might be familiar with the story of Wyatt Earp, the real-life wild west lawman involved in the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral immortalised in the Hollywood film Tombstone.

However, you might not know that one of his namesakes raced a NASCAR in Australia!

Reputedly his great-great-great-grandnephew – history doesn’t record Earp as having had any kids of his own – Earp IV was a speedway racer in his native United States and was one of many Americans to race at the Calder Park Thunderdome.

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Earp IV took part in the third round of the 1990/91 Australian NASCAR Championship, held a week after the opening round of the 1991 Australian Touring Car Championship at Sandown.

Earp IV gets accustomed to the cockpit of Calder’s Pontiac Grand Prix Aerocoupe 2+2. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

He had experience of racing similar Cup-style stock cars at home in the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ill-fated Sportsman Division but endured a bruising debut weekend at the Thunderdome.

Originally scheduled to race for veteran car owner Bobby Wawak, Earp IV backed the red, green and yellow #74 Pontiac into the Turn 3 wall during practice.

“Something broke in the rear of the car, it snapped round and took right off,” he told Auto Action at the time.

“I’d just been into the pits to get the crew to have a look as it felt strange and the next time I went out it got away.”

The car was repaired but his relationship with the team was not, and Earp IV ended up starting from the rear of the field aboard one of the Calder Park-owned school cars.

Earp IV was out of luck at the Thunderdome but fortune fell his way at Surfers Paradise. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

The race didn’t go much better, ending after just 25 of the scheduled 109 laps when he was a victim of a multi-car crash coming back onto the tri-oval’s front straight.

His luck turned around a fortnight later at the inaugural Gold Coast Indy, his second and last event racing down under.

Now driving one of one of Calder Park’s Chevrolet Monte Carlos, Earp IV started a lowly 20th but avoided all the trouble in Sunday’s carnage-filled 10-lapper to take the chequered flag in ninth place!

Click HERE to read more tales of the Strange But True!

Will Dale is V8 Sleuth's Head of Content - Digital. He began his media career as a breakfast radio newsreader before joining SPEED TV Australia and FOX SPORTS Australia in 2012 as its Digital Editorial Lead - Motorsport, covering all forms of motorsport both in Australia and internationally. He became part of the V8 Sleuth team in 2018.