Remembering Tim Steele: The ARCA Legend & NASCAR’s Biggest “What If?”

Published 01/07/2024, 8:16 PM EST

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The racing world’s been hit hard lately, losing legends like Ken Squire, Don Schumacher, Tandy Marlin, Gil de Ferran, and Cale Yarborough, and now, within just three months, we’re mourning another star. Tim Steele, the man who clinched the ARCA Menards Series championship three times, bid his final goodbye on January 7, 2024. After almost making it to the big leagues of NASCAR, a crash at Atlanta Motor Speedway took an unknown turn for Tim Steele. 

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Tim Steele was an unshaken force in the 90s, grabbing the ARCA crown in 1993, 1996, and 1997. His track record was nothing short of impressive: 41 victories, 86 times in the top five, 101 top-10 finishes, and leading the pack for a whopping 5,453 laps across 147 races. The Michigan-born racer didn’t just stop there; he dipped his toes in all three NASCAR national series, with five appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series, ten in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and thirteen in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

NASCAR’s Missed Champion, Tim Steele

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Tim Steele, a shining star in ARCA, and his dad Harold Steele were on the brink of hitting big-time in the Cup Series. Fast forward to a fateful Wednesday, November 5th. Steele was pushing the limits at Atlanta Motor Speedway, clocking a jaw-dropping 191.834 mph in his Ford Thunderbird—that’s a whole seven mph faster than Kyle Busch’s 2018 pole speed at the same track.

But then, a disaster struck! After tweaking his car in the garage, Steele’s ride got a bit too loose. Hitting nearly 200 mph, he lost control in turn three, and his world turned upside down as his car slammed into the wall, driver’s side first. Knocked out cold, Tim Steele was whisked away for a CAT scan, which, miraculously, showed no serious issues apart from a sprained ankle. It wasn’t until he hit Vegas that he realized the injury was more than skin deep. He sat out the season finale and ditched the Cup race, with plans to race in ’98 put on hold. And two months later, we’ve lost Tim Steele.

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A throwback to January ’98, when Tim Steele and Moore were back at Daytona, and Steele’s health took a nosedive. The tests triggered his concussion symptoms—dizziness, double vision, etc. In a 2012 heart-to-heart, Steele revealed he was in a “walking coma” for six months post-accident, living life with no memories being recorded. Battling double vision and crippling headaches, doctors told him to hang up his helmet and prescribed Oxycontin—a decision that would later haunt him in the form of addiction. Despite a stunning return at Pocono in ’98, Tim Steele was again battling double vision.

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One can’t help but wonder: if it weren’t for that crash, could Tim Steele have been rubbing shoulders with the likes of Dale Earnhardt as a potential Cup champion, and maybe just maybe a few more ARCA championships? That’s a question for the history books. Today, as his family mourns, his daughter took to Facebook to share the news of her father’s passing. A legend gone, but never forgotten.

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Tim Steele’s daughter reflects on her dad’s greatest role

A titan on the ARCA track with his records trailing only behind Frank Kimmel in championships and ranking third in victories, Tim Steele may have been a legend in racing, but it’s his role as a grandpa that stole the show.

His daughter shared in a heartwarming post, “This morning, my dad peacefully took the checkered flag here on earth 🏁 His life was an exhilarating ride, always at full throttle, driven by a passion for racing and a wild spirit. While many knew him for his accomplishments on the racetrack, his role as a dad and grandpa was by far the greatest victory! God Speed Dad, I love you!! ❤️”

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January 8, 2024, casts a shadow over the racing world as we say goodbye to another icon.

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

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Controversies, gossip, and breakneck speeds? Count me in! While F1 has its charm, NASCAR helps me relive those "Roadrash" gaming days. My favorite among the drivers has to be Tyler Reddick. The 23XI Racing pilot is not only likable but also a complete beast when he is on track, more specifically, road courses.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta

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