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Doug Hurley will serve as pilot for the STS-127 space shuttle mission, which is scheduled to launch June 13. A longtime NASCAR fan, Hurley has attended a number of races at several different tracks. (NASA)

Cale, Donnie And Dale … We Have Liftoff!!!

DVD copies of two of the most important races in NASCAR history will soon be making the journey of a lifetime.

Doug Hurley is a huge race fan, and he also happens to be an astronaut. He’ll serve as pilot for the STS-127 mission, which is currently slated to launch on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour on June 13. Going along for the ride with Hurley will be copies of the 1979 and 1998 Daytona 500s for possible inclusion in the permanent library on board the International Space Station.

Each DVD comes in a specially designed package honoring Hurley’s first spaceflight. The cover features a view of the Earth’s surface, along with the STS-127 logo. The packaging will not be available to the public.

The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first 500-mile NASCAR race ever shown live on television from start to finish, and it featured an iconic last-lap mishap between leaders Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison and a brief scuffle afteward. The accident allowed Richard Petty to score the sixth of his record seven victories in NASCAR’s biggest race. The 1998 edition of the event saw seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt score the first and only Daytona 500 win of his career.

A cousin of Greg Zipadelli’s wife Nan, Hurley attended his first NASCAR event at Watkins Glen International in August 2000. Since then, he’s attended 20 or so events, despite being assigned for some of that time to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

“It’s just such a huge spectacle,” says Hurley, a former test pilot who has flown more than 3,200 in more than 22 different aircraft. “Every race you go to, there’s just so many people. The excitement that you feel at the race track is indescribable. … As a fighter pilot, I think you get that (same) little bit of adrenaline rush. If I can’t drive the cars, standing there watching them is fun, too.

Rick Houston is a longtime fan of the manned spaceflight program. Houston did a story on Hurley's interest in NASCAR a couple of years ago, and they two have kept in touch via e-mail ever since. Hurley invited Houston and his family to the launch of STS-127, an offer they quickly accepted.

"I couldn't go actually go with Doug, so I'll have to settle for making sure he's got something to watch during the flight," said Houston, who recently contributed the lead chapter to a book detailing NASA's moon landings. "Anybody who knows me knows that two of my main passions are racing and manned spaceflight. It's very, very cool that those two interests are being combined by Doug taking those races with him. God speed, my friend. God speed.


Check out Stock Car History Online Editor Rick Houston's story on Hurley, courtesy of NASCAR.COM, here …

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