Elmo Langley was a driver and team owner in NASCAR. After retiring in 1987 he drove the pace car and it was at the wheel of the pace car that he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1996 at Suzuka in Japan.
He started racing in 1952 driving modifieds in Maryland and Virginia. there were three divisions, the short track, convertible and Grand National. Short track was anything of 1/3 mile or below and Grand Nationals were mostly 1/2 or 3/8 mile.
Following his first start in Grand National racing, in what would become the Winston Cup, Langley raced for a number of car owners for over ten years.
"The first year I ran Darlington was in 1954 in an Oldsmobile that a guy named Sam Rice owned," Langley recalls. "He was one of the starters of Martinsville Speedway. We drove the car to Darlington, finished 11th, and then drove it home. It didn't even have a roll bar, just a piece of chain around the door post.
In 1965, Langley tired of driving for other car owners and decided to start his own team and in 1966 joined up with Henry Woodfield to create Langley-Woodfield Racing. After the second race of the 1969 season, Langley and Woodfield split and Langley continued to run team on his own returning to the driver/owner role.
A look at the Grand National or Winston Cup points standings every season from the late-1960s through the mid-1970s reveals the name Elmo Langley solidly in the top ten year after year during this transitional period for NASCAR. Elmo also made trips to the Grand National victory lanes in 1966 at Old Dominion Speedway in Virginia and Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds in South Carolina, beating the likes of Bobby Allison, "Tiger Tom" Pistone, David Pearson, and Buddy Baker.
He finished in the Top-10 in season points from 1967 until his final full season as a driver for Langley Racing in 1975 (except 1974).
After retiring from driving in 1977, though he continued to drive in a few select races until 1981, Langley continued to field his car in Winston Cup competition, with the driver's seat occupied by as many as 14 different racers in one season. Langley stayed heavily involved in the sport even after selling his team in 1986.
In 1987 Langley was running Cale Yarborough's team when NASCAR Winston Cup Director Dick Beaty offered him a job with the sanctioning body that would still keep him close to the race cars.
That job was driving the pace car. He decided that it would be a lot easier that what he'd been doing for the past 40 years.
On November 21, 1996, Elmo died of a heart attack while driving the pace car at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, Japan in the days leading up to an exhibition with some of the NASCAR drivers.