NASCAR champ serving 36 month sentence in SC prison

Published: Aug. 6, 2015 at 4:57 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2015 at 5:00 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A former NASCAR Weekly Series national champion is sitting inside a South Carolina state prison serving a three year sentence on methamphetamine charges. Robert J. Powell, 50, was sentenced by a Berkeley County judge on August 4.

Powell was moved to a Columbia-area prison August 5 and booked into SCDC's system. Prison staff will evaluate Powell before assigning him to a facility to serve his three year sentence.

Investigators charged Powell in December 2014 on multiple counts of meth production, distribution, disposal of meth waste and possession. A Berkeley County grand jury indicted the former NASCAR champion on March 10, 2015. SCDC records show Powell was sentenced on those charges Tuesday.

Raycom News Network Investigative Reporter Jody Barr found SCDC records that show Powell was sentenced only on one of the counts: possession of meth.

Powell was NASCAR's youngest national champion in 1988 when, at 23, he bested thousands of NASCAR-sanctioned Late Model Stock Car drivers across the nation to clinch his first of two national championships. Powell hails from a long line of local racing greats: his father, Charlie, was an all-star on dirt at tracks across the South and Powell's older brother, Charles, was also a two time NASCAR Weekly Racing Series champion.

Charlie Powell is still in the racing business, operating the Florence Motor Speedway. Charlie owned the Summerville Speedway before selling the property to a developer. The former .400 mile asphalt track is now a housing development outside of Summerville.

Robert Powell won the bulk of his 1988 LMSC races at his father's track in Summerville and Powell acknowledged in the past that he was the subject of scrutiny from fellow racers because of that during that season.

In Sept. 2014, three months before the meth arrest, Charlie Powell "indefinitely suspended" his son from competing at the Florence Motor Speedway for "his over aggressive driving during the race and spinning out an innocent racer on the cool down lap." The speedway's Facebook page shows Powell in victory lane on August 30, 2014 after scoring a win in the speedway's version of the NASCAR-sanctioned Whelen All American Series late model stock cars.

NASCAR records show Robert Powell scored 23 wins and 30 top-five finishes in 31 starts on his way to winning the 1988 national title. Powell also challenged other weekly LMSC championship competitors at the Myrtle Beach and Anderson, SC speedways.  Powell clinched the '88 title with a winning percentage of .741, NASCAR record show.

Powell's projected release date from SCDC is August 4 of 2018. Powell could leave prison early if a judge agrees to later reduce his sentence, work credits or if Powell receives credit for good behavior behind bars.

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