Fellow NASCAR HOFer Cale Yarborough, however, was nipping at the heels of King's boots. Cale had nine wins headed into North Wilkesboro - four of which were on short tracks at Nashville and Martinsville plus a season sweep of Bristol.
Racing certainly has its share of challenges and controversies today. Attendance and ratings erosion, charters, stage racing, retirements of popular drivers, influx of new ones, etc. A continual refrain is they need to get back to like it was back in the day.
If back in the day references 1974, folks may need to rethink their image of a racing renaissance. The distance of the races during the season were cut by 10 percent as a good faith gesture by NASCAR to help the country with the OPEC energy crisis. Were ticket prices cut by 10 percent? Not that I'm aware of.
Also, despite the series sponsorship by Winston cigarettes, many teams struggled to race regularly and competitively. Winston's entitlement funding wasn't sufficient to create wealth throughout the field, and TV funding was non-existent. Teams needed sizable payouts from individual track promoters to make their risk worth the effort.
North Wilkesboro was one of the tracks identified by many drivers as having an inadequate purse. As was the custom for many years, the Wood Brothers and David Pearson skipped Wilkesboro. The race also was without Bobby Allison, but his absence was because of an issue with his car rather than a complaint about the purse.
|Source: Greenwood SC Index-Journal|
Fans likely shook their heads at the high attrition rate. Only twelve of thirty entrants were still around for the finish. Seven cars headed for their trailers by lap 50.
Petty and Yarborough seemed to be evenly matched during the first half of race. An unscheduled pit stop for a cut tire, however, put the 43 a bit behind Cale's Chevy. The gap between the two widened later during an errant stop by the generally reliable, Dale Inman-led Petty Enterprises crew. During a scheduled four-tire change, the Petty crew apparently jacked both sides of the car at the same time. When the right side was dropped, however, the car slid right and fell off the left side jack. The miscue put Petty nearly two laps down to the leader.
Throughout the second half of the race, Cale led lap after lap after lap. Petty never lost his focus though and kept his acceleration and braking rhythm rockin'. He made up his lost laps and went back to the point with 100 to go. His time was brief though as he led for 25 laps before returning the lead to Yarborough.
Cale once again seized the top spot with 75 laps to go, poured on the steam, and within about 15 laps was in a position to put the STP Dodge a lap down...again. Petty seemed to find a new gear, however, and he again pulled away from the Junior Johnson-prepared #11 Chevy. Just as he nearly lost a lap, he seemed to effortlessly make it back.
Petty's 43 dogged Cale down the stretch. With four laps to go, the King closed in tightly and attempted to pass Yarborough. As he did so, however, Coo Coo Marlin poo-poo'd an engine. The yellow flag was displayed, and Cale got the checkers a few laps later as the race ended under caution. The race was the 16th of 31 times Petty and Yarborough finished in the top two spots.
|Source: Colbert Seagraves|
|Source: High Point Enterprise|