Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NASCAR's straight line racing history

Each season, fans and media debate the merits of having 2 road courses on NASCAR's Cup schedule. Some say its two too many. Others say it adds diversity to the schedule along with varying short tracks, intermediate cookie cutters, and superspeedways. Yet others say the Chase should include at least one of all types of tracks - including a road course.

So while everyone bench races the pros and cons of having a lefty-righty race amongst all the lefties, I thought I'd throw a little history lesson in for good measure.

Did you know NASCAR sanctioned drag racing in the 1960s? Yep, you read that right.

I've known for years Richard Petty went drag racing for about half the year in 1965. NASCAR put a rules change hurtin' on the powerful hemi engine Richard used in 1964. As a result, Chrysler boycotted NASCAR and parked its factory-supported teams. Petty Enterprises raced to make money. While the company honored the factory boycott, Lee, Richard, Maurice, and Dale Inman still wanted to race and chose drag racing as the venue.

Petty Enterprises built a Plymouth Barracuda for Richard to run.

43Jr. ran series of drag events throughout the first part of 1965 - including the drag strip in Bristol, Tennessee.

What I did not know until recently is NASCAR sanctioned drag racing as a separate series for a while.

Here, the King is shown racing in a NASCAR sanctioned event. So even with the Chrysler boycott, NASCAR still found a way in 1965 to make a nickel off their budding new star.

I'm hardly the educated historian of this segment of NASCAR's past; however, my research led me to a couple of pretty good sites worth reading.
A settlement between NASCAR and Chrysler ended Richard's brief drag career. By mid-year, he was back to regularly running and winning Grand National (now Sprint Cup) races.

Before returning to the ovals, however, tragedy intervened for Petty. The photo below was shot at a drag strip in Dallas, Georgia on February 28, 1965. As the two cars green-lighted, Petty had problems, veered off the track, and plowed into some folks standing too near the strip. A young boy -8 year-old Wayne Dye - was killed.

Despite NASCAR's limited involvement in drag racing and the unfortunate death in Dallas, GA, I personally think the NASCAR Hall of Fame organizers should establish an exhibit dedicated to this part of the sanctioning body's history.


1 comment:

  1. I think your true calling in life should have been as a researcher. But, I guess, the profession you chose, you are a researcher in a sense! What you should do is forward this is Winston Kelly. If for some reason he has not come across this, this material is the type of stuff that makes going to a HofF fun. I wonder if that car is the Petty museum in Level Cross?