Friday, September 30, 2011

September 30 - This day in Petty history - part 3

1973 - Richard Petty wins his 154th career race in the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville. The race was shortened by 20 laps because of rain.

Article and photos courtesy of Jerry Bushmire


September 30 - This day in Petty history - part 2

1970 - Richard Petty wins his 117th career Grand National race and the final NASCAR Grand National race run on dirt - the Home State 200 in Raleigh, NC. He drives a Plymouth owned by Don Robertson - not Petty Enterprises - to a two-lap victory over second place driver Neil Castles.

In October 2010, the governor of North Carolina presented an historical marker to recognize the fairgrounds track as the site of the final Grand National dirt race. (Despite what the sign says, I'm all but certain this race was not the final NASCAR dirt race.)

As the Petty team began to look towards 1971 and an all-asphalt series, a Plymouth was sold to Robertson who fielded cars sporadically - primarily for Jabe Thomas. Because Richard still needed to race on the dirt at Raleigh, the team rented back the car for this event though it was still officially entered under Robertson's name.

In May 2010, writer Rick Houston interviewed Petty as part of a series on each of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees. At the end of the interview, he asked him about Don Robertson as a favor for me.
RP: They were boys out of somewhere in Virginia. What we did, we sold the car to Jabe Thomas and at that time, they was going to mostly asphalt tracks. Wasn't but two or three dirt tracks a year, so we didn't even have a dirt track car. So what we'd do ... we did it two or three different times ... we'd go borrow his car, bring it back to the shop.

RH: Are we talking about Jabe Thomas or Don Robertson here?

RP: This guy (Robertson) owned Jabe's car. So we'd borrow the car back. We'd put a new engine in the thing, put all new suspension and just refurbish it, just like we would our car. Then, we didn't pay him anything for borrowing the car, but when he got the car back, he had a brand-new motor with one race on it, had brand-new spindles, hubs, rear ends, axles. He had a brand-new car again ... we won a couple of races. We borrowed it a couple, three times and I know we won two races with it. But it was one of our cars.
In his book, Silent Speedways of the Carolinas, Perry Allen Wood laments:
Instead of hats and horns and some sort of fanfare worthy of a truly landmark event, NASCAR let the era of the dirt track slip away for good on Wednesday night, September 30, 1970. About 6,000 race fans witnessed that last battle on the dirt and what a shame it was...It is a real shame that everybody and his brother did not try to run that last scheduled dirt race...The Home State 200 itself was an anti-climax to 21 years of great dirt track history. Big John Sears took the pole and led early. Then Benny Parsons paced the pack over the next 89 laps until Petty got out front and it was all over...Then they loaded up the trucks and trailers and literally left NASCAR's heritage in the dust. (pp. 150-151)
For many years, Petty 'wrote' a column for the monthly Stock Car Racing magazine. In a September 2009 column, he wrote about the legacy of dirt racing in NASCAR's Grand National series. Here are some excerpts from the column about the final dirt race at Raleigh:
... John Sears, a drivers dirt track racer, won the pole and led the first 10 laps. Then Benny Parsons took the lead and led from lap 11 through lap 88. I took over on lap 89 and led the rest of the race, which was through lap 200. I think I averaged about 68 miles per hour. Neil Castles finished second, Bobby Isaac third, James Hylton fourth, and Cecil Gordon fifth. Bobby Allison finished sixth.

Now, I want to tell you something about how we won the race. At Petty Enterprises we didn't have a car built exclusively for dirt track racing. We were running the Plymouth SuperBird on the big speedways and the regular Plymouths on the paved short tracks. But we remembered selling driver Jabe Thomas and team owner Don Robertson a '69 Plymouth built for dirt track racing, or let's say it was better suited for dirt than anything we had to race at our shop. So what we did was borrow that car from Jabe and Don. We put one of our engines in the car and won the race. Then we returned it to Jabe and Don and left our engine in the car as a payment.

The other two dirt track races that year were at Columbia Speedway in Columbia, SC. That track was as hard as asphalt. We ran the first race at Columbia that year on April 30. We did the same car-borrowing then. That was the first time we borrowed our old car back from Jabe and Don. We were lucky enough to win that race too. Bobby Allison finished second and Bobby Isaac third. Neil Castles ran fourth and James Hylton fifth.

We did the same thing after the win too. We turned the car back over to Jabe and Don with one of our engines in it. What you must remember is that back in the early days of stock car racing, we ran a lot of state fairgrounds tracks, and they were all dirt. In fact, I don't remember Hillsborough, NC having guard railings for a long time. You ran off the track going into the third turn, and you drove off down into a pine thicket. Nope, racing wasn't always as prim and proper as it is now.

~ Full column is here. HT to Dave Fulton, fellow member and former special events/media coordinator for Wrangler Jeans, 7-Eleven and Richmond International Raceway.
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

September 30 - This day in Petty history - part 1

Greetings from the camp area number 9 at Dover International Speedway. The Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor are well represented. Details to follow soon.

1962 - Richard Petty wins his 13th career race by leading exactly half - 160 laps - of the Wilkes 320 at North Wilkesboro. Teammate Jim Paschal finishes 5th in a second Petty Enterprises #41 Plymouth.

According to Greg Fielden's Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Volume 2, Petty spun on lap 18 but recovered to lead half the race. Perhaps more embarrassing than Petty's spin was the performance of Fireball Roberts. Again according to Fielden, the track recognized Roberts and his career in pre-race activities, but ... he blew a head gasket, was one of the first cars out of the race, and finished 29th in a 31-car field. DOH!

Green flag! Green flag!

Photo and article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire


Thursday, September 29, 2011

September 29 - This day in Petty history

As this blog posts, I am about to depart for my first trip to Dover International Speedway to see the AAA 400 Sprint Cup race!

1968 - Richard Petty wins his 90th career race by leading three-quarters of the Wilkes 400 at North Wilkesboro. In media reports about Petty's report, the following article's writer refers to Petty's rival and second place finisher David Pearson as a "titular aspirant" - an adjective rarely used I'm quite sure in racing circles. But I suppose kudos are due him (or her) for slipping a subtle double entendre by the editor.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 28 - This day in Petty history

1969 - Richard Petty wins his 101st career race in the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville in his Ford. A well-timed beer can toss from the stands actually helped Petty secure his victory.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Two big dogs from the FoMoCo camp started up front - David Pearson in first in the Holman-Moody Ford and Cale Yarborough alongside him in the famed Wood Brothers Mercury.

Not to be left out, the Dodge Pentastar was represented by two Bobbys on the second row - Allison in third and Isaac in fourth. Petty and Lee Roy Yarbrough comprised the third row in their Fords.

For a number of reasons, contemporary Cup fields generally have just enough cars to fill the field. At the 1969 Martinsville race, the car count was a bit different. Traditional qualifying set the first 20 starting spots. A 50-lap qualifying race was held the day before the 500 to set the remaining 20 spots. Dick Brooks - who would be named the Rookie of the Year at the end of the season - won the race. He and 19 others including Jim Vandiver, Wendell Scott, and Hoss Ellington made the show; however, four others had to load their cars and head for the exits.

Petty's day didn't start well. Only 17 laps into the race, he rubbed another car, nicked the guardrail, spun and lost two laps as he pitted to change tires. The 43 was then in catch-up mode pretty much the rest of the afternoon. Yarborough's Mercury and Buddy Baker's Cotton Owens-prepared Dodge were the dominant lap leaders - though Pearson and Yarbrough also worked their way up front occasionally to lead a handful of laps here and there.

With 100 laps to go, however, the engine went POOF in Yarborough's #21 Mercury. Baker's Dodge dropped a cylinder about 30 laps later, and Pearson began to reel him in easily.

A few weeks before the inaugural Talladega race in the summer of '69 (someone should write a song with that title!), many NASCAR drivers formed the Professional Drivers Association to address key issues with Bill France, Sr. and NASCAR. Petty was elected as its initial (and turns out, only) president. Most of the GN regulars led by Petty chose not to run the Talladega race because of safety concerns. The Martinsville race was the first event following Talladega where all the big names were back on the track.

Presumably some 'fan' took issue with Petty's leadership of the PDA and hurled a beer over the fence onto the windshield of the 43 Ford just as Petty had unlapped himself by passing Pearson. The move by the anonymous knucklehead likely backfired because the beer can resulted in a caution flag. The caution allowed Petty to make up the remaining distance on Pearson and Baker. When Pearson's Ford and Baker's Dodge had to make pit stops with a handful of laps remaining, the 43 sailed by both and completed the comeback by taking the checkers.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
It's interesting the PDA was mentioned in the tag line accompanying the victory lane photo.

Petty's win was featured in the 1970 issue of Stock Car Racing magazine. The stock car magazine cover was full of oddities including a photo of Indy cars on the cover and reports on the Formula 1 USGP and USAC's 300-mile race at Trenton.

Edited September 27, 2014

Saturday, September 24, 2011

September 24 - This day in Petty history - part 2

1972 - In a battle with Bobby Allison who led over 80 percent of the race, Richard wins his 147th Grand National race and his twelfth at Martinsville in the Old Dominion 500.

Visit this Flickr set for a great collection of Petty-related color photos from the race.

Article and photo courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Edited September 20, 2014

September 24 - This day in Petty history - part 1

1967 - Richard Petty keeps his 1967 winning streak alive and extends it to 9 races in a row by winning his 74th career race in the the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 22 - This day in Petty history

1968 - Richard Petty banks his 89th Grand National victory by winning the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville by 3 laps over second place finisher Cale Yarborough.

Photo courtesy of Smyle Media
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 21 - This day in Petty history

1975 - Richard Petty wins the pole, leads about half the race, and wins the Wilkes 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Petty led 184 of 400 laps as he picked up his 175th career victory. Second place Cale Yarborough also led nearly half the race - 172 of 400 laps. But on a restart with 5 laps to go, Ol' Blue was able to pull away from Yarborough's #11 Junior Johnson Chevrolet for a 2.5 second victory.

Source: Gadsden Times via Google News Archive
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Edited October 1, 2014

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 20 - This day in Petty history

1970 - Richard Petty qualifies 2nd alongside Bobby Isaac, leads more than half the race, and wins his 116th career race in the Mason-Dixon 300 at Dover in the winged Plymouth Superbird.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
A shot of the starting line-up taken by SROH member Brian "200WINZ" Hauck.

In victory lane...

The race winner's trophy I spotted at the Richard Petty Museum in 2011.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Dover uploaded a video of about 25 minutes of footage from the 1970 Mason-Dixon 300. Don't adjust your speakers or earbuds - the video has no audio.

Edited September 19, 2014

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September 18 - This day in Petty history

1960 - Richard Petty earns his third career victory by leading every lap of the 110-lap race at Orange Speedway in Hillsboro, NC (the track formerly known as Occoneechee Speedway).

Richard made the day a clean sweep by winning from the pole. Second place starter Junior Johnson tried to give Richard a run. He repeatedly strong-armed his Holly Farms Chevrolet through Hillsboro's dirt corners.

Junior's Chevy gave up on him after 75 laps, however, and his pursuit was done.

Ned Jarrett had a good day with a second day finish. I imagine, however, he was mildly frustrated. The P2 was his second in a row at Hillsboro. In May 1960, he finished second to Lee Petty. In September, he was runner-up to Lee's boy.

Richard's father, three-time Grand National champion, and 1960 spring winner at Hillsboro, Lee Petty, settled in second place after Johnson was gone. But with less than 20 laps to go, Lee broke and ended up finishing 11th.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

September 17 - This day in Petty history

1967 - Richard wins his 73rd career race, his 25th of the season and his eighth race in a row in 1967 by winning the Hillsboro 150 at Orange Speedway from the pole - all while suffering from the flu.

Second-place starter Dick Hutcherson led the first 68 laps of the race before Tiny Lund got by him to lead the next 11. The King then took over to lead the final 88 laps of the 167-lap race. Though two drivers dominated the pace, it doesn't mean the race was void of excitement. Just 12 laps into the race, Jack Harden lost control of his Ford down the frontstretch, leaped the turn 1 wall, tumbled and came to rest about 100 feet from the track. He was carefully removed from his car and transported to the hospital, but fortunately he wasn't seriously injured. (Photos from SouthernMotorRacing and courtesy of Harvey Tollison at

Racing resumed for another 20 laps or so when another spectacular accident occurred between three drivers -  Paul Dean Holt, Earl Brooks and Bill Ervin. Holt's car came to rest on its side.

Southern MotorRacing photo courtesy of Harvey Tollison
While it's unknown what Brooks was saying to NASCAR official Dick Beaty, it's probable the conversation was heated considering Brooks' day ended following the 3-car pile-up.

Southern MotorRacing photo courtesy of Harvey Tollison
Article courtesy of Harvey Tollison

Edited September 17, 2014

Friday, September 16, 2011

September 16 - This day in Petty history

1979 - Richard Petty wins his 189th career race by nipping Donnie Allison in the CRC Chemicals 500 at Dover. In doing so, he closes the points gap on Darrell Waltrip as he pursues his seventh Grand National / Winston Cup championship.

I've also got a yellowed-copy of this picture I clipped from Southern MotoRacing bi-weekly racing newspaper.

Brian '200WINZ' Hauck is a veteran of many Dover races going all the way back to the first one in 1969. He and a bunch of friends attended the 1979 race and shared a few photos from the day with me.

Two NASCAR Hall of Famers - The King and the Silver Fox - pace the field for the start:

Petty gets under a scruffy-haired rookie driver:

From the late 70s through early 80s, Darrell Waltrip garnered about as many boo's as Kyle Busch does today. Brian said the crowd cheered lustily when the 88 Gatorade Chevy driven by Boogity 3x was hauled to the garage after slapping the wall. (Again, remember he was the points leader at the time.)

The 43 STP Monte Carlo making a pit stop. Note the circular piece of sheet metal near the STP emblem on the right rear quarter-panel. The piece was riveted to the panel to cover a right-side fuel filler - the standard location for it for the Riverside road-course race.

Dale Inman clarified the Dover car was the primary Riverside car in 1979. With limited sponsorship funding in that era and Riverside as the only road-course race, teams generally did not build a separate car just for a left-and-right circuit. Yet, it seems strange to think of a chassis set-up for Riverside having anything in common with what was needed for Dover.

As an aside, Inman claims the first road course car he built was for the JD Stacy team with driver Tim Richmond in 1982. And guess who swept the '82 Riverside events. Yep, Tim Richmond with Inman as his crew chief. But I digress...

Thanks to Chris Hussey for helping me get this info from Dale.

In an e-mail conversation I had with Steve Hmiel, current former Director of Competition for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and employee of Petty Enterprises from the late 70s through the early 80s, he provided a bit more detail on what Inman said. A year here or there may be different, but the insight as to the building of the cars in that era is interesting.
We never had a lot of cars. We built a new car every fall, and it went to Daytona. The previous year's car was then used as the short track car, and we sold the oldest one. In fact, the car that was wrecked at Daytona with Pearson was repaired and ran at Rockingham 2 weeks later. When we switched to GM, we built an Olds for the superspeedways and had 2 Monte Carlos for everywhere else. I left in 1982, and we never had a road-race specific car. We just used one of the short track cars. In 1983, the JD Stacy bunch built a really nice road race only car for Joe Ruttman, and by 1984 most of the rest of the teams had one too. The main differences were we took the left turn offset out of the suspension and moved oil tank, ignition boxes, battery, etc. to the right side. You can't do that with the current rules.
The scruffy-haired youngster - Dale Earnhardt - went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors in 1979 and ended up with a pretty good career when all was said and done.

Petty makes a hard left turn to head for victory lane:

And the crowd goes crazy - at least the Petty faithful does. (Hauck is in the center of the photo with the exuberant fist pump.)

I'm pretty sure I clipped this picture from the next year's ticket brochure. The track put me on their mailing list in my teen years way back in the day, and I believed I've held onto all the ones they sent me.. The brochures often gave me small - but useful - pictures such as this one.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Edited September 15, 2014