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 Fame teams - Petty Enterprises and the Wood Brothers - 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

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