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

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