Thursday, October 27, 2011

October 27 - This day in Petty history

1968 - Richard Petty scores his 91st career victory by winning the American 500 at Rockingham. The win was the first superspeedway victory for the King in over a year - hard to believe for a team that won 27 races in 1967. Rival David Pearson finished second, but he wrapped up his second NASCAR Grand National championship.
Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Cale Yarborough started from the pole in his #21 Wood Brothers Mercury, and Pearson started on the front row with him. Bobby Isaac and The King started from the second row to represent the Mopar crowd.

Isaac controlled much of the first half of the race. Others took their turn up front, but Isaac's #71 Dodge generally found his way back around each of them. As the race began its second half, Yarborough acted as if he might be a contender as he led a couple of segments of sizable laps.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Isaac and Yarborough both developed engine problems, however, and their early laps led meant nothing when the day was done. With about 150 laps to go and the two rabbits out of the race, the two giants of Grand National racing - Petty and Pearson - ensured the race would be settled between the two of them. Check out this short video recap of the race. Its interesting to see Richard cruising around the track with his arm resting on the door sill and out the window - no window nets in that era.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Pearson hung tough with the 43 for a while, but Petty's Plymouth was simply too strong. He lapped Pearson, and led 151 of the race's final 175 laps. As the race drew to a close, the Petty crew radioed Richard to back off his speed a bit. Engine builder Maurice Petty was apparently concerned his motor may not last, and he wanted to ensure Richard didn't give away a relatively easy victory. The move was not without risk though. In backing off, Petty allowed Pearson to get his lap back. Had an untimely caution flag flown, the strategy could have backfired on the Level Cross bunch.

Photo courtesy of Harvey Tollison at RacersReunion
Another victory lane photo from - where many more photos from the race can be viewed:

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Edited October 26, 2014

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