Saturday, November 26, 2011

November 26 - This day in Petty history

1967 - Richard Petty wins the pole and the 100-mile race at Alabama's half-mile Montgomery Speedway. He leads 154 of the 200 laps to earn his 76th career win. Emerging rival Bobby Allison leads the remaining 46 laps and finishes 2nd - the only other car on the lead lap.

Though the race was held in November 1967, it was scheduled by NASCAR as the second event of the 1968 Grand National season.

According to Greg Fielden in his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Volume 3, Petty had not originally intended to participate in this race.
Petty showed up only after he received a sizable amount of "show money" from the promoters. Allison is one of the promoters at the half-mile paved track ... Petty and Allison, who have been involved in a few fender benders in recent weeks, met in victory circle. "Let's say we get along fine on the track," said Petty. "I'm not so sure about off the track, but its a thing of the past." - pp 166-167
Its interesting to read that at the time Petty thought the run-ins with Allison were over and done with. Instead, they continued off and on for another five seasons - culminating with their slam-bang affair at North Wilkesboro in October 1972.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 17 - This day in Petty history

1968 - Richard Petty leads 362 laps and wins the Georgia 500 at Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron, GA (near Macon) for his 92nd career win. Suffering from the flu, Petty wasn't sure he could race and had young driver Pete Hamilton standing by to drive the 43. But when it was show time, Petty put himself in the car, went the distance, and won the race. (Hamilton got his shot with Petty Enterprises a season later when he was hired as a 1970 teammate to Richard to drive the winged Plymouth Superbirds.)

Even though the race occurred in November 1968, it was scheduled by NASCAR as the first race of the 1969 season. Many remember the King raced Fords for the 1969 season. The announcement that Petty Enterprises would change to Fords, however, wasn't made until eight days after this race. So Petty's win at Middle Georgia was his only Plymouth win of the 1969 season and his last in one until March 1970. (He did race a Plymouth to win the pole and finish second at Birmingham Speedway in December 1968 before switching to Fords in January 1969.)

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire


Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14 - This day in Petty history - part 2

1971 - Richard Petty wins his 139th career race by leading 299 laps in the Capital City 500 at Richmond. By merely starting the race, the King also clinches his third NASCAR Grand National championship and his first (and the sponsor's first) titled as the Winston Cup.

Richmond's fall race historically has been scheduled in September. Because of two rain-outs, however, the race had to be re-scheduled for November.

Long-time fellow Petty fan, Brian '200WINZ' Hauck remembers:
Here is 1971 Capital City 500 Program and the starting line-up. The program was a generic version that really did not pertain to a specific event. Some race reports from earlier events and probable entries and the sort. The race itself? I don't really recall anything spectacular; however this WAS Richmond and Richard WAS expected to WIN!!! The one great thing about the old 1/2 mile was the fact that it got greasy as hell once the race got going. It wasn't uncommon to see cars sliding out of the corners like they were on a dirt track! It really didn't tear up the tires either so they just powered on! The Armco guardrail around the track was another thing altogether! It you hit that thing, it would shred the sheet metal like a meat grinder. Between the guard rail and the tight racing, it was not unusual to finish pretty well mangled up - IF you finished.
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

November 14 - This day in Petty history - part 1

1965 - Richard Petty qualifies on the pole and wins the Georgia Cracker 300 at Augusta Raceway in Georgia to earn his 41st career victory.

The mid-November race was scheduled as the first race of the 1966 NASCAR Grand National season.

Photo courtesy of Harvey Tollison
Greg Fielden notes in his book Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Volume 3:
Petty led for a 94 lap stretch before Tiny Lund clawed his way to the front. Lund, behind the wheel of an independent Ford owned by Lyle Stelter, was late arriving at the track and posted no practice or qualifying time. He started dead last but came on like gangbusters. Lund was pulling away from Petty when the distributor failed on his car. Petty breezed in the lead for good.
Petty drove a Petty Enterprises #42 Plymouth, and the win was his final one in a car numbered something other than 43.

Photo courtesy of and credit to Smyle Media
Article courtesy of Harvey Tollison
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Edited August 30, 2014

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 13 - This day in Petty history

1966 - Richard Petty wins his 49th career Grand National race in the Augusta 300 at Georgia's Augusta Raceway. Paul Lewis from Johnson City, TN finishes 2nd in his #1 Plymouth. Lewis bought the previously-raced Plymouth from - ta da! - Petty Enterprises.

Photos courtesy of Harvey Tollison from
and Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society
Lewis had a good relationship with the Pettys. Two weeks before the Augusta race, Lewis made his one and only career start for Petty Enterprises at Rockingham.

Photo courtesy of Paul Lewis
The Augusta race was run in November 1966 as the first race of the 1967 Grand National season. Petty's victory was also the first of his 27 wins for the 1967 season - a record that still stands.

The previous year's race was known as the Georgia Cracker 300. Based on the following ad, the 1966 event was also known by that name. However, results I've found in books and on-line suggest the race was known just as the Augusta 300.

Friday Hassler, part-time racer from TMC's former city of Chattanooga TN, qualified a very respectable fourth in his traditionally-numbered #39 Chevy. But he had quite the spectacular exit when he blew an engine early in the race and set the whole rear of the car ablaze.

Petty raced a bit during the race with rival David Pearson. In the end, Lewis split the two with Richard as the winner and Pearson finishing in third.

Photos courtesy of Harvey Tollison
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Friday, November 11, 2011

November 11 - This day in Petty history

November 11 - Veterans Day - If you are reading this and have served or are serving in a branch of the United States Armed Forces, THANK YOU! Words are cheap as I try to communicate my sincerest appreciation to you for willingly putting on the uniform and doing what was/is asked of you to defend our liberties.

On this numerological, Petty-win, anniversary posting date of 11-11-11...

1962 - Richard Petty wins career race number 14 by leading 158 of 200 laps at Golden Gate Speedway in Tampa, FL. The race is the only NASCAR Grand National event ever held at the track.

Richard edges teammate Jim Paschal by one car length for the win. Richard's brother and third Plymouth teammate, Maurice Petty, finishes 6th. Buzzie Reutimann, father of modern-day Cup driver David Reutimann, finishes 10th in the 24-car field. Read the accompanying article below for more details about the 'frammin and bammin' that took place during the race.

In the photo below, Maurice Petty in the faintly-numbered 42 Plymouth races behind Darel Dieringer (82), "Little" Joe Weatherly (8) and Stan Parker (23).

Here Richard Petty is shown passing younger brother Maurice on the outside on his way to the win.

Source for above two photos: Dave Westerman's Florida Racing History
Above photo and article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November 8 - This day in Petty history

1970 - Richard Petty pockets his 119th career win by winning the Georgia 500 from the pole at Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron, Georgia - about 20 miles from Macon. It was The King's 18th win of the season.

Bobby Allison qualified second (not shown in photo). Newcomers Benny Parsons and Dick Brooks comprised the second row.

The race was pretty competitive with Petty, Bobby Isaac and Brooks leading sizable chunks of laps. Isaac was the lap bully of the day as he paced the field for 226 of the race's 500 laps. With 56 laps to go, however, the 43 Plymouth went around Isaac's #71 Harry Hyde-prepared Dodge for the final time. The King led the rest of the way to claim the win.

Isaac finished 2nd in the race - but was in the catbird's seat for the the season's championship. Despite Petty's 18 wins to Isaac's 11 wins, Isaac claimed the 1970 title. Petty finished 4th in the 1970 standings - largely because of the races he missed while recovering from his bad crash at Darlington earlier in the season.

Petty's win was the next to last NASCAR Grand National race in the 1970 season - and at the track. One year later, Bobby Allison won the final GN race at Middle Georgia. Local races continued to be held sporadically until the mid 1980s when the track was shuttered for good.

In 1977, the track was rental to film a a few scenes for the Richard Pryor movie, Greased Lightning, the picture based loosely on the life of driver Wendell Scott. And in July 1970 - just a few months before Petty's win - the track hosted the second Atlanta Pop Festival. While the races drew a few thousand fans, the music festival drew a monstrous crowd ranging from 350,000 to 500,000 people - depending on whose lie you believe. Among the artists who performed were local boys made good The Allman Brothers, Grand Funk Railroad, B.B. King, and Jimi Hendrix - who died about 10 weeks after this performance.

Perhaps the funniest (and maybe the most predictable) trivia about the track was its temporary closure in 1968. Government agents raided the track in 1968 and found an elaborate tunnel system leading to a moonshine still. Agents found a secret door in a ticket booth - which led to a ladder - which went down 35 feet to another hidden door. The second door led to a 150 foot tunnel - which ended at a cave below the infield - in which was found a large moonshine still. In his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Volume 3, Greg Fielden writes:
...there was a 2,000 gallon cooker, a 1,200 gallon box fermenter and a 750 gallon gas fuel tank for cooking. The operators had installed yellow lights to keep bugs out of the mash. Authorities put the still out of operation a couple of weeks after the race. Most of the 6,800 spectators who attended the race were unaware the still was ever located at their hometown track...The case came to trial on December 12, 1968, with [TMC: track president H. Lamar] Brown being found not guilty...
In 2010, the good folks from organized a reunion meeting at Middle Georgia Raceway. The track surface today was obviously far more weathered and weed-filled than in its hey-day. But that didn't stop someone from enjoying a couple of laps around the old track.

Oh yeah! Petty's win. Almost forgot for a moment.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
As a final trivia note for this lost track, Chrysler Corporation rented the old track, repainted part of the wall with a 'dilapidated' fictional Brixton Motor Speedway name, and filmed a commercial in 2011 for its Dodge Durango.

Edited September 12, 2014

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 2 - This day in Petty history

Greetings from Newark, NJ. To my knowledge, Newark has never hosted a NASCAR event - at least not a Cup race. However, an old NASCAR track - Trenton Speedway - was located about one hour from Newark. And Newark will supposedly be the site of a 2013 Formula 1 race with the New York City skyline as the backdrop. So race on and Schaefer up! Now on to today's Petty history anniversary post...

1975 - Richard Petty wins the Volunteer 500 at Bristol. The win was his 177th career victory, the 13th and final win of the 1975 season, and the icing on the cake for the year as The King earned his sixth NASCAR Grand National / Winston Cup championship.

For many years, Bristol's second event of the year was scheduled for July - a brutally hot time in Tennessee. Track owner and promoter Larry Carrier requested another date from NASCAR to ease the heat effects on his fans, and the 1975 race was scheduled for November. I'm guessing this may have been a message from Bill France Jr. to Carrier. In 1976, the race was moved back to August where it now remains.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire