Friday, December 28, 2012

Learning My New Job

When I was asked to join the team at TMC, Inc. I was flattered. My new boss (THE TMC himself!) painted a rosy picture of fame, fortune, women and, of course, complimentary Schaefer. By all accounts, my dream job. As usual, there was more to the story.

In the last few days I've learned that I have to provide my own equipment, learn to use all kinds of websites and other technical stuff AND I have deadlines. I knew I should have gotten some of this stuff in writing.

To further complicate things, I own no computer equipment and I have neither the computer abilities required for this nor the desire to learn them. Basically, I was in this for the free beer.

Still, when you're the new kid on the block you want to make a good impression so today I hauled myself down to the bank to apply for a loan to buy a computer. I tried store financing but got laughed out when I was asked what kind of system I wanted. For the record, "That black one looks cool" is not the educated kind of answer they are looking for.

Somehow, my banker (normally an ill tempered sort with a superiority complex) fell for my pitch and wrote me a check on the spot! I think he fell for the same lie I did: Free beer. It gets guys like us all the time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bench Racing's 4th Anniversary

December 19, 2008 - four years ago - the inaugural post of this blog was published. Remarkable. While banktruck and I thought a forum was needed to open our thoughts about racing to others, we really had no plan or concept as to how to proceed with it.

BT: We spend all this time dissecting the race. I wonder if anyone else would even read the stuff we trade back and forth.
TMC: What if we set-up a blog. You know, just to post on the web all the crap we trade back and forth by e-mail.
BT: Who knows. Set it up and let's see what happens.

So I did. And here we are four years later.

Though we still haven't settled on a specific direction of this blog, I'm proud of a couple of accomplishments over the last year.
  • With incredible assistance by Jerry Bushmire and contributions by many others, I was able to post a blog entry for each of Richard Petty's 200 wins (well, a couple of them slipped through my fingers). Spending a ton of time that probably should have been directed elsewhere, I really wanted to do a bang-up job on the posts. Many folks were kind with their feedback, and I'm happy with the results.
  • As silly as it may seem to all but a core of us, we hit it out of the park for the 20th Anniversary of the Schaefer Hall of Fame. The Schaefer tradition started as a Talladega bender between two of us in 1992. Twenty years later, many new friendships have formed, creativity has abounded, and I've used this forum to document as best I can the adventures of the Schaefer good-time-havers. Thanks to the members of the Schaefer Ring of Honor and my fellow Schaefer Hall of Famers: Philly, Paducah, Rookie, Uncle Dave, Cuba, Rev. Randy, Kuzzin Kari and Bruton for the continuing good times.
As year five begins and 2013 looms, a couple of goals loom.
  • An index page for The King's 200 Wins posts will be developed. The page will provide a hyperlink to each of the posts. As I hope the entries will be available for a long time to come, the index should make it easier for readers to quickly jump to a win of their choice. Its long overdue, and I need to get it up and running before the new NASCAR season begins.
  • I want to start a new series about wins by other drivers who raced for Petty Enterprises. King Richard obviously had the most wins for the family-owned business. But other drivers such as Lee Petty, Jim Paschal, Buddy Baker, Pete Hamilton, Bobby Hamilton and John Andretti won for PE as well, and I want to blog about them. Getting info for Lee's 1950s-era wins will definitely be the biggest challenge for that effort.
  • Lastly, I'd like to post content more regularly and with differing perspectives. As such, a new crew chief has been enlisted to contribute when and what he can: SHOFer, Bruton! In other corners of the interwebs, most know him as GaPettyFan. 
As you'd expect based on his nickname, he is a life-long Petty fan. He is a regular at the Atlanta and Daytona races and has attended dozens of races at other tracks. He also has a blogging past having written for other sites. And he has a gifted talent as a model builder. GPF built what may be the only models of the D.K. Ulrich-owned, Al Loquasto-driven, Schaefer beer-sponsored Buick from 1981. Welcome aboard Bruton!

So with Christmas quickly approaching, toomuchcountry, banktruck ... and now GaPettyFan wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Schaefer-filled Holiday Season.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Petty's Final Plymouth Race ... is a win for Allison

December 10th - And that can only mean one thing. Its Schaefer Hall of Famer Paduch's birthday!

SHOFers Bruton (L) and Paduch (R) with syndicated NASCAR beat writer, Monte Dutton
As was the case with Rev. Randy's birthday, our team couldn't determine any significant race ever held on December 10th. So we'll roll back a couple of days to December 8 to revisit a race that is at least in the ballpark of Paduch's annual 29th birthday: the 1968 Alabama 200 at Montgomery Speedway. The race was the second of the 1969 season and the last of six NASCAR Grand National races at Montgomery. (The 1969 season was the last one for NASCAR to open its Grand National / Cup season in the fall of the previous calendar year.)

The race was originally scheduled for November 24, 1968 - a week after Petty's win in the 1969 season-opener at Middle Georgia Raceway near Macon, Ga. But after back-to-back Sunday rainouts, the race was re-scheduled for what turned out to be a cold day on December 8.

Credit: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
Richard Petty, dominated much of the 200-lap, 100-mile race. Bobby Isaac led a couple of segments for a total of 50 laps, but King Richard always returned to the point.

In his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Vol. 3, Greg Fielden recaps:
Bobby Allison, hopelessly out of the running with just nine laps to go, took advantage of a timely caution and nabbed Richard Petty at the finish line for victory ... The slim crowd of 2,800, braving a bitter, icy wind, watched stock car racing history as both Allison and Petty were taking their last rides in Plymouths ... Petty had taken first place from Allison in the 168th lap and was pulling away. On lap 191 of the 200 lapper, Roy Tyner blew the engine in his Pontiac ... Allison ducked in the pits and got two new tires ... Petty opted to take track position and keep the lead ... When the green flag came out with two laps to go, Allison rapidly made up the deficit and was sitting on Petty's rear bumper within a lap. Coming off the final turn, Allison dived (sic) inside of Petty and won by four feet. ~ p. 218
For Petty fans, the narrow loss had to be tough to handle. The race was The King's final start in a Plymouth. His contact with Chrysler Corporation apparently ran through the end of calendar year 1968, so he ran the first two races of the 1969 season in a Mopar. When the calendar page turned to January 1, 1969, Petty became a full-time Blue Oval guy. Well, for one season at least...

Coincidentally, the race was also Allison's final race in a Plymouth. Largely a Chevy guy, Allison raced just about every car brand throughout his career. In late 1968, however, he signed on to drive Tom Friedken's Plymouths. In a limited time as a car owner, Friedken's Plymouths were raced by some great drivers including Jim Paschal (also a former Petty Enterprises driver) and Curtis Turner.

As I understand it, Friedken's #14 cars were generally painted somewhat of a slate-blue such as the one shown here from 1968.

Courtesy of Ray Lamm
From what I've gleaned, however, the colors were changed when Allison joined the team for a handful of races in late '68. While I was unable to find an actual photo from the race, I learned this very nice model build is an indication of how great the car looked.

Credit: Richard Buhr personal build
The paint scheme foreshadowed Allison's future a bit. From 1970 through 1974, Bobby drove a Dodge, Ford, and Chevrolet for different car owners but with common sponsorship by Coca-Cola. The scheme Friedken ran on Bobby's Montgomery-winning Plymouth turned out to be very similar to the one used during the early 70s.

Allison and his family and friends may have had a shocked expression on their face when they turned to the sports page of the Tuscaloosa News, the paper near Hueytown, to see this headline. While the details were accurate, I'm guessing some thought initially Bobby's win had been overturned.
Source: Tuscaloosa News via Google News Archive
All wasn't lost, however, for Petty fans committed to Mopar. After only a single season with Ford, the King returned to Plymouth and its iconic Superbird in 1970. And despite losing its NASCAR GN races in the late 60s, Montgomery Speedway (web and Twitter) continues to operate today with its slate of regular feature races.

NSSN headline and article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
So while thinking of the close finish by Bobby Allison over his rival Richard Petty and the head-shaking resignation by Petty fans that Plymouth was gone and Ford was in,the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor wish fellow Schaefer brutha Paduch ...

Happy Birthday! SCHA-LOOT!!
SHOF Co-Founder, Philly (L) and SHOF entrant #3, Paduch (R)
Edited December 8, 2014

Monday, December 3, 2012

December 3 - A Birthday and Buddy's Bobble

Yes-sirree - December 3rd - it's Schaefer Hall of Famer Rev. Randy's birthday!

Future (at the time) Schaefer HOFers, Bruton (L) and Rev. Randy (R)
The Rev shares a birthday with two legendary racing greats:
  • Rick Mears (1951) - four-time Indianapolis 500 winner
  • Bobby Allison (1937) - 1983 Winston Cup champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner
In addition to his impressive racing résumé, Bobby was also the first driver to win a NASCAR Cup championship with a beer brand as his primary sponsor. His DiGard Buick carried the colors of Miller High Life - the preferred back-up beer for the Schaefer Hall of Fame when Schaefer isn't available - to his one and only Cup championship.

Credit: David Chobat / Source:
This blog's passionate but part-time research staff learned no significant races of interest have ever been run on December 3rd. A few days later on December 7th; however, Texas International Speedway in College Station - any Aggie fan readers? - hosted its inaugural NASCAR event, the 1969 Texas 500. The track was later renamed Texas World Speedway.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
A few trivia nuggets about the race:
  • The race was Richard Petty's final race in a Ford. When NASCAR's Grand National series returned in January 1970 for a new season at Riverside International Raceway, King Richard was back behind the wheel of a traditionally familiar 43 Plymouth - the winged Superbird. Yet, for Petty fans of that era, I understand it was awfully tough during the one season to see The King sport the blue oval.
  • Bobby Isaac won the Texas race - his first major win on a superspeedway other than two Daytona qualifying race wins which counted as official series wins in the 1960s.
  • The aforementioned Bobby Allison lost an engine in his Coca-Cola Dodge and finished 23rd - one spot behind his #22 car number. His brother Donnie, however, finished 2nd two laps down to Isaac.
  • Buddy Baker led over half the race in Cotton Owens' Dodge - but wrecked while while trying to read his pit board as he led the race.
Long-time NASCAR writer and friend of Baker, Tom Higgins - writing at the time for recalled in a 2010 column:
While running at Texas World Speedway, where NASCAR staged seven races at the Cup Series level from 1969-81, Big Buddy once seemed to have Victory Lane awaiting him. But a crash while under caution took him out of contention. He ran into James Hylton on the frontstretch. "We didn't have radio communication between the cars and the pits in those days," recalls Baker. "I momentarily took my eyes off the track to try and read a message the crew was giving me on a big chalk board. Hylton was going a bit slower than me, and I hit him." The chalked message? "You've Got It Made!"

Read more here:
James Hylton's winged Dodge Daytona before he got plowed:

For the other side of the story, Hylton - who soldiered on to finish 4th - remembers:
Buddy Baker ran into me under a caution. Bent the hell out of my car but tore his up completely and he couldn't finish the race.
On a website documenting the history of Cotton Owens, a separate page for Buddy's uh-oh moment recaps this bizarre but funny way to lose a race. An excerpt from it reads:
We find our hero leading the 500 mile Grand National race, which is running under caution. Pit stops have been made, and the cars are lined up behind the pace car leisurely circling the track with Buddy, leading the race but following closely behind James Hylton behind the pace car. Cotton is busy flashing Buddy a pit board every time by. But the message was too big for one pit board so Cotton wrote on two boards and showed both to Buddy at the same time. This was to much for poor Buddy, he had to do a double take ... while leading the race, which was under caution, Buddy Baker CRASHED into the back of James Hylton and busted the radiator in Cotton's wonderful Dodge. Oh, Cotton's message? P1 take it easy.
The site also includes a couple of photos originally published in Motor Trend magazine.

In his book Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Volume 3, Greg Fielden writes:
Dodge officials were visibly upset when Baker crashed out under the yellow flag. The only race Dodge had won on the big tracks (TMC: in 1969) was a tainted 500-miler at Talladega. Crew chief and car owner Owens slung the pit board like a frisbee as he watched Baker take himself out of the race. ~ p. 263
Future three-time Cup champ and NASCAR Hall of Famer, Cale Yarborough endured a tough ending to the 1969 season. Again, in Fielden's book, he writes:
Cale Yarborough was seriously injured when his Mercury blew a tire and slammed the concrete wall on lap 143. The Timmonsville, SC drive suffered a shattered shoulder blade, an injury doctors said would him keep out of action for nine months. "When this bone is broken this badly," said one doctor, "usually the patient is dead. It's a miracle he survived such a hard crash." ~ p. 264
Cale was always known as a tough ol' bird. He wasn't killed in the Texas accident, and he wasn't out of action for nine months. The bit of good fortune he had was that the race was the final one of the season. When NASCAR's Grand National cars returned in 1970, Cale again buckled in the famed Wood Brothers' #21 Mercury. In a limited schedule for the team, Cale entered and started six of the first 10 races of 1970.

Credit: AP as published here (via Google News Archive)

So while thinking of the thrill of victory by Bobby Isaac and the agony of defeat by Buddy Baker, the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor wish fellow Schaefer brutha Rev. Randy...

Happy Birthday! SCHA-LOOT!!

The SHOF in 2011 (L to R): Paducah, Rev. Randy, Rookie, Tick, 
Cuba (with understudy filling in), Philly, and Uncle Dave

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 15, 1992 - The King's final ride

Nearly 1,200 starts
200 wins
Over 550 top 5 finishes
123 poles
7 championships
Countless autographs
Untold mayonnaise sandwiches
Many spectacular wrecks including 1970, 1980, 1988, and 1991
20 years ago: The Final Ride

My uncle first introduced me to racing in general and Richard Petty specifically in the summer of 1974. The first race I remember watching on TV was Benny Parsons' victory in the 1975 Daytona 500. My first Cup race to attend and see the day-glo red and Petty blue Dodge in person was the 1978 Music City 420 in Nashville.

My uncle told me I had to be a fan of Ol' Blue if I wanted him to take me to races. It didn't take me long to want to become a fan of the King. From the mid-70s - through the end of his driving days in November 1992 - through today in his limited role as a car owner, I remain a fan.

Twenty years ago today, November 15, 1992, The King made his final Winston Cup start as a driver in the Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I was there to witness it, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

Many say the 1992 season-ender at Atlanta is arguably the top NASCAR Cup race of all time. If not the best, it's certainly in the top 5. The race had multiple storylines:
  • The King's final start
  • A 5-way championship battle between Davey Allison, Bill Elliott, Alan Kulwicki, Harry Gant and Kyle Petty
  • The first career Cup start for predicted phenom, Jeff Gordon.
  • The final race for Dick Beaty, NASCAR's long-time chief technical inspector.
I don't plan to recap the race and the way it played out because so many others have done such a great job of it - then and since. Instead, I'm going to revisit a few of my own memories from that day.

Two days before the race, a statue of The King was dedicated near the track's ticket office. Rather than portray him in victory lane, the sculptor created a lasting image truly fitting of his legacy - his appreciation for the fans.

The Atlanta race was the culmination of the year-long Richard Petty 1992 Fan Appreciation Tour where corporations of all kinds joined The King to be an associate sponsor - including Gwaltney hot dogs.

Fellow Schaefer Hall of Famer co-founder Philly and I ate our share of Gwaltney dogs in 1992 as we hit about 25 percent of that year's races and camped at a few of the - the most ever in a season for me. Twenty years later, Smithfield Foods, Gwaltney's parent company, joined Richard Petty Motorsports as sponsor of driver Aric Almirola in the famed 43.

On Saturday night before the race, the country (?) band Alabama performed a concert in tribute to The King at the Georgia Dome. (Richard and his family often watched Alabama perform in Myrtle Beach, SC in their early bar band days.) While Philly and I committed to buying tickets to The King's final race months in advance, we held out for freebies to the concert - tickets that unfortunately never fell our way. Thanks ebay for providing the image of a show we didn't attend.

Early on race morning, we drove from Chattanooga, TN to Atlanta. We stopped at a friend of ours where my uncle stayed the night. The two of them also hadn't made the concert, but it was obvious they'd visited many watering holes around the Georgia Dome. Between a late night's finish and an early morning's start, my uncle was slurringly raddy to anjoy da Kang's wast racef

For the last 2-3 years of Petty's driving career, I wore a cheap but comfortable STP Racing Team trucker's cap. By the final race of 1992, it weighed about 10 pounds because of my various hat pins and race weekend sweat-stained salt. I committed to retiring the hat once Richard exited the car for good. I still have the hat - and it hasn't been worn in 20 years.

Philly and I sat on the backstretch - on the opposite side of where the pre-race activities took place. Much of the grandstands where we viewed the race were built just in time for the 1992 fall race. A few years later, track owner Bruton Smith reconfigured the layout of the track. Our cheap seats in 1992 were pretty close to where the modern-day start / finish line is.

Neither Philly or I had our Uniden scanners back then. Instead, we wore our our standard issue  Winston Racing radio headsets. As soon as we got situated, he put on his radio and tried to find the Motor Racing Network AM broadcast.

If you never had the pleasure of owning one of the Winston radios, you really missed something... not. The volume control was on one earpiece, and the station dial was on the other. One needed fingers with the sensitivity of a safe cracker to find a station with the scroll wheel, and you often needed to hold your head at a certain weird angle to maintain signal strength.

Because of the excitement buzzing throughout the stands, EVERYONE was standing. Soon our standing was put to good use in the form of reverence as the track played Ray Charles' Georgia on my Mind which then led to the invocation.

We all bowed our heads. Actually, Philly's head was already bowed, eyes closed, and senses acutely tuned to his continued focused pursuit of the MRN broadcast. As the prayer began following the final notes of Ray's classic, Philly found what he'd been searching for. Suddenly, he blurted out loudly enough for three southern states to hear:


I immediately buried my elbow in his rib cage and gave him the shush sign - most reverently of course. As I alluded to in a previous post about the 2003 Rockingham race, I got an autographed photo of Eli for Philly's 40th birthday. I wrote Eli and recapped the story to him. He must have enjoyed it because he signed the photo "Whoo, Eli's on. Happy 40th." To this day - twenty years later - all races we attend begin with the crack of a cold Schaefer and a boisterous yell of Whoo! Eli's On!

We snickered a good bit more during the prayer and national anthem about Philly's speaking in tongues. But we were soon silenced and had our breath taken away as the engines roared to life. Several Apache helicopters rose from behind our grandstands and began circling the track - hovering just a few dozen feet above the cars as they made their pace laps. I've been awed by many military flyovers - at races, football games, and air shows. But nothing has compared to the quietness of ascent and jaw-dropping, low-flying demonstration by those Apaches.

As we settled in our seats on the backstretch, future friend and fellow Petty fan Jerry Bushmire enjoyed a race morning stroll through the garage area. Despite the crush of folks wanting access to Petty in his final race, Jerry had the good fortune to walk the garage and get a final-start autograph from the man himself.

Photos courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
The norm for most of the second half of the 1992 season was to have The King lead the field on the first pace lap. Then he would fall back to his rightful starting spot. In his final start, he not only got to pace the field - but also had the privilege of having his children give the command to Start Your Engines!

TMC Archives
A fairy tale ending for the race would have been victory number 201 for The King. Racing, however, isn't a fairy tale (unless you are blogging about Jeff Gordon stories). Petty was caught up in a wreck started by others and cruised through turn 1 on fire before coming to a stop.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
From our seats, we were unclear as to what was unfolding on the frontstretch and into turn 1. We knew from MRN the King was involved, but we initially didn't know about the fire. Once the safety crews extinguished the fire and checked him over, Petty got out and made the most obvious gesture. He acknowledged the fans. Every driver today should have the following photo in their hauler and motorcoach because sadly many have ignored the reality that it's the fans who enable them to use their talents and c.o. jones to race.

TMC Archives
The King's day - and career - were seemingly over. *Poof* Just like that. The rest of the race, however, was tremendous. What we didn't know at the time was the Petty Enterprises crew thrashed in the garage to give Richard a final opportunity to circle the track.

Sure enough, with a handful of laps to go, the 43 re-entered the track. From the backstretch, we heard an incredible roar from the front grandstands. A few moments later, we realized why as the 43 rounded the second turn and started down the back straightaway.

Photo courtesy of Ray Lamm
Bill Elliott was flagged as the race winner, and Alan Kulwicki won the championship. As they were presented their well-deserved trophies, the King made another lap or so. As a ton of fans of all drivers rushed for the fence to wave goodbye, I still remember the literal chills running up and down my spine and the tightening in my throat.

The remains of The King's final car were returned to Atlanta Labor Day weekend in connection with this year's Advocare 500. I've seen the car twice at the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman, NC, but nowhere else. Sure enough, the guy watching over it said the car hadn't been out of the museum in the 20 years since Petty's final race.

Once the race was over, Philly and I knew traffic would be hell. Hey it's Atlanta - and bad race traffic has always been a given. We took a leisurely walk from the backstretch to the front of the track and roamed the front grandstands. From there, we had a better view of the media center - including where Kulwicki and The King were giving press interviews.

We didn't know future Schaefer Hall of Famer, Bruton, back then. But some number of years later when introductions were made, we learned he too was at the King's final race.
I had long ago given up hope for one more win. While I hated the thought of no Richard Petty on the track after that event, I was glad he wouldn’t be putting himself at risk (in a race car anyway) once that day was done. It was also fun to see him be the center of attention one more time as a driver. Kyle had qualified well ahead of Richard and it was neat to watch him fall to the rear of the field with The King as RP settled into his starting position. Kyle, of course, returned to the front of the field after a lap or so. Finally, when The King took his ‘thank you’ lap we all stood there cheering. I had sunglasses on and that is important. With tears in my eyes, I asked my brother if he was crying (I knew he was.) He said no. I lied right back, “Me either.”
Richard's daughter, Rebecca Moffitt, is Executive Director of the Petty Family Foundation. When asked about her memories of The King's final ride, she told me:
What a crazy day, week, year that was. All I really remember was just how bittersweet the whole experience was. Of course it was sad to see my Dad give up something that he loved so much, but we all were happy to know that he went out on top and was going to be fine. Because racing is his one true love, he could never retire totally. So for the past 20 years, his schedule has been the same - just his job duties are different. I love my Dad because he is my father, but it made me very proud to see and know how much other people love him - not just because of the success that he had over the years, but because of the man he is.
If you want to read, see or hear more about this truly memorable race, here are are few suggestions:

Friday, November 9, 2012

November 9 - A Rockingham Road Trip

It's the birthday of Philly - Schaefer Hall of Fame co-founder, executive committee member, and president of ticketing supply chain operations!

November 9 is also the anniversary of Bill Elliott's final career Winston Cup victory. After being competitive but not a leader for the first half of the race, Elliott led the majority of the second half of the 2003 Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at North Carolina Motor Speedway. Or as us old schoolers referred to it - The 'merican 400 at Rockin'ham. I was at The Rock that day along with fellow SHOFers Philly and Paducah.

Bill's salad days were in the #9 Coors / Melling Ford; however, his final win came in a Ray Evernham-owned #9 Dodge. As an owner, Ray had a solid day with his second car driven by Jeremy Mayfield finishing third.

Elliott was voted by the fans as NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for many consecutive years during his career. He was cheered by many as Awesome Bill from Dawsonville. Neither Philly or I ever much cared for him, and both of us referred to him as Awful Bill. Yet, we begrudgingly have to recognize Awful Bill as the reason for the founding of the Schaefer tradition.

I tailgated so to speak with SHOFers Philly and Paducah. Brrrrr, it was colder'n all get out on race morning. We bought a small rick of wood, a fire starter brick, and a box of fried chicken from Harris Teeter grocery store. After parking, we built the meager fire as quickly as possible, buried the chicken, and spent the next couple of hours sitting in lawn chairs and leaning forward to within about 6 inches of the fading fire in an attempt to supplement our body heat.

In an rare occurrence for us, we couldn't score any Schaefer that weekend. As a worthy substitute, we pounded several Miller High Life pony bottles. Swigging cold beers didn't exactly help our efforts to stay warm - but they sure hit the spot anyway.

Flyin' Ryan Newman won the pole in Roger Penske's Dodge. His #12 car sported a throwback paint scheme - a nod to Penske's early days in NASCAR with drivers such as Mark Donahue, Dave Marcis and Bobby Allison.

None of the three of us were huge fans of Newman, Penske, or those drivers who piloted Penske's red-white-blue Matadors in the early 1970s. But we cheered the car lustily simply because of the cool tribute.

Ignorant fans around us were totally lost as to the reason for our WHOO's. We tried to explain - Penske? Mark Donahue? Bobby Friggin' Allison? Yet that gaggle of contemporary fans who likely glommed onto the sport during the Earnhardt or Gordon era with no knowledge of the past - or interest in it - never understood.

Interestingly, we reacted the same way a day earlier - and got the same reaction from those around us - when Martin Truex, Jr. hit the track in a throwback Ralph Earnhardt color scheme in the Busch race. He was racing a limited Busch schedule for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s Chance II team (later to become JR Motorsports).

You had a Dale Jr.-owned car sporting the colors of his legendary grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt. Yet we had folks around us wearing black "3" hats who simply didn't understand the relevance of the scheme or respect shown by the team.

A nice surprise during the race was a 30-lap segment led by Wahd Buhton in the Gene Haas #0 NetZero Pontiac. Though Ward later faded to a mid-pack finish, his time at the front was popular with the crowd. Fast forward a half-dozen years, and Gene Haas' struggling team was reinvented as Stewart-Haas Racing.

The rags to riches transition of the Haas team within just a few years got me to wondering about others who had come and gone in the few years since the 2003 Rockingham race.

We no longer have drivers in the field such as:
  • Sterling Marlin
  • Jeremy Mayfield
  • Terry Labonte
  • Robby Gordon
  • Ken Schrader
  • Ricky Rudd
  • Johnny Benson
Some drivers active in 2003 continue to be active in the sport but with a microphone including:
  • Kyle Petty
  • Ricky Craven
  • Dale Jarrett
  • Rusty Wallace
  • Jimmy Spencer
But it's also amazing who weren't yet active Cup drivers in 2003:
  • Kasey Kahne (who later took over Evernham's #9 Dodge from Elliott)
  • Kyle Busch
  • Carl Edwards
  • Denny Hamlin
  • Brad Keselowski
  • Clint Bowyer
  • Joey Logano
One driver finishing fourth in the 2003 Rockingham race - and still racing competitively today - was Matt Kenseth. Matt's Rockingham finish earned him enough points to win the final Winston Cup Series championship with one race remaining. When the teams returned in 2004, the series had Nextel as its new sponsor and a new points system.


So while recalling great memories of a cold North Carolina day, Awful Bill's final victory, and the crowning of Matt Kenseth as the final Winston Cup Series champion - the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor wish fellow Schaefer brutha Philly...

Happy Birthday! SCHA-LOOT!!

Edited November 9, 2014

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25 - Kyle's Rockingham Romp

October 25 - Happy Birthday to 2012 Schaefer Hall of Fame inductee, Bruton! (Also known as @DollarDawg43 on Twitter.)

October 25 is also the anniversary of Kyle Petty's dominant win in the 1992 AC Delco 500 at Rockingham. For younger readers and/or novice NASCAR fans, the pony-tailed, goatee-sporting, hat-wearing, talking head you see on Speed's Trackside, Raceday, and Victory Lane shows was once a pretty good driver. Though he had only eight career Cup wins, Kyle had a lengthy career and was in the points hunt a couple of years in the early 1990s. Driving for SABCO Racing and sponsored by Peak Antifreeze and Mello Yello, the 42 Pontiac was almost unstoppable at Rockingham from the late 1980s through the early 1990s.

In the 1992 fall Rockingham race, Kyle's father - Richard Petty - made his final start at the track. The King started every race at Rockingham from its inaugural event in 1965 through his 1992 retirement season, and had eleven wins in his 54 starts.

Fittingly, Kyle won the pole for his father's final Rockingham start, and he then led all but eight of the 492 laps en route to victory.

Perhaps because I remember Kyle's win, 1992 doesn't seem that long ago. Yet its been 20 years - 2 decades - since his win. The passage of time and advances in technology, however, can perhaps best be illustrated by looking at the cell phone Kyle used to call car owner Felix Sabates from victory lane. An iBrick?

Before NASCAR's premier series was sponsored by Sprint (and Nextel before that), R.J. Reynolds' Winston cigarettes brand was synonymous with the sport for more than twenty-five years. I'm reminded in the following photo of the cute and classy Miss Winston ladies. No knock on today's Miss Sprint Cup girls but having them dressed in firesuits is just dumb.

The Petty family and racing are inseparable. For many of Richard's wins - especially those at tracks in North Carolina - his family was able to join him in victory lane. For Kyle's Rockingham victory, he continued the tradition. Interestingly, the one person noticeably absent from the group is the King himself.

Here is a revisit of the final few laps of the race and Kyle's victory lane interview. The YouTube clip is timed at about one hour; however, the content ends around the 30 minute mark.

Source: Portsmouth Daily Times via Google News Archive
So as we reflect upon Kyle's dominating day at The Rock in 1992, the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor wish Bruton a Schaeferiffic birthday. Just don't live too large Bruton - we'd hate to see you fade early.