Friday, February 17, 2012

February 17 - This day in Petty history

1974 - Starting on the outside of the front row, Richard Petty wins his fifth Daytona 500. Even though he goes on to win the race two more times in 1979 and 1981, his fifth win sets a record that still stands in 2012. (Cale Yarborough is closest with only 4 Daytona 500 wins.)

Ticket stub scan courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
In support of the nation's energy crisis, NASCAR agreed to cut its 1974 races by 10 percent. The first 20 'laps' of the race were counted but driver was credited with leading them. The race then took the green at lap 21, and the Daytona 450 was on!

For the second year in a row, Petty captured lightning in a bottle to get the trophy, cash, and kisses. In 1973, the King was aided in the closing laps by Buddy Baker's bad fortune. In 1974, it was Donnie Allison's turn to be heartbroken. With about 20 laps to go, the 43 cut a tire. Catching a break, Richard cut the tire coming out of turn 4 and was able to dive quickly to pit road. When he returned to the track, however, he was in second place and trailed Allison by over 30 seconds. Then with 11 laps to go, Bob Burcham blew an engine and dropped parts on the track. Allison ran through the debris and cut his tires. Unlike Petty's situation, Allison cut his tire after passing the entrance to pit road. Without good tires, Allison ended up spinning down into the infield grass. His clock-strikes-midnight moment handed the race lead back to Petty who drove on to the win.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Right before the 1974 season began, a group of West Virginia businessmen put together a sponsorship package for ageless driver, Hershel McGriff. Petty Enterprises fielded a second Dodge Charger for him.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
McGriff's Dodge was designed similarly to Petty's 43 except with gold and dark blue colors rather than Petty blue and STP red. Unfortunately, McGriff completed only 23 laps, endured a pounding crash, ruined a beautiful race car, and finished 39th in the 40-car field. , finishes 23 laps before a big crash ruined a great looking car and placed him 39th in the 40 car field.

Credit to Don Hunter and courtesy of Smyle Media
A recap of the race is captured in the following video. (McGriff's wreck begins at 1:18.) Legendary TV race announcer Ken Squier was the primary 'play-by-play' voice on Motor Racing Network back then. Barney Hall who later took over from Squier as the key voice on MRN Radio and remains so today was a corner commentator in 1974.

Source: Sports Illustrated
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

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