Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29 - This day in Petty history

1976 - The King starts third, leads 362 of 492 laps, and wins the Carolina 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway - better known as Rockingham - to notch his 178th career victory.

NASCAR Trivia Time: The '76 Rockingham race is the only NASCAR GN/Cup race ever run on February 29th (so far).

Bonus Trivia: Dawsonville, GA's Bill Elliott made his first career Cup start in this race. He started 33rd and finished one spot worse. I guess its an understatement to say Bill made a pretty good recovery from his first race to enjoy an above-average career.

Fellow member Johnny Boone remembers:
My first trip to a NASCAR race was on 29 FEB 1976. Yes, it was leap year. I was 6 years old and had just spent two weeks in a hospital in Sanford, NC with pneumonia. My Dad had bought tickets, and I wanted to go so bad. I was a big Richard Petty fan. After 33 penicillin injections, I was feeling much better, and my Dad told me he would take me if the weather warmed up. Well, the weather turned and the forecasters promised a 70 degree day so we went. It was beautiful! We had a black and white TV in those days. So the first time I saw Richard's Dodge in color was at Rockingham that day. He did not disappoint. Richard lapped the field twice in a 1974 STP Dodge. That was the day Darrell Waltrip clipped Bobby Allison's CAM 2 Mercury out of turn 2 and Allison barrel-rolled down the back straight (TMC: actually, it was Cale Yarborough who got into Allison). I'll never forget the crowd reaction when Richard took the checkers.
Boone referenced Bobby Allison's bad crash. Here is the only video footage I've ever seen of his wreck. Drivers with collateral damage included Richard Childress in #3 (yes folks, drivers other than Earnhardt have piloted a #3) and Coo Coo Marlin in the #14.

Photo courtesy of Lynn Hughes from RacersReunion
Despite Allison's problems, the King rolled on to capture the victory by two laps over Darrell Waltrip in the first race for the circuit after Petty's gut-wrenching loss to David Pearson in the legendary 1976 Daytona 500.

With 1976 being the bicentennial anniversary of the United States of America, the King showed up at Daytona sporting a beard to commemorate it ...

When he rolled into victory lane at Rockingham 2 weeks later, he was still wearing it. (However, the beard disappeared soon after, and he was clean-shaven the rest of the season.)

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

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