Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23 - This day in Petty history

1975 - Starting from the pole, Richard Petty leads almost half the laps and wins the Atlanta 500 to claim his 167th career victory.

Richard had won four summer Dixie 500 races at the track prior to 1975. But his win in the 1975 Atlanta 500 was his first of two spring wins at the track.

Long-time rival David Pearson led another sizable chunk of the race; however, he found himself a lap down with less than 10 laps to go. The King had a big lead on second place driver (and former Petty Enterprises driver), Buddy Baker, when a late race caution flew for oil laid on the track by Lennie Pond. The caution allowed Baker to close back up to Petty as the remaining laps were reduced to single digits. Richard, however, quickly jumped back to the throttle before taking the final green flap. He built a lead of several car lengths on Baker before the 43 even crossed the S/F line. Heads up move by Petty - ehh, not so much of one by Baker.

Bruton (Schaefer Ring of Honor member class of 2010 and known as GaPettyFan in other on-line racing communities) remembers:
They qualified on Thursday in those days. He was fast off the truck and skipped the last practice on Saturday. The crew pushed the car onto pit road. While some of the guys were polishing the car, others were spit shining various engine components. It had to drive the competition nuts. He started from the pole, and when they dropped the green flag he took off like he had been shot out of a cannon. Four tire stops were still kind of rare then, but he short-pitted and got four all day because he was so fast. To this day I can still see him smoking the tires coming off turn four lap after lap.
Above 2 photos courtesy of lionel682

Photo courtesy of Ray Lamm
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Edited June 28, 2014

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21 - This day in Petty history

1971 - Richard Petty leads 161 laps and wins the Hickory 276 at Hickory Speedway in North Carolina to earn career victory 123. The win is Petty's 3rd win in a row in 1971 - and 4th out of seven races run to that point of the season.

Reigning champion, Bobby Isaac, and his team skipped the race out of protest. Isaac and crew chief Harry Hyde claimed Petty got preferential treatment by NASCAR officials during pre-race inspections. Isaac's team also skipped the following week's race at Bristol; however, I can't seem to find any article referring to Isaac's and Hyde's whining continuance. Apparently they got the message that no one cared (or NASCAR delivered a message to shut and race) because the team returned two weeks later at Atlanta.

Perhaps the most unique - yet respectful - trivia item about this race is described in the article. Because of a scheduled funeral, a caution flag turned into a temporary red flag situation so the funeral procession wouldn't be interrupted by all the race noise. Clearly a respectful action by the teams and NASCAR - but I'm not sure we'd see something like happen again today.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20 - This day in Petty history

1977 - Richard Petty wins the pole and then wins the Atlanta 500 for his 182nd career victory. The win is the King's second Atlanta 500 win in three years and his sixth and final Atlanta win overall.

Petty led about one-third of the race with fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers David Pearson and Cale Yarborough splitting the remainder. But the laps Petty led were the most important as he led all but seven of the final 100 laps.

Green, green, green!!!

Credit: Ray Lamm collection
Petty's margin of victory over Pearson was about 12 seconds. Yarborough finished third, but he may have had a stronger showing had his brakes not failed during the last quarter of the race. Cale gamely raced the final 150 miles on the lightning quick mile-and-a-half oval with no brakes.

Headline courtesy of Russ 'Calhoun98' Thompson
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16 - This day in Petty history

1975 - Starting from his second-place starting spot, Richard Petty leads almost half the race and wins the Southeastern 500 at Bristol by six laps over Benny Parsons.

The win was the King's 166th career NASCAR Grand National / Winston Cup win but only his second one at Bristol. Because of tough economic times for the sport - few big-buck sponsors to cover the increasing costs combined with flat race purses - NASCAR faced an on-going challenge in 1975 with short fields. Only 23 cars started the Bristol race, and only 20,000 spectators attended. Bristol - you've come a long way baby!

With a low-car turnout, the drivers weren't the only ones seemingly disinterested in trekking to east Tennessee for the race. It was difficult for me to find a ready supply of articles, photos or memories. However, I did find a solid 1975 column from The Times News in Hendersonville, NC (now known as

The piece, written by Buddy Chapman, focuses on what has made Richard a fan favorite - from his early 1960s beginnings to his heyday of late 60s through mid 70s to his waning years as a driver of the early 90s and to his role as a car owner today. The King has been consistently appreciative of his fans for over a half-century.

Buddy's coverage of the race in that edition of The Times News also included a few photos. The quality isn't the best in Google's archives, but they fit the bill when I had nothing else. The photos also gave me an idea. I contacted the current editor of the paper to see if he knew anything about Chapman - was he still alive? still with the paper? retired? living in the area?

Buddy is indeed alive and well. The editor put the two of us together by phone. He is now retired - and actually lives no more than about 30 miles south of TMC! He was also kind enough to dig back through his archives and scanned this photo of Petty in victory lane following his 1975 Bristol win. I'm hoping to meet with Buddy when the weather warms to learn more about his newspaper days in general and Bristol races specifically.

Credit to and courtesy of Buddy Chapman
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15 - This day in Petty history

1970 - Starting from the pole position, Richard Petty dominates by leading 183 of 200 laps, and earns his 103rd career victory by winning the Savannah 200 at Savannah Speedway in Georgia.

The article notes Petty-rival Bobby Allison finished 19th in a Dodge Charger. However, he actually drove a Plymouth owned by Don Robertson. Allison drove a Robertson-owned car three times in 1970 and didn't win any of the races. Interestingly, Petty made two starts for Robertson - and won both of them. (Of course, the cars he raced were Petty-built Plymouths sold to Robertson but then borrowed back for Richard's starts.)

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 14 - This day in Petty history

1971 - Starting from the outside of the front row, Richard Petty leads about 200 laps and wins the Carolina 500 at Rockingham - his 122nd career victory. Teammate Buddy Baker in a white, #11 Petty Enterprises Dodge Charger finishes 3rd.

Pace lap - getting ready for the green. Fast Freddy Lorenzen was on the pole the #99 STP Plymouth. Petty started on the outside of the front row. Bobby Isaac's #71 Dodge Charger was on the inside of the second row with Dave Marcis in a 1970 #2 blue Dodge.

Photos courtesy of Ray Lamm
Headline courtesy of Russ 'Calhoun98' Thompson
Gene Granger was a long-time, well-respected journalist covering the NASCAR scene. The first sentence of his last paragraph - It was an unusually dull show for this grueling track - reads as out of step with today's NASCAR who seemingly has low self-esteem and continually bullies drivers and media over any comment remotely critical of the sport.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13 - This day in Petty history - part 2

1983 - Richard Petty notches career victory 196 by winning the Warner Hodgdon Carolina 500 at Rockingham. The win is Richard's first in his previous ... 43 ... starts dating back to Michigan in 1981. Kyle Petty starts and finishes in the same position - 15th - in his 7-Eleven Petty Pontiac.

The race was started on March 6 - but then postponed to March 13 because of rain. Also, the win was the only one of The King's career televised by relatively new cable sports programming channel ESPN.

Robbie S., a fellow member at remembers...
Petty and Bill Elliott, seeking his first win, hounded Petty for the final 28 laps trying to retake the lead after losing it to Petty on lap 464. Elliott drove the wheels off the car that day only to come up half a length short at the stripe. Great race.

The race was actually scheduled the week before. I left Sumter at midnight with a guy I worked with, and we slept in the car. When we got there about 2AM, a work crew was replacing a huge section of guardrail in turn 2. A late model sportsman car, I do not recall the drivers name, hit the rail in turn two tearing out the entire section, posts and all, until the car hit where the concrete wall started. It sheared everything from the firewall forward off the car. The engine, I was told, bounced down half the length of the back stretch.

A few years back, I saw the pictures of the crash, and the size of the gaping hole in the guardrail was unbelievable. Where we parked in the infield did not have good drainage, and I was in well above ankle deep water when I got out of the car. Actually the water was even with the door jamb. The crew was still working on the guard rail. The rain delay actually helped them get it completed before the start of the race. Less than 100 miles was run when they called it until the next Sunday. We came back and not a cloud in the sky on race day. A beautiful day and a great race.
The margin of victory over winless upstart Awful Bill from Dawsonville (never was a big Elliott fan to be honest). Though he didn't win that day, Elliott did eventually get his first Cup win (with a few dozen more to follow) - at Riverside in the final race of the 1983 season.

Some ESPN video highlights of the race and the exciting finish:

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Edited March 12, 2015

March 13 - This day in Petty history - part 1

1977 - Richard Petty starts on the outside of the front row, leads 281 of 392 laps, and wins the Carolina 500 at North Carolina Speedway - aka Rockingham - to score his 181st career win.

The race was originally scheduled for March 6, but it was postponed by one week because of heavy rains. When the race got the green on March 13, it took over five hours to complete - largely because of the eleven cautions.

Articles and photo courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 8 - This day in Petty history

1970 - Driving the sleek blue Plymouth Superbird, Richard Petty wins the Carolina 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, NC and banks career victory number 102. Teammate Pete Hamilton - who drove a Petty Superbird to victory in the Daytona 500 two weeks earlier - finishes 5th.

The top starters were set during the first round of qualifying held on Thursday, March 5th. The final session when the best of the rest thrashed to make the field was on Saturday. The session took on an eerie tone when the track was darkened by a full solar eclipse.

Source: Charleston News & Courier
Earl Brooks' made the field in the 40th and final starting spot with a qualifying speed fifteen MPH off Bobby Allison's pole-winning effort. But he did so by running under near darkness!

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
Bobby Allison and Charlie Glotzbach started on the front row, and Bobby Isaac in the red #71 K&K Dodge Daytona was flanked by Buddy Baker in Cotton Owens' Dodge on the second one. Dick Brooks started 5th, and Cale Yarborough was beside him in the Wood Brothers' Mercury. The Petty team cars started on the 4th row with Pete Hamilton to the inside in 7th and Petty to his outside in 8th.

Many days, its better to be lucky than good. On March 8, 1970, Petty was both. He led a sizable number of laps, but he spun twice and yet won by 3 laps over second-place Cale Yarborough.

William Horrell, fellow member at recalls:
Yes, the first race was the '70 Carolina 500. I was 15 at the time and went with a neighbor whom I worked with on his dirt car. I did not take pictures back then. I wish to high heaven now that I did. I remember that Richard was ''the man'' in my book. I was glad that a Petty car had just won Daytona, but at the time I was not thrilled with it being Pete Hamilton. I told everyone that Richard was going to win for me at my first race. He did, and I was hard to live with for a few days after. I sort of remember actually thinking that my being there was actually some kind of influential good karma ... I had it bad!
Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
Source: Sumter Daily Item via Google News Archive

Edited March 8, 2015

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March 7 - This day in Petty history

1971 - Richard Petty wins the Richmond 500 in Virginia to bank his 121st career victory.

As explained in the accompanying article, the King was banned from qualifying but was allowed to start dead-last in the race. Starting from the 30th spot, the 43 quickly came through the field, led 348 of 500 laps, and won by 2 laps over Bobby Isaac.

Isaac's car owner, Nord Krauskopf, and crew chief, Harry Hyde, were livid about how NASCAR and track promoter Paul Sawyer handled rules infractions on the 43. With Hyde's fiery personality, visions of Yosemite Sam muttering indecipherable obscenities come to mind.

Apparently Nord and Harry conveniently forgot their #71 car also had problems. Interestingly, they were allowed to keep their 3rd place qualifying spot whereas Petty had to start from the rear of the field - and still spanked them by 2 laps.

According to Greg Fielden's Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Volume 3:
After the race, Norm Krauskopf ... threatened to quit the NASCAR circuit. "I don't want to do anything bad for racing," said Krauskopf, "but it's become an intolerable situation. I've advised promoters Ned Jarrett (Hickory) and Larry Carrier (Bristol) by wire that our entries for their events have been withdrawn."~ p. 330
For the record, Petty won Hickory and finished second to Pearson at Bristol. Isaac's team apparently realized no one cared they were gone because the team returned following the Bristol race.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Edited March 7, 2015

Monday, March 5, 2012

March 5 - This day in Petty history

1967 - Richard Petty qualifies second, leads 150 - exactly half - of the laps, and wins the Fireball 300 at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in North Carolina by two laps over second place Darel Dieringer to earn his 50th career victory.

The race was named in memory of driver Fireball Roberts who died in 1964 from injuries and burns suffered in a horrific crash and fire in the 1964 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was held the week after the Daytona 500 - where open wheeler Mario Andretti surprised the stock car establishment with his win. When the glitz of Daytona ended and the normal seasonal grind at Asheville-Weaverville returned, Mario - and most of the other big name drivers - were absent.

Perhaps the teams couldn't be blamed for skipping the race. Andretti earned over $48,000 for his Daytona win. Petty earned $1,800 in winning at Asheville-Weaverville - roughly the same amount A.J. Foyt earned at Daytona ... for finishing 37th.

The winning trophy as seen by TMC at the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman, NC.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire