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 BlueRidgeNow.com).

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
TMC

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