Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30 - This day in Petty history - part 4

1972 - Starting third, Richard Petty leads about 20 percent of the race - 102 laps - and wins the Virginia 500 at Martinsville for his 144th career victory.

Somewhere along the way in the race, the 43 lost a cylinder. But even with just seven cylinders, the King went on to beat second place Bobby Allison by seven laps.

In his book Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Volume 4, Greg Fielden writes:
Petty grabbed the lead with 30 laps to go when leader David Pearson broke a transmission housing. Pearson brought the car to the pits and dismounted. Glen Wood repaired the car and wanted to re-enter the race, but Pearson had already gone to the dressing room. Wood noticed LeeRoy Yarbrough standing by in civilian clothes. "I wanted to put LeeRoy in the car , but NASCAR wouldn't let him drive without a uniform." said Wood. Yarbrough had showered and gotten out of his uniform when Wood noticed him. Pearson got credit for eighth place based on the 470 laps he completed. ~ p. 22
Right before the Martinsville race, Petty announced his team was switching from Plymouths to Dodges. For the rest of 1972, Petty raced a Dodge on the faster superspeedways. He continued to run Plymouths on tracks such as the Riverside road course, short tracks, and intermediate tracks such as Trenton and Dover. By 1973, he changed to Dodge for all tracks.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire


April 30 - This day in Petty history - part 3

1970 - Starting 7th on a spring Thursday night, Richard Petty wins his 105th race by leading about half of the Columbia 200 at the Columbia Speedway dirt track in South Carolina.

Rookie Larry Baumel (who?) won the pole. A few of the big dogs raced - including Petty, Bobby Allison, and Bobby Isaac, but the majority of the entrants were independent drivers intent on putting up a good fight.

A recap of the race is detailed in Perry Allen Wood's book Silent Speedways of the Carolinas. Wood references Ron Kaye in his narrative. Kaye was apparently an easier-to-pronounce alias for driver Ron Keselowski - uncle of contemporary Cup driver and now Twitter legend, Brad Keselowski:
At the start, [Johnny] Halford put his Dodge out front for a mile or so before Ron Kaye, as Keselowski billed himself, led for nine. Kaye tangled with Baumel and sailed into a ditch along the backstretch between the rail and a wooden plank fence, vanishing from view ... On lap 30, a bone-jarring crash occurred when [Roy] Tyner, Dick May and Ed Negre mixed it up at the head of the main straightaway. With the pretenders dropping like flies by halfway, Richard Petty took over and checked out. Allison had a Mario Rossi Dodge from Spartanburg in the runner-up spot a lap back with Isaac three back in third. Petty's victory was in a car he drove for owner Don Robertson. It was Robertson's first career win. ~ p. 73.
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

April 30 - This day in Petty history - part 2

1967 - Richard Petty wins the pole, leads 191 of 250 laps, and wins his 54th career race in the Richmond 250 in Virginia. The victory ties Richard for the all-time NASCAR Grand National wins record - one he shares with his father, Lee Petty.

Independent driver Bobby Allison got a big career break with this race. Cotton Owens' employed David Pearson for four successful years from 1963-1966 - including the 1966 Grand National championship. In April 1967, Owens parted ways with Pearson. Supposedly (or at least publicly), the firing had something to do with a misunderstanding of who was riding with whom to the next race. Regardless of the truth or silliness of the situation, Pearson was out - and Allison was in.

Photo courtesy of Ray Lamm
The Hueytown, AL driver made a lot of hay in his debut in Owens' #6 Dodge. He gave it his all vs. Petty; however, he still finished second behind the 43 by some 20 seconds. A couple of spins during the race didn't help his cause - yet Allison demonstrated great talent by recovering from them to finish second.

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Edited April 30, 2015

April 30 - This day in Petty history - part 1

1966 - Starting from the pole, Richard Petty leads 281 of 291 laps, and nabs his ... 43rd ... career Grand National race by romping in the Rebel 400 at Darlington.

Petty dominated the race and finished three laps ahead of second-place Paul Goldsmith. Ford's boycott of the 1966 racing season (following Chrysler's boycott in 1965) certainly affected fans' interest as only 12,000 spectators attended including 5,000 Boy Scouts admitted free.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Photo courtesy of Ray Lamm
Don Smyle of Smyle Media provided some insight about the photographer of the victory lane picture below:
Tom Kirkland was the original Darlington track photographer starting with construction in 1949 and covered every event at the track until 1967. Tom was the first racing photographer to use a sequence camera to cover racing, an item that had to be smuggled out of communist Germany where it was manufactured at the time. Using this sequence camera, Tom captured the multiple frame accident of Jack Smith leaping the guardrail at Darlington during the 1958 Southern 500. This sequence was featured in Sports Illustrated. Because of this sequence, Tom was hired by Sports Illustrated to cover the 1959 Daytona 500 using his sequence camera. Tom captured the photo inish of the 1959 Daytona 500. Although T. Taylor Warren is credited in the press with providing the images that determined the winner, it was actually Tom's images that were the deciding factor. Tom received a letter from NASCAR that thanks him for his images and indicates they were crucial in deciding the winner of the race. By the next season nearly all the photographers covering racing had a sequence camera.
Credit to Tom Kirkland and courtesy of Smyle Media
Finally, while few fans actually witnessed Petty's 1966 Darlington win, the victory did inspire one fan to become a lifelong collector of Plymouths. The 2008 article was written by Rick Minter - now a senior writer for

Courtesy of Russ Thompson
Above photo and article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Edited: April 29, 2014

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28 - This day in Petty history

1963 - Richard Petty wins his 19th career race by leading 130 of the 257 laps of the rain-shortened Gwyn Staley 400. Petty Enterprises teammate Jim Paschal finishes fourth in a second #41 Petty Plymouth.

The race started with all-Ford front row - Fred Lorenzen in the Holman & Moody Ford with the quickest qualifying time and Tiny Lund beside him in the Wood Brothers Ford. Tiny continued making several starts for the Wood Brothers throughout the early part of the schedule as the team's regular driver, Marvin Panch, continued to recover from injuries and burns suffered in a crash at Daytona in February.

Lorenzen and Lund led a handful of laps, and chunky Junior Johnson led a sizable chunk of the first 100 laps of the race. But on lap 128, the blue 43 Plymouth went to the point and led the next 130 laps until rain fell to end the race.

Petty successfully defended his win in the 1962 Staley 400, and his victory was his third in a row after also taking the fall 1962 race.

Photo and article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire


Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27 - This day in Petty history - part 2

1975 - Starting sixth, Richard Petty leads almost half the race and wins the Virginia 500 at Martinsville.

1973 Cup champion and 1975 Daytona 500 winner, Benny Parsons, started on the pole. Donnie Allison started second in the DiGard Chevrolet. Track rookie Darrell Waltrip started on the inside of the second row and was flanked by Bobby Allison in Roger Penske's Coca-Cola AMC Matador.

Credit for pace lap photo and courtesy of Stephen Sanders
Waltrip - referred today by many (at least the kind ones) as Ol' DW - made his first Martinsville Cup start in this race. He took the lead with about 50 laps to go, but the King passed Waltrip with 21 laps to go and raced on to his 169th career Winston Cup victory. DW's second place finish in his Marty debut, however, was a harbinger of good things to follow. He eventually won 11 times at Martinsville - second only to the King's 15 wins at the track. Also, by the time the Cup series returned to Martinsville for the fall 1975 race, Waltrip had replaced Donnie Allison in the DiGard #88 Chevy - the driver who started second in this event.

Racing action in the corner with Bobby Allison's AMC Matador being hounded by Cale Yarborough and with King Richard lurking behind them.

Finishing seventh in the race was local late model driver, Jimmy Hensley - making only his sixth career Cup start, all at Martinsville. Coincidentally, Hensley drove for Petty Enterprises down the road. In 1993, he made one Cup start for the Pettys - at Martinsville - in relief of regular driver Rick Wilson who had been injured at Dover a week earlier. He then drove a #43 Petty Enterprises NASCAR Dodge truck from 1997-1999 - more than 20 years after those early Cup starts at Martinsville.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Racing has always seemed to be a sport where the longevity of drivers, owners, crewmen, etc. can be determined by their ability to ride the waves from the highs to the lows of the week-to-week grind. The Petty team celebrated with Richard's 14th of 15th career wins at Martinsville. One week later, however, the 43 withdrew during the Winston 500 at Talladega when crewman Randy Owen - Richard's brother-in-law - was killed when a pressurized water tank exploded during a pit stop. Randy was only 20 years old.


April 27 - This day in Petty history - part 1

1969 - Starting sixth, Richard Petty wins the Virginia 500 at Martinsville to claim his 94th career NASCAR Grand National victory.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Petty continued his mastery of the flat, half-mile track with his seventh win in 21 career starts to that point - and fourth win in his last five starts. The 1969 win, however, required some help. In the middle stages of the race, Petty was exhausted and nearly sick in the car. James Hylton, whose day ended early, relief drove for Richard for about 50 laps - long enough for Petty to get some clean oxygen and fresh energy. Hylton was a Dodge driver, and Petty drove a Ford during the 1969 season.

Fortunately no manufacturer conflicts occurred with Hylton's driving another car make - something I'm not sure would be quite so easy in today's Sprint Cup Series. The King returned to his seat with about 50 laps to go and took the checkered flag. Interestingly,David Pearson who was credited with finishing second also needed a relief driver to make it through the day. Fellow Ford driver, Cale Yarborough, relieved the Silver Fox and helped him finish behind Petty.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
In the finishing order for the race, at least some newspaper published Petty and Hylton as co-winners and Pearson and Yarborough teaming to finish second. NASCAR has always made it clear the driver who starts a race is credited with the finish. So its interesting to me to see both names listed, and I haven't seen that format in any other finishing order listings over the years.

In another scoring quirk, Dick Brooks finished 16th despite being disqualified from the race. According to Greg Fielden in his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing Vol. 4:
Dick Brooks was disqualified from the race after his 428th lap for running in the wrong direction on the track. The Porterville, CA rookie had spun out in the first turn. He drove his Plymouth back to the pits opposite traffic. NASCAR officials told him to park the car for the rest of the day. ~ p. 231
As has often been the case with the car manufacturers' involvement with NASCAR, Petty's win was used to promote the sale of Ford Torinos. Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25 - This day in Petty history

1971 - Starting third, Richard Petty leads 118 laps - including the final 88 - and wins the Virginia 500 at Martinsville for his 127th career NASCAR Winston Cup win.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Donnie Allison dominated the race in his debut start in the famed Wood Brothers #21 Ford. He won the pole and led 367 of the 500 laps before losing an engine. Once Allison parked his car, Petty went to the point and stayed there until the checkers fell... with only a minor bit of controversy afterwards.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Schaefer Ring of Honor Member and Petty Fan Lifer, Brian 200WINZ Hauck remembers:
I believe I was off from school on Spring Break because my family and I would not have been able to take in a Sunday race in Martinsville and make it back to New Jersey in time for Monday work/school. I remember we stayed in one of those little, flat roof, all-rooms-in-a-row, one floor, road side motels. We arrived there on Saturday and rented the room with no reservation in Martinsville on a race weekend. We parked next to the Speedway on the rolling hillsides right next to the duck pond! If you have never been to Martinsville, there is a duckpond to the left side of the track. The ducks have worn a path in the grass from traversing back and forth to the pond. Just another part of the charm of Martinsville Speedway.

Richard started from the 3rd position. While he was fast, it just seemed like he did not have anything for Donnie Allison. Allison was driving the Wood Brothers Mercury, and it was on a rail. After a round of pit stops, Richard seemed to get a handle on the track, and he and Allison raced side-by-side for 12 laps! There was a lot of rubbing, but neither driver made a dirty move. I think by racing Allison hard Richard caused Allison to overwork the car, and later on the engine gave up the ghost. With the only real competition gone, it looked as if Richard had this one in the bag!

Richard pitted under green right near the end and blew out of the pits without the gas cap secured. I saw it dangling as he exited pit row as we were seated right near the first turn. My heart sunk because I knew that was a rule violation and SURELY he would be black-flagged. As he came down the front stretch, NO black flag was shown. No radio headset or scanners in those days, and you could not hear the PA announcer once the cars started! What was going on? Is it possible NASCAR had not seen the cap? NO WAY!!! You could see it dangling on the safety wire EVERY LAP!! The white and the checkers were shown to Richard, and I knew surely it was in ERROR or most certainly after the race Pearson would be declared the winner! We went pitside after the race, and there seemed to be a lot of commotion. But Victory Lane ceremonies had been completed, and the teams were packing up. As we left Virginia, for the first time in my life, I felt some favoritism had been shown toward the King. The newspaper articles show the King was the winner that day, but to ME right and wrong had been clouded!

It is an interesting footnote that this race was run with only one, YES ONE caution flag! Martinsville and one caution flag DO NOT go together in the same sentence. Maybe another reason the outcome remained the same. The other thing is once again, the cars had run restrictor plates on a half-mile track!! At that time, it was NASCAR's way of handicapping the high-dollar teams to help the independent drivers. Also the first STP Plymouth was in this race, and it was driven by Fred Lorenzen. It was entirely STP day-glo red and looked like it was neon in the bright, Virginia sun!!

Above 4 photos courtesy of Brian Hauck
Photos and article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23 - This day in Petty history - part 3

1972 - Starting third, Richard Petty wins the Gwyn Staley 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway to notch his 143rd career win.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Unlike many of Richard's victories where he ran off and hid from the rest of the field, he paced himself a bit more to get this win. Though he did lead 84 laps, most of the race was dominated by the two front row starting Bobbys: Bobby Isaac and Bobby Allison.

In his book Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Volume 4, Greg Fielden writes:
Petty edged past Bobby Isaac with 25 laps to go and went on to beat runner-up Bobby Allison by 2 seconds. Petty said he was comfortable running most of the race behind the foot-stomping Allison-Isaac duel. "That was a real wing-doolie of a battle." declared Petty afterwards. "Those cats were really racing - for all 400 laps. I had a ring-side seat for about 200 of 'em. I wanted to stay behind them because I figured they were likely to crash. On the last pit stop, we put on gumballs (soft-compound tires) and that probably made the difference.


April 23 - This day in Petty history - part 2

1967 - Starting second, Richard Petty leads 118 laps and passes Cale Yarborough with about 20 laps to go to win his 53rd career race in the Virginia 500 at Martinsville. The victory puts the King one behind the all-time career wins leader, father Lee Petty.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Yarborough led about half the race, but slapped the wall after John Sears blew an engine. In Greg Fielden's book Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Volume 3, he writes:
[Yarborough] was holding a 4.5-second cushion over Petty when John Sears blew his engine on lap 473. Yarborough, running close behind Sears, slipped in the oil and slapped the concrete wall. The caution came out, but nether Petty nor Yarborough pitted - each placing track position as their main priority. When the green came out, Petty passed Yarborough easily and got to the finish line by 9 seconds..."Those last 20 laps was the only time I had an advantage all day," remarked Petty. "It looked to me like the fender was on his tire. I knew I could get him in the last laps because I could smell the rubber burning." ~p. 128
The race was featured in Stock Car Racing magazine a few months later in the September 1967 issue.

Photo and articles courtesy of Jerry Bushmire