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

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