Leon P., a fellow member at RacersReunion.com, remembers...
1971 was a long time ago, but if I remember correctly James Hylton was on the pole and Petty was like 5th or 6th (TMC: 4th). The race started, and James led a while. Then Benny Parsons got the lead and led for a long time. Then Richard got the lead and pulled away a good bit. I think with about 20 or so laps to go Benny started closing in on him. I could not believe it. I wanted a Ford to win. I could not believe Benny Parsons was going to win this race. I mean he was hauling ASS. With about 5 laps to go Benny was there, but on the last lap Benny spun up high in turns 3 and 4 and the rest is history. The King won, but it was a darn good race.Perry Allen Wood, author of Silent Speedways of the Carolinas, agreed to let me share these two photos from the race. The first is of Perry with the King - a photo included on page 77 of this book ...
|Photos courtesy of Perry Allen Wood|
April 8, 1971, was the night of the first Grand National race since the Columbia Speedway's paving. One race car unloaded that morning from its trailer hooked to the truck with a big silver box and blue cab. Written in blue on the sides of that silver box were the words "Plymouth by Petty." Richard was there hours before others teams, getting extra practice indicative of why he was to be The King.
... As the sun rose higher, the sounds of rattling chains and clanging and squeaking haulers and trailers coming in over the hump at the entrance to turn one filled the air ... Time trials began, and in a minor surprise, James Hylton put his yellow Ford 48 on the pole obviously with a new track record - almost 12 miles per hour faster than the dirt record.
... Just as the sun set, the green fell and Hylton took off, leading the opening 37 laps before (David) Pearson swiped it. Benny (Parsons) had his L.G. DeWitt Ford out front as Petty, (Dick) Brooks, (Bobby) Allison, Hylton, and (Charlie) Glotzbach hung close, swapping positions just behind ... With 81 laps to go, Petty passed Parsons and led for a few laps until Brooks slipped by for two. Petty got it back and held on for 74 rounds when Benny edged alongside with three laps to go. But Richard was not about to give the ex-Detroit cabbie from Ellerbe his first big league win and slammed back past him on the penultimate laps ... It was a memorable day and night for the last Thursday Grand National run here.
|Source: National Speed Sport News|