Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17 - This day in Petty history

1964 - Starting 7th in an 18-car field, Richard Petty leads 181 of 267 laps - including the final 119 - and wins a 100-mile race at South Boston Speedway in Virginia.

Source: Gazette Virginian, May 14, 1964 
The win didn't come without some challenges for Petty - and for the other drivers as well. The race was the third in three consecutive days. Ned Jarrett won the Tidewater 250 in Hampton, Virginia on Friday night. The next day Jarrett won again in the Hickory 250 in North Carolina. The teams then had to hump it back to Virginia to drive in South Boston on Sunday afternoon.

Furthermore, Petty blew the engine in his 1964 Plymouth in practice - perhaps because of the wear and tear of the previous two days. Rather than change an engine, the team rolled a year-old '63 Plymouth off the truck to race instead.

Petty's win on the .375 paved oval was his 30th career victory. The victory was his third in a row at South Boston - a streak he stretched to four in 1968 when the NASCAR Grand National cars returned after a 4-year absence. Pole-winner Marvin Panch in the Wood Brothers Ford finished second and was the only other car on the lead lap with Petty.

In his book Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Volume 2, Greg Fielden writes:
Petty credited tires with the difference in winning and losing. Lee Petty had brought a number of tires designed for the Atlanta International Raceway and decided to give them a tryout on the .375-mile paved track in South Boston. "I just figured they would be about right for this track," said Papa Lee. "Nobody else here had any like them -- not even the tire company people." ~ p. 260
Source: Gazette Virginian, May 19, 1964 
Source: Gazette Virginian, May 19, 1964 

Edited May 17, 2015

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