Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18 - This day in Petty history

1967 - Starting second alongside Dick Hutcherson, Richard Petty leads about half the race - including the final 95 laps - and wins the Carolina 500 to nab his 59th career NASCAR Grand National race.

Petty's win was his 11th of the 1967 season - a number that would grow to a staggering 27 victories by the time the year ended. Fellow Mopar driver Buddy Baker was on point for another sizable chunk of the race. He led 214 of the 500 laps in Ray Fox's #3 Dodge but finished second to The King, one lap down.

Dave Fulton is a former motorsports promotion manager for Wrangler Jeans and 7-Eleven in the days of Dale Earnhardt and Kyle Petty, a former media relations director for Richmond Raceway, and a life-long racing fan. He remembers the summer day at The Rock:
I was there that day. It was hot and humid as all get out. Got a horrible sunburn.

The article [TMC: one included below] fails to mention that this was the rescheduled rain date of what was supposed to be a March race. My buddy, Frank, and I again took the race train down from Richmond in March 1967,  just as we did for the March 1966 Peach Blossom 500.

By the time that Seaboard train (we called it the Seaboard "Square Wheel Special"  'cause the track bed was so rough between Raleigh & the division end in Hamlet) got to Southern Pines/Aberdeen around 9:00 a.m. on that Sunday morning in March 1967, it was raining cats & dogs. The track owners had called the race before we even made it to the track because they were afraid of a poor gate.

Our group (which had been picked up at stops in DC, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Petersburg & Raleigh) wouldn't be picked up again until 6:00 p.m. that Sunday evening by the Seaboard train heading north to New York from Florida.

Faced with the dilemma of what to do with a train load of drunk race fans, the Rockingham track owners arranged for the owner of the only movie theater in Hamlet to open its doors. We were shuttled on a siding from the Rockingham track to Hamlet by a work engine. The film was Haley Mills' "Polyanna."  I'm sure you can picture what that must of been like.

To add insult to injury, when we exited the movie theater around 2:00 p.m., the sun was shining brightly on a beautiful early spring Carolina afternoon. It was a grumpy crowd on the return ride to Richmond, having traded Richard Petty for Walt Disney.

Frank & I left Richmond again on Saturday,  June 17, 1967 with me behind the wheel of dad's brand new 1967 Chevy 327 Caprice.  That car turned out to be the biggest pile of crap ever produced by General Motors.

After spending the night in Lumberton, we drove to the Rockingham track bright and early Sunday morning, June 18 to watch the King get one of those 27 1967 wins. Even with the sunburn and long drive back to Richmond it was a good day.

It took us three trips, two by train, from Richmond to Rockingham to see our first two Rockingham races in 1966 and 1967. Ya reckon that is some sort of record?

The first paragraph of the article below is a bit misleading. The June 1967 Rockingham race was the first known as the Carolina 500; however, it was the fourth overall race at the track. In the fall of 1965 and 1966, the races were known then - and for years to come as the American 500. The first spring race at the track was in March 1966 but was known as the Peach Blossom 500. Beginning with the 1967 spring event and continuing through the 1985, the race was known as the Carolina 500.


Photos and article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

TMC

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