Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26 - This day in Petty history

In April 1969, Columbia Records released Bob Dylan's epic Nashville Skyline album to critical acclaim and commercial success.

Three months later, NASCAR's Grand National teams rolled into town for their only race that year in view of the Nashville skyline. Richard Petty dominated the Nashville 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. He won the pole, led 398 of 400 laps, and rolled to victory over second place Bobby Isaac.

I found this great photo on the web some time ago of Petty's pole-winning Ford staged on the starting grid. I tagged the source in my filename as paulwatsonjr and made sure to watermark the image that way. Regretfully, however, I can't recall the website or message board where I found the photo. So Paul, if you are out there - I hope it's OK to use your picture.

Petty's 98th career victory was probably closer than it should have been. Despite leading 398 laps, his margin of victory over Isaac was less than a car's length - mainly because an exhausted Isaac tapped Petty into a spin. The 43 recovered and was able to continue on to the win. Of the 24 starters, only 9 cars were still running by the end of the race.

As Petty was cruising, Isaac had a memorable night as he tried to track down the King. Greg Fielden wrote in his book Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Volume 3:
Isaac made up almost two laps in the last half of the race and wound up second, a half car length behind Petty's Ford... On lap 130, Isaac pitted under the yellow flag and collapsed behind the wheel. Crew chief Harry Hyde dragged Isaac out of the car and flagged down Dave Marcis. By the time Marcis had hooked up the safety gear, he had lost a lap... Within 70 laps, Isaac was back behind the wheel, "Never since I've been racing has the heat gotten to me like that," he said later... Isaac rapidly made up lost ground and got back in the lead  lap when he tapped Petty into a spin on lap 334. The final 10 laps had the crowd of 15,846 on its feet. ~ pp. 245-246
Photo courtesy of Russ Thompson
To me, the Union76 girl to Richard's left resembles actress Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann on the show Gilligan's Island. And I've always preferred Mary Ann over Ginger anyway.

Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Following the race, an exhausted Petty needed oxygen from medical personnel.

But after catching his breath, he was ready for the post-race victory ceremonies, time with the beauty queens (though that "responsibility" was delegated to son Kyle by Richard's wife Lynda) and stayed around long afterwards signing autographs for fans - because that's simply what The King did.

Source: The Tennessean, July 27, 1969

Edited July 26, 2014

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