Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31 - This day in Petty history

1965 - In only his second Grand National race back after a six-month sabbatical from NASCAR, Richard Petty wins the pole, leads 335 of 400 laps, and wins the Nashville 400 by six laps over Ned Jarrett at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, TN to claim his 37th career NASCAR Grand National victory.

NASCAR banned Chrysler's high-performance hemi engine following the 1964 season. As a consequence, Chrysler Corporation withdrew its factory-supported Grand National teams for 1965 - including the Petty Enterprises' Plymouth team. To stay busy, be competitive and earn money, Richard and his team went drag racing for much of 1965 racing a #43 Jr. Plymouth Barracuda.

Once Bill France, Sr. and the Chrysler brass worked out their differences, Chrysler rescinded its boycott. Petty Enterprises was free to return to the world of left-handed turns. Petty's first race back was in the Volunteer 500 at Bristol. Nashville was the next event, and Richard won by six laps over second-place finisher, Ned Jarrett.

Source: The Tennessean - July 25, 1965
While the Nashville race was Petty's second NASCAR Grand National race of 1965, it was his third stock car race.  On May 2, 1965, the 43 team raced in the USAC stock car series Yankee 300 at Indianapolis Raceway Park and finished 14th in the 22 car field.

Credit: Henry Ford Museum Flickr gallery
Long-time Dodge driver (and Virginia moonshine hauler), Buddy Arrington, finished third in the race - a career-best matched by another third place finish fourteen years later in the 1979 Winston 500 at Talladega.

Arrington was the hand-me-down beneficiary of older Petty cars and parts for years, and his son Joey Arrington builds a lot of the high-performance, after-market engines installed by Petty's Garage in customer Mopar vehicles. So in some respects, I kind of view Buddy's third place finish at Nashville as a quasi-Petty top 5.

Once Chrysler chose to lift its boycott and allow its factory-supported race teams to return, Lee Petty intimated Richard might make his return in the July 4, 1965, Firecracker 400 at Daytona.

Source: St. Petersburg Times - June 19, 1965 via Google News Archive
For whatever reason, Petty Enterprises didn't field a car for Richard at Daytona, and he made his return a couple of weeks later at Bristol. That doesn't mean, however, the Petty team wasn't involved at the beach. Red Vogt hired Nelson Stacy to run the race in a Petty Enterprises-prepared Plymouth, and Richard's brother - Maurice Petty - led Stacy's crew for the race.

The King made his GN return at Bristol on July 25, 1965 - but it wasn't a great return. Tiny Lund blew an engine, and G.C. Spencer and Junior Johnson got caught up in it. Petty slowed and was about to avoid it, but J.T. Putney plowed into the rear of Petty's car. The 43 continued for a few laps but then had to park it.

The Petty team thrashed on the car over the next week, banged out the damage, painted the repairs and hauled it six days later to Nashville - albeit without a driver's side 43.

Result in race number 2 of Petty's return? Victory lane. Bang.

Photo courtesy of Russ Thompson
Article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
TMC

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