Monday, December 10, 2012

Petty's Final Plymouth Race ... is a win for Allison

December 10th - And that can only mean one thing. Its Schaefer Hall of Famer Paduch's birthday!

SHOFers Bruton (L) and Paduch (R) with syndicated NASCAR beat writer, Monte Dutton

As was the case with Rev. Randy's birthday, our team couldn't determine any significant race ever held on December 10th. So we'll roll back a couple of days to December 8 to revisit a race that is at least in the ballpark of Paduch's annual 29th birthday: the 1968 Alabama 200 at Montgomery Speedway. The race was the second of the 1969 season and the last of six NASCAR Grand National races at Montgomery. (The 1969 season was the last one for NASCAR to open its Grand National / Cup season in the fall of the previous calendar year.)

The race was originally scheduled for November 24, 1968 - a week after Petty's win in the 1969 season-opener at Middle Georgia Raceway near Macon, Ga. But after back-to-back Sunday rainouts, the race was re-scheduled for what turned out to be a cold day on December 8.

Credit: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
Richard Petty, dominated much of the 200-lap, 100-mile race. Bobby Isaac led a couple of segments for a total of 50 laps, but King Richard always returned to the point.

In his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Vol. 3, Greg Fielden recaps:
Bobby Allison, hopelessly out of the running with just nine laps to go, took advantage of a timely caution and nabbed Richard Petty at the finish line for victory ... The slim crowd of 2,800, braving a bitter, icy wind, watched stock car racing history as both Allison and Petty were taking their last rides in Plymouths ... Petty had taken first place from Allison in the 168th lap and was pulling away. On lap 191 of the 200 lapper, Roy Tyner blew the engine in his Pontiac ... Allison ducked in the pits and got two new tires ... Petty opted to take track position and keep the lead ... When the green flag came out with two laps to go, Allison rapidly made up the deficit and was sitting on Petty's rear bumper within a lap. Coming off the final turn, Allison dived (sic) inside of Petty and won by four feet. ~ p. 218
For Petty fans, the narrow loss had to be tough to handle. The race was The King's final start in a Plymouth. His contact with Chrysler Corporation apparently ran through the end of calendar year 1968, so he ran the first two races of the 1969 season in a Mopar. When the calendar page turned to January 1, 1969, Petty became a full-time Blue Oval guy. Well, for one season at least...

Coincidentally, the race was also Allison's final race in a Plymouth. Largely a Chevy guy, Allison raced just about every car brand throughout his career. In late 1968, however, he signed on to drive Tom Friedken's Plymouths. In a limited time as a car owner, Friedken's Plymouths were raced by some great drivers including Jim Paschal (also a former Petty Enterprises driver) and Curtis Turner.

As I understand it, Friedken's #14 cars were generally painted somewhat of a slate-blue such as the one shown here from 1968.

Courtesy of Ray Lamm Collection
From what I've gleaned, however, the colors were changed when Allison joined the team for a handful of races in late '68. While I was unable to find an actual photo from the race, I learned this very nice model build is an indication of how great the car looked.

Credit: Richard Buhr personal build
The paint scheme foreshadowed Allison's future a bit. From 1970 through 1974, Bobby drove a Dodge, Ford, and Chevrolet for different car owners but with common sponsorship by Coca-Cola. The scheme Friedken ran on Bobby's Montgomery-winning Plymouth turned out to be very similar to the one used during the early 70s.

Allison and his family and friends may have had a shocked expression on their face when they turned to the sports page of the Tuscaloosa News, the paper near Hueytown, to see this headline. While the details were accurate, I'm guessing some thought initially Bobby's win had been overturned.
Source: Tuscaloosa News via Google News Archive
All wasn't lost, however, for Petty fans committed to Mopar. After only a single season with Ford, the King returned to Plymouth and its iconic Superbird in 1970. And despite losing its NASCAR GN races in the late 60s, Montgomery Speedway (web and Twitter) continues to operate today with its slate of regular feature races.

NSSN headline and article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
So while thinking of the close finish by Bobby Allison over his rival Richard Petty and the head-shaking resignation by Petty fans that Plymouth was gone and Ford was in,the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor wish fellow Schaefer brutha Paduch ...

Happy Birthday! SCHA-LOOT!!
 
SHOF Co-Founder, Philly (L) and SHOF entrant #3, Paduch (R)
TMC
Edited December 8, 2014

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