Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26 - Rookie and a Riverside Romp

January 26th and its ... the birthday of Schaefer Hall of Famer and raceday turkey leg connoisseur Rookie!

The day is also the anniversary of NASCAR Hall of Fame member Cale Yarborough's win in the 1974 Winston Western 500 at Riverside International Raceway in California. The southern California road course was a staple of NASCAR's Grand National / Cup schedule from the early 1960s until it was lost to commercial development in the late 1980s. Today's California Speedway in Fontana lies in close proximity to Riverside as well as the former Ontario Motor Speedway, also lost to expansion in the greater Los Angeles market during the 1980s.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
The race first took the green on the scheduled date of Sunday, January 20th. As the cars made their pace laps, Gary Bettenhausen started fifth in Roger Penske's #16 Matador with King Richard to his outside. Row 4 was Jimmy Insolo to the inside, and the 1973 WInston Cup champion Benny Parsons started sixth. At the right edge of the following photo is row 5, with Ray Elder to the inside and the ageless Hershel McGriff starting tenth in a second Petty Enterprises Dodge Charger.

Although the first two rows are outside the frame of this photo, their numbers can be read on the scoring pylon: 21 David Pearson on the pole, 11 Cale Yarborough second, 12 Bobby Allison third, and 15 George Follmer fourth. After starting second alongside pole-winner David Pearson, Cale spun off the course on the first lap.

He gathered the car back and resumed racing near the back of the pack. About 60 laps and well short of half-way, however, showers began to fall in the arid area of California. The race was postponed to the following Saturday, January 26th with Bobby Allison leading and The King sitting in second place.

Source: Lewiston Morning-Tribune via Google News Archive
When the teams returned six days later, Cale recovered from his spin and didn't take long to put his Junior Johnson Chevy back up front. He went on to lead 144 of the 191 laps to win the race. Not only was Petty running second to Allison when the rains fell on January 20th, but he also ended up second when the race ended on the 26th. The King tried to chase down Cale's Chevy but couldn't catch him.

Source for 3 photos above: Team Camaro message board
Richard racing his Petty Enterprises teammate, Hershel McGriff, although the photo caption erroneously had Charlie Glotzbach in the car.

Source: Hendersonville Times-News via Google News Archive
Following the race, David Pearson's 1971 Wood Brothers Purolator Mercury was retired to Darlington's  Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum (as it was known then) ...

... but is now known today simply as the Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum.

Source: Free Lance-Star via Google News Archive
The car was removed from the museum in 2008, restored by the Woods, and put back on the track a final time so Pearson could run a few pace laps with Carl Edwards.

After the promotional on-track return, the car didn't return to the Darlington museum. Instead, it was relocated to the Thunder Road exhibit in the higher profile NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

So while thinking of the postponed race, the close roadie win by Cale Yarborough over the The King, and the head-shaking reality that Cup cars no longer race at Riverside, the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor wish fellow Schaefer brutha Rookie...

Happy Birthday! SCHA-LOOT!!
and doesn't HE look as happy as a cat on a warm brick?

Edited January 26, 2015

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