Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29, 1960 - Lee Petty Hauls in Hillsboro

May 29, 1960: Starting second alongside son Richard, Lee Petty leads all 110 laps and wins at the .9 mile dirt surface Orange Speedway in Hillsboro, NC.

Richard Petty won his first of 127 career poles for this race, but he finished sixth and three laps down to the winner.

Perry Allen Wood humorously recalls this apparently boring race in his book, Silent Speedways of the Carolinas.
Memorial Day weekend, May 29, 1960, and 23 lined up the day after [Ned] Jarrett and [Jimmy] Massey teamed to win at Spartanburg. Boring would be a kind way to describe this as Lee Petty took the pole (TMC: Actually, it was Richard), then led all 110 laps for his 51st win. He had started with son Richard flanking him on the front row for the first time, but youth faded fast. It took less than 73 minutes for Papa Lee to cop the $900 in his Petty blue 42. Second was "Gentleman Ned" Jarrett, third Jack "The Red Fox" Smith, fourth Tommy Irwin, fifth "The Old Pro" Buck Baker, sixth Richard "Squirrel" Petty, seventh [Emanuel] "The Golden Greek" Zervakis, eighth Joe Eubanks, ninth Junior "The Ronda Roadrunner" Johnson, and tenth was Gerald Duke... This sleeper should have been the "Nickname 99". The only caution was for [Curtis] Turner's flight off the turn into the shrubs, but short of the drink. ~ p.111
Source: Newport News Daily Press
The Hillsboro race was hastily scheduled in mid-May 1960. The inaugural World 600 at the newly constructed Charlotte Motor Speedway was originally scheduled for May 29th.

Because of construction delays and track preparedness resulting from money woes between owners/promoters Curtis Turner and Bruton Smith, the duo and NASCAR announced on May 18th that the 600 would be postponed until June 19th. With the date vacated, the Grand National teams raced at Hillsboro instead.

Edited May 29, 2014

May 29, 1955 - Indy's loss overshadows Petty's win

May 29, 1955: Driving a year-old Chrysler, Lee Petty leads 33 laps and wins a 200-lap, 100-mile race on the half-mile dirt track at Forsyth County Fairgrounds in Winston-Salem, NC.

From the late 1950s through 1971, most folks think of Bowman Gray Stadium when they hear the phrases NASCAR Grand National racing history and Winston-Salem. But three years before the GN cars made their debut at Bowman Gray, the Forsyth County Fairgrounds promoted the series. The track hosted only two NASCAR Grand National events. Both of them were in 1955, and Lee swept them.

Future Petty Enterprises driver, Jim Paschal, finished second - the only other car on the lead lap. Bob Welborn finished seventh in a Chevrolet fielded by Julian Petty, Lee's brother. Buck Baker - inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in February 2013 - started second and led 126 of the 200 laps. He broke an axle, however, and finished 12th in the 23-car field, 27 laps down.

Perry Allen Wood summarized the race in Silent Speedways of the Carolinas:
May 29, 1955, was a spring Sunday and 23 Grand Nationals lined up for the first of two scheduled there for the season... The mighty Kiekhaefer Chrysler 300 of Fonty Flock took the pole and brother Tim timed sixth. There was an outbreak of yellow fever that day as the slowdown silk flew eight times. Fonty fell out early. Smokey [Yunick]'s Hudson had Herb [Thomas]'s brother Donald in the saddle, but crashed on lap 142. Junior Johnson started up front but succumbed to mechanical woes. Tim fell out in the other Kiekhaefer, Buck's axle broke, [Gwyn] Staley lost his rear, and Volney Schulze's 69 had the coolest name and number in the house. Just under two hours after the start, Petty beat the only other driver to complete 200 laps, Jim Paschal. ~ pp. 176-177
On the same day the NASCAR guys were banging around a half-mile dirt track, the sports media was focused on the nation's premier motorsports event: the Indianapolis 500. A day after the NASCAR race in Winston-Salem, Bill Vukovich was going for an unprecedented hat trick - three consecutive wins in the 500. On May 30th, he took the lead quickly in the 1955 race and lapped most of the field by lap 50.

But on lap 57 with a huge lead on second, he ran upon lapped traffic. A wreck happened in front of him. Vukovich's car was hooked and leapt the short fence on the backstretch. The car hurtled violently multiple times and caught fire. The two-time defending champ burned to death while trapped upside down. His horrific death was understandably the top motorsports story, and it certainly trumped anything Lee accomplished in Winston-Salem.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28, 1972 - Buddy nabs World 600

May 28, 1972: A Petty Enterprises car takes the checkers in Charlotte's World 600. And for the third time, Richard Petty isn't the winner. After wins by Jim Paschal in 1964 and Marvin Panch in 1966, Buddy Baker becomes the third driver to pilot a Petty prepared car to victory in the series' longest race.
Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Bobby Allison won the pole in his Coca-Cola-sponsored, Junior Johnson-prepared #12 Chevy. David Pearson starting alongside him in the Wood Brothers, Purolator Mercury. But Pearson and the Woods  learned a bit more that weekend about how to get around Charlotte just that much quicker than everyone else. The Silver Fox then nabbed 12 of the next 13 poles at Charlotte from the fall of 1972 through 1978.

Row two was 1970 Grand National champion Bobby Isaac and Jim Vandiver. Row three was good ol' Joe Frasson and eventual winner Baker. Next came Columbia, Tennessee's Coo Coo Marlin ♫ coo coo ♫ and Dave Marcis in Roger Penske's red-white-blue #16 Matador. The King lined up on the inside of the fifth row.

Credit: Gerald Medford from
After years of running exclusively Petty blue-painted cars with financial support provided primarily by Chrysler Corporation, Petty Enterprises signed an agreement with STP in early 1972. Despite insistence by Andy Granatelli, STP's CEO, that Petty's cars be all red, negotiations resulted in Richard's iconic 43 being painted a combination of STP day-glo red and Petty blue. A second car, however, was fielded for Baker on a limited schedule. And perhaps to wring some extra dollars out of Granatelli, Baker's #11 was painted all day-glo red. The thing must have been a true retina-burner on the track.

Credit: scott_9445 on Flickr
For many of the 600-milers from the first one in 1960, the first 500 miles have been the relatively easy part for the drivers. The final 100 miles, however, is often a combination of attrition and survival to separate the winner from the field. Blown engines, cut tires, wrong decisions on chassis adjustments, error-filled pit stops, driver exhaustion, etc. often drag a presumptive winner's name into the depths of the final finishing order.

Baker led only six of the race's 400 laps - but they were the ones that mattered. Pole-winner Allison dominated the race by leading 239 laps. But he cut both right side tires with less than 35 laps to go and had to make an unscheduled stop. The instance of well that's racin' put Allison behind Baker and relegated him to second place.

Richard Petty - Baker's Petty Enterprises and STP teammate - once again was unable to close the sale for a Charlotte victory. He blew an engine, hit the wall hard, and finished 19th. Also, Jim Paschal made his final career NASCAR Grand National / Winston Cup start. As has been blogged here many times, Paschal had much of his success in Plymouth's fielded by Petty Enterprises in the early 1960s.

After 4+ hours behind the wheel, Baker took the win and was exhausted as he exited the car in victory lane.

Credit: Smyle Media and NASCAR Then and Now, p. 135
(Tip to fellow blogger and Twitter tweep Becca Gladden)
But after catching his breath, the joy of the win returned. The sight of the trophy and pretty girls got him back on his feet I suppose. He was joined in victory lane by long-time Petty Enterprises crewman, Richie Barz.

Credit: Gerald Medford at
SMJ cover courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
A couple of months later, Baker's win was featured in Stock Car Racing magazine.

Source: Wilmington NC's Star-News via Google News Archive
The win was Baker's second and last win in two seasons with Petty Enterprises. He started 19 of 48 Cup races in 1971. When STP came aboard in 1972, Baker ran another 10 races in the day-glo red #11 Petty Enterprises Dodge. Following the Southern 500, however, Baker left the Pettys and joined the #71 K&K Insurance team owned by Nord Krauskopf. The move had been rumored in the days leading up to the Southern 500 and was confirmed the day after it.

Source: The (Sumter) Daily Item via Google News Archive
Source: The (Sumter) Daily Item via Google News Archive
The King struggled to find victory lane at Charlotte from the time it opened. He finished 2nd to teammate Paschal in 1964, Baker got the 1972 600 win in a Petty car, and Marvin Panch won the 1966 600 in a #42 Petty Plymouth with relief help from Richard. The King finally got his own World 600 wins - first in 1975 and then again in 1977.


Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24, 1964 - Paschal's forgotten World 600 win

May 24, 1964: Jim Paschal wins the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a #41 Petty Enterprises Plymouth. The organization maxed the money that day as teammate Richard Petty finished second.

The green flag got underway, and the cars took off 2x2. Two drivers figuring prominently in the race's story lines started side by side - Fireball Roberts in 11th and race winner Paschal in 12th.

Credit: Crabber1967 Photobucket
All should have been right with the world. The driver who fans would call King Richard within a couple of years opened the 1964 season with a dominating win in the Daytona 500. Paschal gave Plymouth fans another reason to celebrate with his win in the 600. Super Tex - A.J. Foyt - won his first of four Indianapolis 500 races. And the 1964 World's Fair opened in New York City with the Schaefer Center being a signature hall. If I had been of age back then, I'm guessing I would have reached TMC Nirvana.

Instead, things turned for the coincidentally tragic. Most race fans - even ones pretty knowledgeable about the races of that era - don't remember Paschal winning the 600. They remember the 600 for the wreck by Fireball Roberts and the resulting horrific fire.

NSSN Headline courtesy of Jerry Bushmire

As Ned Jarrett referenced in the video, he jumped from his wrecked and burning #11 Ford to go help Fireball as best he could.

Photo courtesy of 'Bumpertag' at
The Indianapolis 500 was run six days later on May 30. Tragically, that race also had a horrific wreck. Eddie Sachs drilled Dave McDonald, and the fuel from McDonald's car ignited into an inferno. Sachs died immediately from the hit, and McDonald passed away later in the day.

As racers do, however, they continue. The practice may be considered cold and uncaring to some, but only on rare occasions have races been postponed or ended because of an incredible wreck resulting in injuries of driver deaths. Foyt soldiered on at Indy to capture the 500, and the Level Cross crews kept their drivers' heads in the game to post a 1-2 finish for Petty Enterprises at the end of 600 miles.
Tim Leeming from - and allegedly the first person to get an autograph from Richard Petty - attended the 1964 600 and shared these memories:
My Uncle Bobby, my brother Richard, cousin Eddie and I spent all day Saturday before the race installing a heavy duty luggage rack and a 3/4 inch thick 4x8 sheet of plywood to the roof of a 1956 Ford Station wagon my uncle bought just to rig up like that for races. We were on the road before sun up Sunday to Charlotte. When we got there, Bobby parked on a little ridge behind the fence running along the back end of the pits going into turn one.

I immediately got out and climbed on top to see the view. Surprise of the day was finding a pair of pliers and a screwdriver that had been left on the plywood and made the entire trip to Charlotte. The view was awesome. I could see from coming off turn four all the way around to halfway through turn three. So we had an excellent view.

On the 7th lap, I was watching Richard who was running just in front of the Jarrett-Roberts-Johnson trio. I saw the spin/slide start, and then the cars went behind the crowd along the backstretch. Yellow came out about the same time black smoke started rising. Uncle Bobby had his ear pressed to a little transistor radio trying to hear what was going on, and he yelled that Fireball's car was on fire. The smoke was thick and black. To this day I can't go to Charlotte without remembering the sight of that smoke.

They pulled the car through the infield to the pits on the access road coming through the infield from the backstretch. I was standing along the road and saw the car go by. It was completely burned, and the back-end was almost non-existent. I had no idea at the time that Fireball was seriously injured. It wasn't long before the chopper lifted off from the infield care center, and Uncle Bobby said they were flying Fireball to the hospital.

I do remember, not sure what lap, somewhere around lap 50 or 60, watching Richard come off turn four leading at the time with Marvin Panch in hot pursuit. As he crossed the start/finish, I saw something flash out of the stands. Someone had thrown a beer can on the track. Richard hit it, blew a tire, and kicked the can in the air. Panch hit it next, and his tire blew. That put Richard down two or three laps, but I remember that throughout the entire race he was about the fastest car on the track.

We were watching Jim Paschal and Richard both running. Jim was so smooth and steady he looked like he was never going to get to the end with the victory. With about 15 laps to go, I slipped through the gate and into the pits. I was very good with getting away with things like that back then. It was always my belief that if I acted like I knew what I was doing (which I really seldom ever did know) I could get away with it. I was standing behind the Petty pits when Maurice and another crew member put up the two black board communicators with dollar signs ($) on each one announcing to Jim and Richard that they were in for a good pay day.
The Chrysler Corporation produced a short video recapping the race. Logically, Plymouths feature prominently in the film and the brand drops. Even with the embedded advertising, the 8-minute clip is a great piece of history about the race and includes some fantastic coverage of many cars. As narrator Dave Despain alludes near the end of the segment, nary a mention is made of the terrible accident that ultimately claimed Roberts' life.

Source: The Sumter Daily Item via Google News Archive
With Disney's Magic Kingdom not opening for another seven years, I found it funny and refreshingly honest for Paschal to declare his plans to start a chicken ranch with his prize winnings instead of proclaiming "I'm going to Disney World" as is done today.

To the victor belongs the spoils...

Photo courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
...and the personal service endorsements (though the spoils are much nicer).

Many don't realize Fireball didn't die in the 600 accident. He suffered tremendous burns and was airlifted to a local hospital where he stayed for weeks to recover. Sadly, however, infections set in, and Roberts passed away on July 2, 1964 - two days before Daytona's Firecracker 400. (Coincidentally, Indy 500 winner Foyt also won the Firecracker 400 in 1964.)

Roberts was interred at a cemetery not far from the Daytona International Speedway.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23, 1954 - Lee Petty Soaks up Sharon

May 23, 1954: Lee Petty wins a rain-shortened race at Sharon Speedway. The race on the half-mile dirt track was scheduled for 200 laps and 100 miles.

The race was the only NASCAR Grand National event ever sanctioned at the track. Sharon Speedway is located in Hartford, Ohio but was named for nearby Sharon, Pennsylvania.

Long-time unofficial NASCAR historian Greg Fielden wrote in his book Forty Years of Stock Car Racing:
Lee Petty took the lead in the 101st lap and was in front when rain terminated the 100-mile Gran National Race at Sharon Speedway after 160 of the scheduled 200 laps had been been completed... A crowd of 4,000 was in attendance despite the poor weather. Because of the frequent rain interruptions, no official average speed was recorded. ~ p. 146.
Credit: Mike Shaub at
I find it interesting and a bit humorous that Fielden's reason for the early end to the race didn't match the reason noted in the Associated Press wire report.

Source: Reading Eagle via Google News Archive
The track originally opened in the late 1920s. Though it hosted only one NASCAR GN race, the track still operates today as a 3/8-mile, dirt oval under the ownership of driver Dave Blaney and others. A full slate of modified, late model, sprints, and mini-stock races is slated for 2013. Follow 'em on Twitter at @sharonspdwy.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 22, 1966 - Panch wins 600 for and with Petty

May 22, 1966: For the second time in three years, a Petty Plymouth takes the checkers in the World 600 at Charlotte. And for the second time, King Richard ain't cher winnah.

Marvin Panch won the 1966 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a #42 Petty Plymouth. The King led six laps but fell out of the race and finished 22nd. When an ailing Panch needed relief help, Richard saddled up in in the 42 and brought the car to the checkers with Panch credited as the winner.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
The King won the pole and set the pace at the green. Former Petty Enterprises teammate, Jim Paschal, flanked him on the front row. Row 2 was Earl Balmer and David Pearson in Cotton Owens' Dodge. Panch started inside of the 4th row in seventh spot. 

 Source: Photobucket - crabber1967

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
Panch originally was going to sit out out the 600 because of Ford's NASCAR boycott of NASCAR in 1966. He got an offer from Petty Enterprises, however, to to race Richard's year-old car as a teammate to the 43. Panch made the most of the opportunity and took home the trophy with relief help from Richard.

Greg Fielden in his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Volume 3, wrote:
Panch, member of the Ford factory team since 1962, explained why he discontinued his support of the Ford walkout in a rules hassle. "Lee Petty offered me a ride in his car, so I just had to take it" said Panch. ~ p. 83
David Pearson led 134 of the 400 laps in his Dodge and looked to be in a position to walk the dog on the field. But a right front wheel broke, and Pearson went straight into the fence to end his day.  Paul Goldsmith was the next Mopar driver to have clean air. He led 112 laps before losing the engine in his Ray Nichels-owened Plymouth. With Petty, Pearson, and Goldsmith out of the race, Panch (with help from The King) went to the front and led the final 99 laps.

Photo courtesy of Ray Lamm of
YouTube can often be a wonderful thing. I found some grainy but interesting home video footage of The King taking the checkers and helping Panch earn his victory.

Source: Rome News-Tribune via Google News Archive
Following the race and with Ford's boycott of NASCAR still in place, some speculated Panch may join forces with Petty Enterprises on a more permanent basis. In a pre-Jayski era of rumors, fans and media wondered if he might abandon Ford permanently and race Plymouths for the balance of his career.

Source: The (Hendersonville NC) Times-News via Google News Archive
As it turned out, 1966 was Panch's final season in NASCAR. He ran only seven more races following the 600 to wrap up his career. His final three races were in the #42 Petty Plymouth at Dixie 400 at Atlanta, the Southern 500 at Darlington, and the National 500 at Charlotte. But he also had some memorable finishes with a 4th at Darlington and 6th at Charlotte.

In 1998, Panch was chosen as one of NASCAR's Top 50 Drivers. At the age of 85, Marvin remains alive and well in 2013 and lives in Florida. Though I've never had the opportunity to meet him, I imagine he remains grateful for the chance to race for the Pettys because his win turned out to be the final one of his career.

Credit: The Speedway Club February 8, 2013 tweet

Edited May 22, 2014

May 22, 1959 - Lee wins at Charlotte

May 22, 1959: Starting fourth on a Friday night, Lee Petty leads 58 of 200 laps in his Oldsmobile and wins by about 20 yards over former Petty Enterprises driver Tiny Lund in the 100-mile race at Southern States Fairgrounds speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Lee's 58 laps on point on the half-mile dirt track were matched by fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker. When the checkers fell, however, Buck finished fifth and one lap down to Petty. Neither driver matched Joe Weatherly in terms of laps led. Weatherly started second and led 77 laps. A rear end failure ended his day, however, and the eventual 2-time NASCAR Grand National champion finished 16th in the 25-car field.

In only his 16th career NASCAR GN start, Richard Petty - Lee's son who eventually had a modicum of success in NASCAR - started 11th and finished 19th.


Friday, May 17, 2013

May 17, 1953 - Lee Petty Masters Martinsville

May 17, 1953:  Lee Petty wins a 200-lap, 100-mile race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. Yet as often was the case when Lee contended for a win, his victory involved some controversy.

Because of confusion with 'official' scoring by the teams and NASCAR (a tag-team effort from the early days of NASCAR until about 20 years ago), Petty was not credited with leading a lap. Yet, he was declared the winner of the race. Huh? What?

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
In his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Vol. 1, Greg Fielden writes:
Herb Thomas zipped past Joe Eubanks in the 74th lap, led the rest of the way, and was flagged the winner at ... Martinsville Speedway. However, when NASCAR officials checked the score cards, it was discovered that, on paper, Lee Petty had completed the 200 laps ... before Thomas did.

Petty was then declared the winner for the third time in the 1953 season. Thomas yelled foul, claiming Petty never passed him on the track. Most of the 9,000 spectators in attendance seemed to agree with Thomas. They went home thinking the Olivia, NC speedster had won the race.

Modified hot shot (TMC: and future NASCAR HOFer) Glen Wood of Stuart, VA made his first Grand National start and finished 30th in a Lincoln. 

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16, 1958 - Lee Wins a Ragtop Race

May 16, 1958: Starting second, Lee Petty leads about half the race in an Oldsmobile and wins a 200-lap, 100-mile NASCAR convertible series race at the dirt fairgrounds speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Tiny Lund won the pole and led the first half of the race before surrendering the lead to Petty. Tiny and Petty Enterprises had somewhat of an interesting relationship. He drove a second #188 Petty Enterprises car for a few races in 1957 as Lee's teammate, and he returned 10 years later to drive four more races in a #42 Plymouth as a teammate to Richard Petty.

Tiny's brief stint with Petty Enterprises in 1957 apparently didn't end amicably. As writer Tom Higgins has told the story on more than one occasion:
Lund had driven five races for the Petty team in 1957 and the association ended bitterly.

Prior to a race in Greensboro, a flatbed from a trailer truck was being used as a stage for driver introductions. So happened that Petty and Lund were starting in fairly close proximity, so they passed on the stage.

An obviously disparaging remark was made and knuckles started flying.

"The deal was, Tiny and Daddy had a falling out," said Richard Petty. "To spite Daddy, Tiny was telling the other teams about some special, secret things we did to our cars. Daddy confronted him about it, and they went to it, right there in front of everybody. I think Daddy took the first swing."

"Tiny" was a joke of a nickname for Lund. He stood 6-5 and weighed between 250 and 275 pounds. Lee Petty stood 6-3 and weighed about 175.

"Daddy and Tiny scuffled onto the deck of that flatbed and he was whipping Daddy pretty bad. Me and my brother Maurice, both still teen-agers, jumped in to try and help Daddy. Well, Tiny was whupping all three of us.

"This is when my mother got involved. She came on that stage and started pummeling Tiny in the head with her purse. She was raising pump knots on poor ol' Tiny.

"The reason is, she had a .38 caliber pistol in that purse!"

Read more here:
Greg Fielden describes the 1958 Charlotte race in his book, Rumblin' Ragtops - The History of NASCAR's Faboulous Convertible Division:
Petty sped across the finish line seven laps in front of runner-up Ken Rush to nail down his first convertible triumph... The half-mile dirt course became an obstacle course within the first 35 laps. Two A-frames broke on the rutted surface, an accelerator linkage broke off another car, and a steering assembly broke on another. Many of the cars which finished looked like the runnin' wounded. ~ p.98
Lee started 28 races in NASCAR's limited-life convertible series. His victory at Charlotte was his first of only two career wins in the series. The second one came in July 1959 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The King v. The Silver Fox: Race hard with class

Despite the collective mixed feelings about the economic viability and the authenticity of some of the exhibits of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it is still mighty cool to see the well deserved pride and joy of those inducted each January and those nominated in April for future selection. In the few years of the NHOF's activities, I find it particularly fun to see former competitors enjoy each other's company and recognize one another's accomplishments.

Much has been said over the last couple of years that NASCAR needs new "rivalries" - as in a good guy vs a bad guy.
  • Make Kyle and Kurt angrier. 
  • Light Harvick's fuse so he'll go off. 
  • Feed Smoke's surliness. 
  • Keep kicking JoLo until he fights back.
  • Repeat Jeff Gordon's slap fights against Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Bowyer in the hopes he'll drum up some sort of rivalry after 20 years in Cup.
But as NASCAR returns to Darlington this week, I'm reminded of a rivalry of old that was a rivalry of gold - The King and The Silver Fox.

1964 - Credit: Tim Leeming of
Not only do Richard Petty and David Pearson have respect for each other now - but they also had it for one another back then. I found this article from The Sumter Daily Item earlier this year about Pearson's win in the 1970 Rebel 400. Bear in mind less than 24 hours earlier, The King had just gone through the worst wreck of his career and an overnight hospital stay.

Credit: Dargan Watts at
Putting the discomfort of his own injuries and economic pain of his wrecked cars aside, Petty made it a point to call and congratulate David on his win. THEN he turned his focus to his own team - namely to find the whereabout of his boots!

1976 - Credit: Randy Murphy of
The two drivers had a fierce yet professional rivalry. And their rivalry was one that mattered because both were generally near the front. Petty is the NASCAR Grand National / Cup all-time winner with 200 victories, and Pearson is second with 105 wins. The two finished first-second to each other an amazing 63 times from the early 1960s through the late 1970s. One trusted the other on the track - yet they likely desired to beat the other week in and week out more than any other driver.

So today's PR-managed "sport" can have its contrived rivalries, Twitter spats, attempted kicks to the groin, and misplaced cell phone numbers or addresses...

...and I'll take the time-tested rivalry.

Though I do have to concede I sheepishly wouldn't mind the return of a truly tougher rivalry - maybe one along the lines of the King vs. Bobby Allison (and his fans).


Sunday, May 5, 2013

May 5, 1963 - Jim Paschal Rumbles in Randleman

May 5, 1963: Starting third, Jim Paschal wins at Tar Heel Speedway in Randleman, NC. The speedway only hosted three NASCAR Grand National races - all in the 1963 season. Petty cars won all three of them - two by Paschal and one by Richard Petty.

In the second of the three races run and won by Petty cars, Paschal raced a #43 Petty Plymouth. While the concept of a driver other than Richard Petty winning in 43 may seem odd, it was most likely a team strategy. The Petty team often fielded multiple cars throughout the early 1960s, and Richard was generally given the pick of the litter. He likely believed the team's #41 Plymouth was the right choice - especially since Paschal won at Tar Heel in the car a few months earlier in the season. Early returns suggested he was headed in the right direction as he qualified second. But a faulty fuel pump relegated Petty to 13th in the 15-car field - the last car still running - while Paschal took the checkers in the 43.

Perry Allen Wood in his book Silent Speedways of the Carolinas recaps the race as follows:
... race 22 of the '63 campaign was held at Tar Heel and Richard Petty, being the clever guy that he is, swapped cars with Paschal for this one, not to be fooled twice in his own sandbox. There were only 15 entries and the top two were the same as before. It was deja vu all over again as Jim Paschal decided to lay back and watch [Ned] Jarrett pace the field for the opening 130 laps until he had a flat a la Glen Wood in the Turkey Day 200 six months earlier. Paschal inherited the lead according to plan as Ned lost a mile getting fresh rubber. High Point's Paschal cruised away, taking 43 to his second win in a row at Tar Heel and sixth straight on the season for Petty Plymouth... Richard's brilliant car switch backfired as he finished the last man running 13th, 20 laps behind after a fuel pump was replaced. 
Fellow Schaefer HOFer Philly and I made the trip to Randleman to see the remnants of Tar Heel Speedway in May 2012. We arrived and got ... close. Yet, we were so far away. Its obvious why Petty Enterprises wanted to succeed - and did - at Tar Heel. The track was only about 2.5 miles from the Petty team shop.

Source: The Times-News via Google News Archive
Defending Grand National champion (and eventual 1963 champ), Joe Weatherly, finished second in the race in a car owned by Cliff Stewart. The race was also promoted by Stewart. About two decades later, Stewart fielded cars for drivers such as Morgan Shepherd, Geoff Bodine...

Photo courtesy of Keith Koether
... and Rusty Wallace.