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 RacersReunion.com
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 RacersReunion.com
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.


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