Monday, July 29, 2013

July 29, 1962 - Jim Paschal Banks Bristol

July 29, 1962: Driving a Petty Engineering #42 Plymouth, Jim Paschal wins the second annual Southeastern 500 at Bristol International Speedway. Teammates Richard Petty (43) and Bunkie Blackburn (41) finish third and eighth, respectively.

The race was very competitive. The top four finishers led their share of laps led. Junior Johnson, however, was the exception. Starting second, he led the most laps - 166 - but wrecked and finished 29th.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Despite Petty Plymouths finishing first, third, and eighth, the future for the team at Bristol would not turn out to be so bright. Paschal's win was a rare one for Petty Engineering at Bristol. Richard Petty won the 1967 Volunteer 500 and swept the 1975 races - the Southeastern 500 and Volunteer 500. Those three wins are all Petty Enterprises ever earned in about four decades of racing at Bristol.

Paschal's victory was the first by a Petty Engineering / Enterprises driver NOT named Petty. He'd go on to win eight more times and notch an additional 24 top five finishes in 65 starts for Petty Enterprises. With Lee's career coming to an end with his vicious wreck at Daytona in February 1961, Paschal was a great hire for the company to keep the wins, finishes, and money flowing until Richard truly established himself as a winning driver.

Greg Fielden notes in Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Vol. 2:
Junior Johnson slugged his way to the front and led on two occasions for a total of 166 laps. However, his Pontiac popped a tire and he crammed head first into the retaining wall on lap 283, putting him out of the action.

Petty and Lorenzen fought for the lead after Johnson's departure and trackside witnesses said Lorenzen leaved heavily on Petty' s rear bumper. On lap 321, the Elmhust, IL Ford driver eased into the side of the Petty Plymouth and cut the left rear tire. The rub down sent Richard to the pits and he was unable to make a run for the lead for the remainder of the race.

Lorenzen led for a 91 lap stretch, but Paschal ran him down in the final 100 laps. After an exchange of pit stops, Lorenzen held a three second advantage which Paschal erased in a matter of eight laps. On lap 475, Paschal whipped his car in a four wheel drift coming off the fourth turn and spurted ahead of Lorenzen for the final pass of the race.

Joe Weatherly's sixth place finish left him 1,786 points ahead of Petty in the point standings. Little Joe almost did not start the race. Qualifying 13th, he refused to line his Pontiac up on the starting grid because of an ingrained superstition about the number 13. The promoter graciously allowed him to use the starting position designated as "12a" instead of 13. ~ p. 170
Driving a third Petty Plymouth, Bunkie Blackburn tangled with other cars and backed his car into the guardrail near pit road. After getting an assist from the wrecker, the Petty crew repaired the car. Blackburn returned to the race and still eked out a top 10 finish, nine laps down to the winner.

Photo and NSSN headline courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Source: Hendersonville, NC's The Times-News via Google News Archive
The start of the race was delayed about a half-hour because of localized showers. This delay reminded me of my first trip to Bristol in the spring of 1986 for the Valleydale 500. Morning rains on race day also delayed the start of the 1986 event. The race got underway after a delayed start, and I was there to see Rusty Wallace win his first Winston Cup race.


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