Saturday, November 23, 2013

November 23, 1980 - Petty Pockets Phoenix

The first NASCAR Winston Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway was in 1988 and won by Alan Kulwicki. The track's history, however, goes back decades before to the mid 1960s. From now through November 2014, Phoenix will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary year.

From 1977 through 1984, NASCAR's Winston West series ran an annual 250-kilometer, 156-lap race at Phoenix. The races were always scheduled the week following the season-ending Winston Cup races at Ontario Motor Speedway and later Riverside International Raceway. Several Cup regulars raced in Phoenix's Winston West event before heading back home to the south.

Richard Petty made himself at home over a multi-year stretch at Phoenix. He won three of four races between 1978 and 1981 - including the Arizona NAPA 250 on November 23, 1980.

King Richard won the pole for the 1980 event, and another Cup ringer Bobby Allison qualified second in a car borrowed from Cup journeyman D.K. Ulrich. Bill Schmitt, a Winston West regular, timed third. Joe Ruttman, who raced USAC stock cars, ARCA, and just about any other stock car with 4 wheels, lined up fourth in an Oldsmobile fielded by Jim Stacy. Coincidentally, Ruttman got the nod to take the seat of Stacy's #2 Cup car about nine months later when Dale Earnhardt left Stacy's team after it had been purchased from Rod Osterlund.

A couple of next-generation young drivers who would have a future impact in Cup racing also made the Phoenix event. Bobby Allison's son - Davey - qualified 11th in his father's hand-me-down AMC Matador, and Kyle Petty qualified 7th in an STP Chevy Caprice.

Richard took the lead at the green and led the first 27 laps. Canadian racer Roy Smith then took over a few laps - as did Richard's son, Kyle, for six laps. Second-place starter Allison led the middle third of the race for a streak of 50+ laps. 

Richard raced a Chevy Monte Carlo and Kyle raced the Caprice - presumably the same cars they raced at Ontario in the Cup race a week earlier. Allison is shown here in Ulrich's #4 Monte Carlo.

As the race headed for its conclusion, R. Petty and Allison battled for the lead though Richard led all but one lap down the stretch to capture the win. Allison finished where he started - second, and Kyle stayed competitive all day to come home third as the final car to finish on the lead lap. Davey Allison crashed early in the event and ended up 29th in the 30-car field.

GNS cover and article courtesy of Russ Thompson
Though Petty's victory is logged as a Winston West one only and not included in his tally of 200 Grand National / Winston Cup wins, it's always a good time when a Petty car can occupy Victory Lane in any series.


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