Now where was I? Oh yeah...
Petty portion of the story
In mid-1978, Richard Petty made the stunning announcement that Petty Enterprises was leaving Dodge and moving to General Motors. Though the move was carefully made, the readiness for it was not. Petty made his final start in a Dodge in the Talladega 500. Then it was on to Chevy.
Without much lead time, the Pettys had to rally a car. They bought a Monte Carlo from Cecil Gordon, re-worked it, re-painted it, and hauled it to Michigan for its debut. The car ran pretty well and Petty landed a 14th place finish, but he wrecked the car - the only one he had - near the end of the race.
With only six days to spare before the following race, the Volunteer 500 (Bristol's first night race), the team arranged with Gray to borrow his Monte Carlo. The car Henley provided seems to be the same one Elmo Langley raced at Dover - though originally slotted for Woody Fisher.
|Credit: Richard Stockman of RIS Photography|
|Credit: Donald Evans at RacersReunion.com|
|Source: Spartanburg Herald Journal via Google News Archive|
When the Pettys decided to switch to GM, they purchased two cars - the Monte Carlo from Cecil Gordon and a Buick from A.J. Foyt. The Buick wasn't a popular choice for teams in 1978, but Foyt and car-builder Hutcherson-Pagan believed the body style had a favorable aero package.
|Source: Reading Eagle via Google News Archive|
He qualified second but started at the rear of the field after pitting on the pace lap to fix an issue with his in-helmet radio. Once the green dropped, however, he served notice the Buick was back in business. In short order, he was up front with the Cup regulars. He finished third proving yet again the Hutcherson-Pagan built Buick was a hoss. It was logical Petty would be interested in the car.
The Petty team examined their new purchase and apparently ran some aero tests on it to compare to the numbers for other makes. At the time, they may have considered running it in superspeedway events in 1979 as A.J. had done in 1978. Instead, the team made the decision to build a new Olds Cutlas 442 speedway car to take to Daytona. The decision was a good one as the King won his sixth Daytona 500. Coincidentally, Foyt was third in his own, new Olds.
Back to Henley
Once the decision was made to build an Olds, the Pettys had no need for the Buick. The sheet metal was removed and given to Henley - perhaps as thanks for letting Richard borrow the Monte Carlo at Bristol. (What Petty Enterprises did with the Foyt chassis remains unknown.)
Henley and his son Steve re-skinned one of their cars (perhaps the one Dick May wrecked at Bristol) with the hand-me-down Buick sheet metal. Dick May raced the 'new' Buick at Martinsville and North Wilkesboro, and Elmo Langley was back behind the wheel of it at Rockingham - still painted in Foyt's Poppy Red paint.
The Monte Carlos continued to be painted yellow-and-blue - the scheme that began when it seemed Woody Fisher would be Gray's regular driver in early 1978. Virginia's Lennie Pond, the 1973 Winston Cup Rookie Of The Year, raced the #19 Monte Carlo in the 1979 Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan. Coincidentally, Richard Petty won the race - one year after he debuted his newly purchased Monte Carlo at the same track
|Courtesy of Ray Lamm|
|Source: Rome News-Tribune via Google News Archive|
|Credit: Steve Gray Facebook|
|Credit: John Betts of RacersReunion.com|
Gray is still around today. He runs his own trucking business in Rome, Georgia.
Thanks to John Evanich, Mark Agee, Jeff Droke, Chris Hussey and Russ Thompson for their assistance.