Saturday, May 30, 2015

May 30, 1964 - Tiring Night at Greenville-Pickens

Six days after a tough race at Charlotte where Fireball Roberts was critically burned in an early race accident and on the same day Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs died from injuries suffered in a second lap accident in the Indianapolis 500, NASCAR's Grand National drivers did what they always do following a tragedy. They raced the next event.

The drivers rolled into Greenville-Pickens Speedway for the 200-lap, 100-mile Pickens 200 on a South Carolina Saturday night.

Marvin Panch won the pole in the Wood Brothers #21 Ford. David Pearson - who'd become the driver of the Woods' 21 less than a decade later - timed second. Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty made up the second row, and Buck Baker rounded out the top 5.

Panch led 55 laps as he got the jump on the field from his top starting spot. Then the second place starter Pearson took over. He led the next 129 laps and had the checkers in sight ... until he lost an engine in his Cotton Owens' Dodge.

Lee Roy Yarbrough inherited the lead with 16 laps to go and a one-lap lead over second place Petty. But then...

Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal via Google News Archive
King's memory was close but apparently not quite spot-on. Yarbrough was the first to blow a tire. He did so with about 10 laps to go and made the call to go the distance. He rolled slowly around the track as Petty hustled to make up his lap and another to take the lead and win the race. Instead, as King remembered, the 43 also blew a tire.

As the two cars battled one another to the line with blown tires, the flagman waved the checkered flag instead of the white one as the two drivers completed lap 199 - one lap early. Nonetheless, Lee Roy Yarbrough in a year-old, independent Plymouth was declared the winner with Petty finishing second - two car lengths behind.

Instead of Petty pocketing what would have been his 31st (and ultimately 201st) victory, Yarbrough banked his second career GN win.

Edited May 31, 2015

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