Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28, 1963 - Fearless Freddy Bests Bristol

NASCAR's Grand National drivers migrated south to Bristol TN for the third Volunteer 500 on July 28, 1963. A week earlier, the cars had raced the road course in Bridgehampton, New York.

Fred Lorenzen won the pole in his #28 Holman Moody Ford. Fireball Roberts won Bristol's spring Southeastern 500 and took the outside spot on the front row for the Volunteer 500 in his #22 HM Ford.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
On the second day of qualifying, Jim Paschal was quickest in the #42 Plymouth as a teammate to Richard Petty. G.C. Spencer - who eventually settled in nearby Johnson City, TN - had to win a 20-lap hooligan race to make the race at his home track.

During a practice session the same day as the second round of time trials, Fireball just about lost his weekend. As he attempted a high-side pass of another car, he started to spin and clipped the guardrail with his right rear quarterpanel. He successfully righted the car and lived to see raceday - though his crew did have some body work to repair before Sunday's event.

It's hard to visualize Bristol in its early years compared to what it seats today. But for year 3, the race drew a great crowd.


Lorenzen led the opening lap as the green was dropped. Junior Johnson then went from his third place starting position to the lead on lap 2 and stayed there for 160 circuits. A faulty alternator and bad battery then took its toll on Junior's Holly Farms Chevrolet. He ended up finishing 22nd, 93 laps down to the winner.

Lorenzen's car began trailing smoke from the start of the race. As it turns out, the 28 had a broken piston. Many thought the Ford's engine would blow at any time. Instead, Fast Freddy rode his steed all. day. long. As Junior faded, Lorenzen went up front and led 154 of the next 155 laps.

The one lap during that stretch he didn't lead was claimed by Paschal. But right after taking the lead, Paschal hit pit road. He was suffering from heat exhaustion and needed an assist. Lee Petty, whose driving career was reduced to a handful of starts following a near-fatal accident at Daytona in 1961, took over in relief.  Lee served in the same role in April when Paschal needed relief during the Virginia 500 at Martinsville. Lee spelled Paschal for about 100 laps before Jim went back into the car. Amazingly, the 42 finished third just one lap down to the top two finishers - even with 2 driver changes!

The race had seven cautions. The most significant one of the day involved Fireball. Though he saved his car during Saturday's practice session, the same couldn't be said for the race itself. He popped the guardrail and went for a series of flips. Fortunately, a sprained back was his only notable injury.



Source: National Speed Sport News
With each lap Lorenzen led, the 43 of Richard Petty kept pace. The Plymouth driver hounded Lorenzen, but he couldn't (or wouldn't) make the pass. With just under 200 laps to go, the future King did get the lead - but only for 3 laps. Lorenzen retook the lead and decided he may as well keep it.

As the lap count hit 450, Petty decided it was go-time. He intensified the pressure on Lorenzen. The blue Plymouth pulled even with the white Ford - but again, he simply couldn't make the pass.

The duo battled for the final 20 laps. In the end, however, Lorenzen pulled ahead of Petty by several yards to notch his first of three consecutive Bristol wins. Petty's close-but-no-cigar P2 was his first of several moral victories at Bristol.

Petty likely couldn't complain too much though. With wins at Bridgehampton a week earlier and another win at Greenville-Pickens two days later, a second place at Bristol probably wasn't viewed as all that bad an effort.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive

TMC

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