Monday, February 8, 2016

Absolutely no beer decals on the 43. Well...

With the return of Busch beer as a NASCAR sponsor for Kevin Harvick in 2016, many are as nostalgic as ever about the days of the Busch Clash. Buddy Baker won the first Clash held in February 1979. The 20-lap Daytona dash was open to drivers who won a pole - a Busch Pole Award - in 1978.

Two "truths" often get socialized when it comes to Clash history:
  1. Richard Petty never raced in a Busch Clash because...
  2. he never put the required beer sponsor decal on his car out of deference to his mother. 
I put "truths" in quotes simply because neither of those statements is an absolute fact.

The King has more career poles (officially 127) than any other driver - past or present. Petty won all but nine of them in the 15-year period of 1961 through 1975. Petty did not win a pole in 1978 - the first year of eligibility for the Clash.

After a couple of so-so years in the late 1970s, the Petty Enterprises team regained their mojo for one final championship run in 1979. As the season hit the mid-point at Daytona's Firecracker 400, the 43 team was starting to hit its stride. Cars were fast, wins were notched, and the King banked top 5s and 10s when a win simply wasn't there.

Though the Petty cars were quick, the King couldn't quite nail down another top starting spot - until the Cup series returned to Bristol for the second night running of the Volunteer 500.

Driving the Chevy Caprice debuted at Nashville a few weeks earlier, Petty laid down the fastest lap and captured his first top starting spot since 1977. The pole win also turned out to be the final one of his career.

Petty's pole win made him eligible for the 1980 Busch Clash - but only if his car sported the Busch beer decal. I'm not sure if the decal was added to the car before or after his pole-winning run - but it was definitely there for the race as evidenced in the above photo.

Perhaps because the pole-win program was in only its second year and perhaps because NASCAR and Anheuser-Busch wanted to maintain interest in the Busch Clash and its big-name participants, a pole-winning driver was apparently expected to keep the decal on the car.

Though the truism that Richard Petty didn't have a beer sticker on his car generally holds, the statement isn't absolute. Following Bristol, the 43 had the Busch decal on its side for the remaining races.

Southern 500 at Darlington

Labor Day Monday was brutally hot in Darlington in 1979. Several drivers had issues dealing with the extreme temperatures and humidity including Bobby and Donnie Allison and The King. After falling out of the race and then getting a round of oxygen, Donnie put on his helmet to take over for Petty.

After a few laps, Allison had to be relieved by Neil Bonnett. Several laps later, Petty went back into his own car and still finished ninth. His finish - even with three driver changes - was two spots better than Darrell Waltrip who he was battling for the championship.

And by the way, the bushy haired crewman with his back to the camera during the pit stop for the first driver swap? Kyle Petty - the front tire carrier for the Petty Enterprises team.

Capital City 400 at Richmond - on same Caprice in which he won the pole at Bristol.

Credit: Brian Yezierski
CRC Chemicals 500 at Dover - The decal was on the 43 as Petty won his 189th race over Donnie Allison.

Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville - After winning the Virginia 500 in April 1979, Petty finished second to Buddy Baker in the fall race.

Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro - I haven't landed a photo of the side view of the 43 from this race...yet. But I do know Petty raced the Caprice in the event. My guess is the car was decaled the same as it was at Bristol and Richmond.

National 500 at Charlotte - The King's Monte Carlo finished a solid fourth, one spot better than Waltrip. (The race was also Kyle's Cup debut at Charlotte.)

American 500 at Rockingham - The King went to victory lane a second time with the Busch sticker on the car.

Dixie 500 at Atlanta - Petty salvaged a sixth place finish with the Busch contingency on the car in what could have been a catastrophic day for his title chances. He spun during the race after tangling with Tighe Scott, but he and the crew persevered to get a much-needed top 10.

Los Angeles Times 500 at Ontario - The Busch decal was on the 43 a final time in 1979 as Petty ran a steady race, finished fifth, and claimed his seventh championship title.

Credit Scott Baker of
Having met the eligibility requirements, Richard Petty was now qualified to participate in the 1980 Busch Clash.

Photo courtesy of Scott Baker at
In the end, it didn't matter much. NASCAR scheduled a presser whereby the eligible drivers drew numbered Busch beer cans for their starting spot. Eleven of the twelve drivers were present to draw, and the twelfth starting spot was assigned to the missing driver.

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
The driver unable to be in Daytona Beach for the drawing ? Yep, the King. And where was he? In New York City - on a promotional trip for NASCAR, the Busch Clash, and the Daytona 500!

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
The King started 12th and finished 11th. From what I can tell, he ran the same Olds 442 he raced the rest of Speedweeks - in qualifying, his 125-mile twin, and the Daytona 500. Though the Clash finish didn't show it, the 442 was fast. Petty finished second in his twin, started fourth in the 500, and ran with the leaders until burning a clutch during a pit stop to end his day. He did, however, pocket a much needed $10,000 for his efforts in the Clash - a decent size purse for the era and limited effort needed.

Based on what I've found, Petty did not have the Busch decal on his 43 the remainder of his career - including in his one and only Busch Clash in 1980.


No comments:

Post a Comment