Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 26, 1969 - Raleigh's North State 200

With the state of North Carolina being such a hot bed of NASCAR racing since its formation in the late 1940s, one would think the capital of the state be the site of several races. As it turns out, however, the state fairgrounds in Raleigh only hosted three Grand National (later Cup) races. The first was won by Junior Johnson in 1955. The third one - and final GN race run on dirt - was the Home State 200 on September 30, 1970 won by The King, Richard Petty. (Raleigh Speedway, a one-mile paved oval, hosted seven GN and three convertible races in the 1950s.)

The middle one at the fairgrounds - the North State 200 - was run June 26, 1969. Bobby Isaac won the pole, one of nineteen top sports he earned in 1969. David Pearson qualified alongside Isaac. Neil 'Soapy' Castles, the King and James Hylton rounded out the top five starters. Though 24 cars took the green, the starting top five was about the extent of star power for the race.

And among the top five, Pearson was in a league of his own. He owned the night. The wire service race report noted Pearson led all but two of the 200 laps on the half-mile dirt track. Other sources note Petty was credited with leading sixteen laps. Two, sixteen, whatever. In the end, the lap leader discrepancy had no effect on the domination of the race.

The only bit of drama took place with about 20 laps to go. Pearson's Ford started belching smoke from a failing engine and slowing. Petty sensed blood in the water and gave chase to catch and pass the ailing car. Instead, the King took it too deep into the number one corner. His 43 Ford blew the turn on the half-mile, and he lost a couple of laps as tow trucks assisted him in getting back into the flow of the race.1 Though Petty didn't present much of a threat to Pearson, the race was the 35th time the duo finished one-two.

If Pearson's ailing car provided the drama, Isaac's race provided the dark comedy. After winning the pole, his night went a little something like this:
  • Laps led: zero.
  • Isaac mistimed a pit stop as a caution flew resulting in the loss of a lap to Pearson.
  • He was black flagged following a pit stop because his crew failed to replace the gas cap after refueling.
  • His #71 Dodge developed ignition issues resulting in two more stops.
  • With 70 laps to go, Isaac's night mercifully ended after losing his brakes.
Despite the DNF, Isaac still finished 10th because more than half the field was already out of the race!

Source: The Robesonian
1 Credit to Greg Fielden's Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Volume 3


Sunday, June 19, 2016

June 19, 1964 - Chattanooga's All-American 300

Tennessee has a pretty rich history with respect to NASCAR GN/Cup racing. Bristol has been a mainstay on the schedule since 1961 and really took off when the summer night race was introduced in 1978. Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway began hosting GN races in 1958, and the names continued racing until 1984. Drivers such as Darrell Waltrip and Sterling Marlin have longed called middle Tennessee home. But southeastern Tennessee also has a bit of NASCAR history to it.

Boyd's Speedway technically sits on the south side of the Tennessee-Georgia border. To get to it, however, one leaves I-75 at Exit 1 - the first one inside Tennessee. A couple of turns later, and you're back in Georgia - though folks would still refer to the area as part of the 'Nooga.

In the mid 1960s, Boyd's was known as Chattanooga International Raceway. The track hosted two GN races - one in 1962 won by Joe Weatherly and the second one on June 19, 1964. The All-American 300 was scheduled as a 300-lap race around the 1/3-mile paved track.

Source: Chattanooga Daily Times
One of the expected victory lane benefits for the winning driver was a peck on the cheek by Miss Firebird, Linda Vaughn. Later known as Miss Hurst Shifter, Linda didn't have far to travel for the Chattanooga race. Being from Dalton, GA, she only had to travel about a half-hour from her mama's front porch.

The King, Richard Petty, won the pole. Coincidentally, Petty also won the pole for the first GN race at Chattanooga in 1962. David Pearson qualified on the front row with Petty. Two more NASCAR HOFers, Ned Jarrett and Buck Baker, lined up on the second row. Jimmy Pardue rounded out the top five starters. A few other drivers in the line-up included Wendell Scott in 6th, Buddy Baker in 12th, and Cale Yarborough 19th - shotgun on the field.

When the green dropped, Pearson got the jump in his Cotton Owens Dodge. He led the first 100 laps. Buddy Baker wrecked during the 100th lap, and it may have been during that time the lead traded hands.

Petty took the lead from Pearson as the field entered the middle third of the race. Around lap 150, Scott wrecked resulting in another caution flag. Petty and Pearson made pit stops and headed back on the track. When the race went green again at lap 160, Petty realized he had a cut tire - likely from some gravel kicked up on the dirt from the infield.

With Petty forced to the pits for an unexpected second stop, Pearson re-assumed the lead from Petty, built a two-lap lead because of the 43's misfortune, and stayed out front for the second half of the race.

Jarrett blew a tire and hit the wall with just three laps remaining. The flagman displayed the yellow once again, and Pearson cruised the remaining three laps to take the win over Petty, Buck Baker in third, and Jarrett surviving to finish fourth. The race was the sixth of 63 times involving a Petty-Pearson, 1-2 finish.

Boyd's Speedway continues to operate today (web | Twitter) with a slate of races most Friday nights.

As noted earlier, Chattanooga has its own connection to NASCAR. In addition to Boyd's / CIR, here are a few examples:
  • Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp finished side by side in the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959 with Petty getting the slight edge and the win. Finishing third was Charley Griffith from Chattanooga - a career best for Griffith in his 17 GN races.
  • Chattanooga's Friday Hassler was a 10-year veteran of GN/Cup racing. He regularly raced with #39 and sponsorship from Rock City. Hassler was tragically killed during his 125-mile qualifying race at Daytona in 1972.
  • The late Grant Adcox of Chattanooga was an occasional Cup racer and a winner in the ARCA series. He was sponsored for a brief period by Krystal Hamburgers, a Chattanooga-based company at the time.
  • When Ken Schrader drove the famed Wood Brothers Ford, Little Debbie snack cakes sponsored #21. Little Debbies are made by McKee Baking, a Chattanooga-based company.
  • Schrader also drove for another team with Chattanooga ties. Nelson Bowers, an owner of Chattanooga-area auto dealerships, was one of the three owners of MB2 Motorsports. MB2 was acquired by Ginn Racing which was later merged into Dale Earnhardt, Inc. 
  • And coincidentally, 20 years after Pearson's win in Chattanooga, he was again connected to Rock City with sponsorship from Chattanooga Chew tobacco.
Credit: Jerry Bushmire
Source: Chattanooga Daily Times

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June 15, 1975 - Motor State 400

Michigan International Speedway hosted the midpoint of the 1975 Winston Cup season. The Motor State 400 was the 15th of the season's 30-race schedule.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
On the track, the season had three storylines:
  • Benny Parsons' win in the Daytona 500
  • Darrell Waltrip knocking down his first Cup victory, and 
  • Richard Petty's dominance. 
Petty captured his fifth title in 1974 and kept the mojo rolling during the first half of 1975. Through the season's fourteenth race at Riverside, the King had won seven of them. (And many folks get tired of Kyle Busch seemingly winning all the time.)

After winning back to back races in Charlotte's World 600 and Riverside's Tuborg 400, Petty flew 3,500 miles to Fairbanks, Alaska for a two-day, charity event appearance at North Pole Speedway.

Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Petty then gathered his gear and flew another 3,500 miles or so to Michigan. The King himself arrived in time for practice and qualifying. His luggage - including his driving uniform - ehh, not so much. I can imagine some of the snickers and grins from the crew as Petty had to suit up in an old uniform found in the dark recesses of the transporter.

In qualifying, two best buddies, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison, captured the front row. The second row was made of two professional rivals - David Pearson and Petty.

Credit: John Betts of
After winning his first Cup race in May at Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway, Darrell Waltrip found himself in a pickle following qualifying at Michigan. He lost an engine during practice in his self-owned, Jake Elder-led Chevy and and then had issues with the replacement engine. As a result, he didn't muster a qualifying lap and faced a DNQ. Waltrip worked a deal with independent driver Jabe Thomas to take over his spot. By the skin of his teeth, DW lined up 35th in the 36-car field.

On race day, fans were greeted with that awful reality: rain. Lots of it. Everyone waited for the oft-sought weather window to open. The weather was intense, and the track temporarily lost phone service and electricity. After a 3-1/2 hour delay, however, the window finally opened. It was time to go racing!

Once the green flag dropped, the fans got a great race in exchange for their patient wait. The lead swapped hands 44 times among nine drivers in the 200-lap race. Only six times did the leader hold serve for a double-digit number of laps. Three drivers, however, dominated the overall laps led: David Pearson, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough.

Any chance Yarborough may have had at the win went out the window when his stubbornness busted him. He went ape after thinking he'd been docked a lap by NASCAR officials for passing the pace car under caution. In anger, he headed for the garage and parked his car. His Herb Nab-led crew had to convince him he had not been penalized a lap. Cale fired 'er back up and headed back into the fray. When the dust settled, he'd cost himself a lap and finished fourth.

The caution flew with about 60 laps to go, and the leaders hit pit road - several laps earlier than desired for the final, planned stop. As is often the case with contemporary Cup races at Michigan, the remaining laps were  raced with drivers and crew chiefs concerned with fuel mileage.

With 40 to go, The King found himself out front and seeking his 8th win of the season. As happened more than once between the two, Petty and Pearson pulled away from the rest of the field to settle it between themselves.

Twenty laps or so later, the handling of Petty's Dodge began to worsen just a little bit. Pearson was able to close the already small gap, and he completed the pass for the lead with 18 laps to go. The Silver Fox didn't pull away too comfortably though. Petty stayed right with the 21 until the end. When the checkered flag fell, however, Pearson captured his second win of the year with Petty about two car lengths behind. The race was the 54th of 63 times for a Petty-Pearson, one-two finish.

Dave Marcis made his final pit stop at the same time as Petty and Pearson. Though the 21 and 43 had enough fuel to go the distance, Marcis ran dry on the last lap. Fellow Dodge driver Frank Warren pushed Marcis across the line to take P3 ahead of Cale in fourth. Waltrip rallied from his near-last place starting spot to finish fifth and on the same lap as Marcis and Cale.

Source: Hillsdale Daily News
Source: The Daily Pantagraph