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

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