Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21, 1964 - Pennsylvania 200

From the late 1950s through the late 1960s, NASCAR's Grand National division supplemented its largely Southern-based schedule with a trip through states such as Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. Races on the "Northern Tour" were often promoted by Ed Otto, a senior NASCAR official, equity partner and successful promoter north of the Mason-Dixon line.

In 1964, Billy Wade made the Northern Tour his own. Driving a Mercury for owner Bud Moore, Wade won four consecutive races in July at Old Bridge, NJ; the road course at Bridgehampton, NY; Islip, NY on Long Island; and another road course at Watkins Glen. Lincoln Speedway in New Oxford, PA presented Billy and Bud the opportunity to make a five-race clean sweep.

The Pennsylvania 200 on Lincoln's half-mile track was the only dirt race on the Northern Tour in 1964. Although Otto promoted many of the northern races, Hilly Rife handled the Lincoln races. The track hosted seven GN races from 1955 through 1965. Lee Petty won the track's 200-lap race in 1958.

David Pearson won the pole in Cotton Owens' Dodge. In what turned out to be his final career GN start, Bob Welborn qualified on the front row alongside Pearson in a Holman Moody Ford. Welborn was a three-time NASCAR convertible division champion in the 1950s. He also won 28 combined races in the ragtop and GN divisions - many with Julian Petty, brother of Lee Petty and uncle of Richard.

NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Ned Jarrett made up the second row, and Doug Cooper qualified an impressive fifth. Interestingly, Wade wasn't in the field. For unknown reasons, Bud Moore did not bring Wade's Mercury to Lincoln despite the four-race winning streak and a ton of momentum. The Tuesday Lincoln race was only two days after the Sunday Watkins Glen race. Perhaps Moore's team and car were simply too worn out after four wins - or perhaps Rife offered only minimal show money - or perhaps Bud simply wanted the additional time to prepare for the race after Lincoln, the Volunteer 500 at Bristol.

At the drop of the green, Welborn took off and grabbed the lead. He drove as if he was re-living his glory years. It helped he was at the wheel of a Ford prep'd by the same team that built cars for drivers such as Fred Lorenzen and Fireball Roberts. Interestingly though, Welborn drove the sole Holman Moody car in the race.

Welborn embraced his role as the lap bully. He led the first 125 laps as Petty and Pearson stayed on his heels and kept him honest. On the 126th lap, Pearson got around Welborn and brought Petty's #41 Plymouth with him. Petty had wrecked his 43 Plymouth at the Glen two days earlier. He likely drove his dad's #41 that Lee raced at the Glen in what turned out to be his final career start.

Pearson and Petty then began to pull away a bit from Welborn and the rest of the field. Perhaps in a case of overdriving to catch the leaders, Welborn smacked the wall at lap 145. He managed to get the damaged car to the pits, and a relief driver took over as the team attempted to repair the Ford as best they could.

In the end, however, the repairs nor the driver change made a difference. About 30 laps after Welborn's wreck, his Ford lost an engine. The car was done for the day after dominating more than half the race.

With Welborn sidelined, Pearson and Petty laid waste to the rest of the field and settled the race amongst themselves. Pearson's Dodge had already opened a gap on Petty's Plymouth when both made their final pit stops. Pearson's Cotton Owens-led crew was a bit quicker than the Petty team, and the difference provided the Silver Fox even more margin to manage down the stretch.

At the checkers, Pearson won with a comfortable lead over second place Petty. The two were the only remaining cars on the lead lap. Third place finisher Jimmy Pardue was six laps down to the first two cars. The race was the seventh of 63 times Petty and Pearson finished in the top two spots.

Source: Illustrated Speedway News


  1. Chase:

    If you haven't covered it, Richard looks like he won the last dirt track race on the Northern Tour in 1967 at Fonda, N.Y. Sounds like an interesting story!

    1. Actually, I did post about King's 1967 Fonda win. But hadn't reconciled that was the last Northern Tour dirt race. Thanks.

      Here is link to post:
      July 13, 1967 Fonda Speedway

  2. Is Billy Wade still the only driver in Sprint Cup history to win 4 consecutive races followed by a DNS?

    1. Considering how few drivers have won 4 in a row, you may be right.