Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 27, 1968 - Nashville 400

Music City USA. The Ryman Auditorium. Chet Atkins' and Owen Bradley's Nashville Sound. Printers Alley. And the Nashville fairgrounds - home of the Tennessee State Fair and Fairgrounds Speedway.

Throughout the 1960s, Nashville generally hosted one NASCAR Grand National race per season (though two were scheduled each year in 1964-65).  Richard Petty was looking to bank his fifth consecutive win at the track in the 1968 Nashville 400.

The King's - and by extension the Petty Enterprises team's - Nashville stats should have qualified him for a gold record. Gold record? Music City? OK, never mind, I'll see myself out...

From 1962 through 1967, the Petty Plymouth team won all seven races entered - two by Jim Paschal and five by Petty. For extra measure, Paschal won the 1961 race for car owner and Richard's uncle, Julian Petty, and Paschal and Petty picked up a couple of P2 finishes in races where a teammate won.

Petty fans likely thought another Nashville victory was King's for the taking. Apparently, the other drivers in the field didn't get that memo. Bobby Allison also didn't get the memo that drivers needed to wear their uniform for a promotional photo shoot.

Source: The Tennessean
Petty's car arrived in Nashville at the Mercury Motel on Murfreesboro Road with a slightly different look. The Mercury Motel was the traditional lodging spot for the Petty team (and a few other drivers) and the location for the Middle Tennessee Petty Fan Club Chapter Meeting.

The 43 Plymouth sported a white roof and C-pillars. The purpose of the white paint was allegedly to help cool the car a bit with the expected scorching July temps.

Credit: Mike "BigMike312" Hodges
The team also ran a white roof along with a white hood three weeks earlier in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Supposedly, the paint had some texture to it rather than a smooth coat. The idea was to help improve the flow of air over and around the car.

The King picked up where he'd left off at the fairgrounds in 1967 by winning the pole. Bobby Allison qualified second in his Chevrolet, and David Pearson claimed the inside of the second row in third. Bobby Isaac and Elmo Langley rounded out the top five starters.

Jack Marlin - Coo Coo's brother and Sterling's uncle - qualified 14th and finished 10th in his one and only career GN/Cup start.

Courtesy of Russ Thompson
At the drop of the green, Petty's Hemi-powered Plymouth took off as if he knew a little something about how to get around the place. He led the first 131 laps before taking a breather for a pit stop.

After surrendering the lead to Pearson for a couple of laps, Petty went back to the point where he led for another 100-lap stretch. Because of an issue with how his carburetor was set, Petty ended up burning fuel at a quicker pace than Pearson's Holman Moody Ford. As a result, Petty made his second pit stop several laps earlier than Pearson - and under green. He lost a couple of laps during this stop but planned to get them back when Pearson's 17 had to stop.

As Pearson got ready to make his second stop around lap 250, the caution flew. This allowed him to get service from the Dick Hutcherson-led crew and maintain his lead over Petty. Once the green flag returned, Pearson was able to stay comfortably out front.

With about 100 laps to go, rain arrived - a typical occurrence on many muggy summer nights in middle Tennessee. The decision was made to red flag and then call the race official after 301 laps. Pearson was declared the winner, and Petty finished second three laps down to the winner.

The 1968 Nashville 400 was Pearson's only victory at at Nashville. The race was also the 24th of 63 times Petty and Pearson finished one-two.

Source: The Tennessean
Source: The Tennessean


  1. The blue & white combo on the #43 continues to look unusual after all these years. I was between my sophomore and junior year of college the summer of 1968. I had just bought a used 1963 Chevy (painted GM Daytona Metal Flake Blue) and bouught an AM radio at the junkyard to install in it. Good thing. Our local Richmond racing station was still daylight only and I could not pick up the Nashville radio broadcast from any affiliate on the radio in my bedroom. HOWEVER, when I went out to my recently acquired used Chevy with the junkyard radio and a big spring loaded Pep Boys antenna, I had my choice of several distant stations carrying the race. And that's how I listened to night races until the Richmond race station(WXGI) stopped being daylight only.

  2. "Gold record? Music City? Ok, never mind, I'll see myself out..." Hilarious!