Meanwhile, the Wood Brothers continued with A.J. Foyt in their #21 Mercury in 1972 after several successful races together in 1971. Super Tex and the Woods were magic in their first four races of 1972:
- won the pole at Riverside,
- won the Daytona 500,
- won the pole and the race at Ontario, and
- finished 2nd in the Atlanta 500.
Pearson won the pole and the race in his first start with the Woods, the Rebel 500 at Darlington. Pearson also captured wins at Talladega and Michigan as the Cup season hit its midpoint.
The Cup teams returned to Daytona for the Firecracker 400 - the traditional beginning of the second half of the season. The race was held on Tuesday, July 4th.
|Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers|
|Source: Colorado Springs Gazette|
Isaac and his Harry Hyde-led Dodge team arrived in Daytona a bit like the walking wounded.
- Isaac was nursing a broken rib suffered in a golf cart accident.
- Hyde was awaiting knee surgery to repair damaged cartilage.
- Hyde injured his thumb with a drill bit after arriving in Daytona.
- Crewman Buddy Parrott's broken jaw was wired shut after a diving board accident.
- Crewman Harlan Cox couldn't work the race because of a slipped disc.
I never worry about Isaac. I can beat him even if his car stays together. The way he looks now, his crew's in such bad shape he needs an ambulance instead of a race car.At the drop of the green, Baker drafted by both of the front row starters to lead lap 1. Pearson returned the favor to lead lap 2, and the duo repeated process for laps 3 and 4.
For the first half of the race, fans saw much of the same. Baker, Pearson, Allison, Petty, and Isaac all swapped the lead. Only three times did a leader hold serve for more than a single-digit number of laps - and all three times it was Pearson.
Halfway was all Isaac had to offer. Engine woes put the 71 out of commission and on the trailer early. His DNF also continued the Firecracker pole winner curse. From 1959 through 1972, the pole winner had never won the race.
As the race neared the 100-lap mark, the twin STP Dodges showed the way. Baker found his way back to the front for a few laps, and then the King pulled the lead for a 10-lap stretch. Then, as often happened in Baker's career, misfortune whacked him upside his noggin. He blew a tire in the second turn. The shredded tire knocked the oil filter off Baker's red #11 Dodge, and he was doomed to a 24th place DNF.
As Petty and Allison went toe-to-toe, Pearson watched from third. Then with about five to do, he put his research to work. He drafted by both of them and sailed into the lead yet again. Petty made a final pursuit on the last lap. He closed up as he and Pearson sailed down the backstretch, and he tried to side draft the 21's outside as they came through the tri-oval. But it was not to be. Pearson kept the Purolator Mercury glued to the inside and nipped Petty at the line by about a half a car-length.
The victory was Pearson's first full-length race win at Daytona since the 1961 Firecracker 250. (He also won two Daytona 500 qualifying races in the 1960s that counted as official races in that era.) Pearson knew he had a strong car, but he also thought Petty might made a stronger and/or earlier move to grab the win away from him at the last moment. The race was the 45th of 63 times Petty and Pearson finished in the top two spots.
|Source: The Gaffney Ledger|