Saturday, August 27, 2016

August 27, 1966 - Myers Brothers Memorial

On August 7, 1966, Richard Petty won the Dixie 400 at Atlanta International Raceway. The primary storyline from the race involved Junior Johnson's infamous Yellow Banana Ford driven by Fred Lorenzen and Smokey Yunick's black-and-gold Chevrolet driven by Curtis Turner. Both cars had all sorts of questionable parts and body shaping, yet both were allowed to race. Many were upset at the spectacle though the fact neither car won helped settle folks down a bit.

Following Atlanta, Turner agreed to what was expected to be a one-race deal in Junior's Ford at the next race in Winston-Salem, NC. Though his career had started to wind down, he wanted to give the fans and fellow competitors a fair night of racing if they felt they didn't get that at Atlanta.

The Myers Brothers Memorial 250 at Bowman Gray Stadium was scheduled for Saturday, August 13th - the weekend following Atlanta.

Persistent rain scuttled everyone's plans, and the race was postponed until Saturday, August 27th. So instead of the Turner-Johnson venture starting at Bowman Gray, fans got to see Pop finish third at Columbia Speedway.

When the teams returned to Bowman Gray for the rescheduled race, two drivers who eventually claimed the greatest number of wins in GN/Cup racing - Richard Petty and David Pearson - claimed the front row. Petty won the pole in his '66 Plymouth with Pearson qualifying second.

Everyone, however, had their eyes on the second row starters. GN noob Bobby Allison plunked his trusty red and white #2 Chevelle in third spot, and Turner lined up fourth in Junior Johnson's Ford. Apparently, the two of them decided to join forces again for a second race following Columbia.

Turner was the good-time-having, natural-talent, racing veteran. Allison was a relative upstart. Though he'd had success with racing throughout the southeast, Allison started only a handful of GN races prior to the 1966 season. Though he lacked experience racing against the Big Dawgs, the one thing he did not lack was confidence.

Source: Kannapolis NC The Daily Independent
Kim Chapin included a recap of some fan-stirring action during the Myers Brothers Memorial in his November 28, 1966, Sports Illustrated article about Bobby Allison's arrival in Grand National racing.
Winston-Salem is not an important race on the NASCAR Grand National calendar. The purse is not large, the points toward the driving championship are not many, but everybody shows up, as they had nine days before that at Columbia, SC, for a bit of fun at 100 miles around a half-mile dirt track. At that one, Allison, racing in his own red-and-white 1964 Chevelle, sat on the pole, and Turner, in a yellow 1966 Galaxie owned by Junior Johnson, started beside him. Just before the starter's green flag dropped, a strange announcement came over the track loudspeaker. An unidentified person had just offered Turner $500 if he could lead the first lap. Turner went over to Allison and said, in effect, that if Bobby would let him by, $250 of that was for Bobby.

"I didn't think the first lap would mean too much," Allison said, "and so I agreed." But almost immediately the race turned into a seven-car scramble with a whole lot of fender-slapping going on, heavily involving Allison, Turner and David Pearson. "A lot of people thought the Turner thing started right there," Allison said, "but that wasn't so." (The $500 wasn't so, either. Turner did lead the first lap, but later discovered the offer had been a prank.)

At Winston-Salem, Turner got on Allison's tail and started shoving him all around the track. Allison did the only thing he could. He let Turner's Galaxie get past his Chevelle and began bumping Turner, a natural action but a violent breach of etiquette, which states quite clearly, although as informally as the English constitution, that rookies shall not tangle with their elders, especially if that elder happens to be Curtis Turner. It was now Turner's move, and when he got the opportunity he moved in under Allison and hooked him - spun him out. Again Allison retaliated in the only way he could. He spun Turner out. That ended the preliminaries.
Source: Southern MotoRacing 
By now Turner was a bit more than unhappy with the way the evening was going. He waited on Allison and, when he got the chance, clobbered the little Chevelle broadside. Allison limped to the infield with a dead engine. Dead engine? Not on your life. Turner came around again, this time following slowly behind the safety car, which was leading the pack, yellow caution flags fluttering, while the track maintenance crews cleaned up the debris. By now it was difficult to find an unmarked piece of metal on either car. Allison's "dead" engine suddenly roared to life and - bop-po - he returned Turner's compliment by slamming him broadside. Both drivers got out of their wrecked cars and without a word returned to the pits.
Source: Southern MotoRacing
"I didn't want to do what I did," Allison said, "but I felt I had to. I wasn't happy about it. In fact, I was nervous all the time I was doing it. We really did a job on each other."

That race started and ended the Allison-Turner trouble, apparently with no hard feelings. But NASCAR was not convinced. On the Saturday before Darlington's Labor Day Southern 500, Allison and Turner were paged over the track loudspeaker for an audience with Lin Kuchler, NASCAR executive manager, and Johnny Bruner Sr., a tough old-timer who is the field manager for NASCAR. Kuchler, young and sincere, made a couple of bad jokes and said something like I'm sure there aren't any hard feelings left but if there are let's not tell anybody about them. We love a good image. Now let's shake hands and that will be $100 each, please, for your trouble. Bruner added, "Yeah, I don't imagine there are any hard feelings left, either, but just in case there are, the next time one of you guys tries something like that you both get suspended for the year." 
While all had their eyes on Turner and Allison, Pearson and Petty kept their focus on the race. When the green flap fell, Pearson got the jump on Petty's 43 to take the lead. He stayed there for almost the first 100 laps.

With Pearson hitting the pits for service, Turner took over the lead for a few laps before the fireworks intensified between him and Allison. After the two hot heads found themselves on the sidelines, Petty found his groove. Ol' Blue grabbed the lead when the race went green again, and the King towed the field around Bowman Gray's quarter-mile track for 113 laps.

Pearson followed Petty's tire tracks the entire time. Then with about 30 laps to go, Pearson passed Petty and led the rest of the way to sweep the Bowman Gray's two 1966 GN races. (Pearson also won the track's 200-lap Easter Monday race over Tiger Tom Pistone and Petty in April 1966.) The race was the 16th of 63 times the two drivers finished in the top two spots.

Turner raced yet again for Junior the following week in the Southern 500 at Darlington. After a sponsor-mocking performance at Columbia, the run-in and wreck with Allison at Bowman Gray, and another wreck at Darlington, Junior had seen enough. He fired Pop, pulled himself out of retirement, and drove his own car the rest of the season.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

August 25, 1974 - Michigan's Yankee 400

Michigan International Speedway joined NASCAR's Grand National schedule with two races in 1969. The second one, the Yankee 600, was scheduled for mid-August. From then until now, Michigan's second race has always been slotted for the back half of the month.

The 1974 Yankee 400, the 22nd race of the season, was no exception with its scheduled date of August 25, 1974.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Coming into Michigan, three drivers had won all but one of the first 21 races. Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty had each captured eight trophies, and David Pearson was victorious four times in only thirteen starts. King Richard was rolling too with three consecutive wins at Atlanta, Pocono and Talladega as the teams headed for Michigan.

Pearson in the Wood Brothers' #21 Mercury and Buddy Baker in Bud Moore's #15 blue-and-white Ford started on the front row.

Yarborough in Junior Johnson's Carling Beer Chevy and Petty in the famed STP Dodge made up the second row. Bobby Allison - the only winner of the season other than Petty, Pearson and Yarborough - qualified fifth in Roger Penske's Matador.

At the drop of the green, Baker hammered down, got the jump on Pearson, and led the first three laps. Pearson took the lead away from Baker on lap four and led for eight laps before Baker recaptured it for a couple more.

Middle Tennessee's independent driver David Sisco then got some prime time exposure by leading four laps. Sisco started 13th and led a total of 15 laps throughout the day on his way to a ninth place finish. The race ranked among the top performances by Sisco over his seven-year, 133-race Cup career. Sisco recently passed away on July 25, 2016, at the age of 79.

After Sisco's time out front for a few laps, the lead changed hands again. And again. And again. And again. Over the course of the 200-lap race, fans witnessed forty-four lead changes. Only three times did a leader bank a double-digit number of laps out front.

The lion's share of the laps were led by two of the big three in '74: Pearson and Yarborough. The duo took turns swapping the lead much of the day. By mid-race, the two of them were the only two to lead.

With about 35 laps to go, Pearson decided show time was over. He passed Yarborough yet again to take the lead and never relinquished it. And as the race neared its conclusion, Yarborough couldn't even hold second.

With 15 laps to go, Cale hit pit road for an unscheduled stop. Petty's Dodge Charger rallied past Cale's #11 Chevy to nab second despite the 43 leading only two laps during the day.

The race was the 52nd of 63 times that Petty and Pearson finished in the top two positions.


Friday, August 19, 2016

August 19, 1965 - Sandlapper 200

NASCAR's Grand National drivers arrived in Columbia, SC on August 19, 1965, for the Sandlapper 200. The Thursday night event was a 200-lap affair on Columbia's half-mile dirt surface.

Though many of the drivers raced the track earlier in the season in April's Columbia 200, that race was missing a couple of star drivers. Neither David Pearson nor Richard Petty raced in the event because of the Chrysler boycott against Bill France Sr. and NASCAR. When many of the issues were resolved around mid-season, Petty and Pearson were greenlighted to return to GN racing at most tracks including Columbia.

Dick Hutcherson won the pole for the Sandlapper, and Junior Johnson lined up outside of him on the front row. Ned Jarrett and Tiny Lund nabbed the second row, and career rivals Petty and Pearson started fifth and sixth.

Perry Allen Wood recapped the race in his book Silent Speedways of the Carolinas:
The Mopar boys were back, and the place was jammed with no threat of rain. Many came out to see if Curtis Turner would make his long-awaited return, and he did but to watch. He tried at Spartanburg five days earlier and crashed in time trials.

Ford had the top four spots, but Chrysler was back and hungry. Junior put the yellow Holly Farms 26 out front at the onset and stayed there as the weeding-out process got underway. On lap two, Bob Derrington, Tiger Tom Pistone, and J.T. Putney had a grinding crash at the head of the homestretch for the first caution...

Leader Johnson snapped the throttle linkage and loaded up for 17th. That gave the lead to Hutcherson, who kept that gold and white 29 on the point, only slowed by a couple more cautions...

The career of Sam Smith ended at 108 laps when he bounced Sam Fogle's yellow Ford off a dirt bank, and his Grand National dream evaporated in 13th place. That is about when Cotton made a wedge adjustment to get more traction coming off the turns, and Pearson's Dodge went from OK to great. On lap 116, the Dodge passed [Hutcherson's] gold Ford and except for a few laps during pit stops, Pearson was gone...

It was a Pearson-over-Petty finish this time by about a second with Hutch third on the lead lap... It was an outstanding race, taking Pearson almost and hour and three quarters to gain his 12th career win. ~ p. 64
Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
The race was the 9th of 63 times that Petty and Pearson finished in the top two spots.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

August 18, 1966 - Sandlapper 200

NASCAR's Grand National drivers arrived in South Carolina on August 18, 1966, for some short-track racing on a hot, summer, Thursday night. The Sandlapper 200 was scheduled as a 200-lap race on the half-mile, dirt Columbia Speedway.

Eleven days earlier, Richard Petty won the Dixie 400 at Atlanta International Raceway. The big storyline from the race - even more so than Petty's win - involved two tricked-out cars by legendary innovators and car owners Junior Johnson and Smokey Yunick. Fred Lorenzen raced Junior's infamous Yellow Banana Ford, and Curtis Turner belted into Smokey's Chevrolet. Both cars had all sorts of questionable parts and body shaping, yet both were allowed to race. Many were upset at the spectacle though the fact neither car won helped settle folks down a bit.

Turner felt like folks took life and racing a bit too seriously. Following Atlanta, he agreed to what was expected to be a one-race deal in Junior's Holly Farms-sponsored car at the next race at Bowman Gray Stadium. Though his career had started to wind down, he wanted to give the fans and fellow competitors a fair night of racing if they felt they didn't get that at Atlanta. The Bowman Gray race was postponed a couple of weeks because of rain. Turner agreed to stick with Junior at the next race anyway which turned out to be at Columbia.

In his book Silent Speedways of the Carolinas, author Perry Allen Wood describes Turner's arrival in Columbia with his good faith gesture:
Holly Farms wanted Curtis to look good and told him for the race he had to wear a suit. And he did...a business suit. "I dipped this one in the fireproof stuff this morning," Turner explained to the throng of onlookers glued to his every move. He loosened the tie a bit, hiked up the long sleeves some, and sans jacket, stuck that baby on the front row to everyone's delight. ~ p. 66
Turner's show and front-row qualifying run upstaged the pole winner. Bobby Allison was all business, and he laid down a track record lap to nab the pole. Petty, David Pearson, and Elmo Langley rounded out the top five starters.

Wood continued in his book with a recap of the night's racing action:
When the big field roared off, Turner bulled his way past [Allison's] little Chevelle and took the lead. It was very tentative, but he held it for 134 laps with Allison, Pearson, Petty, [James] Hylton, [Dick] Hutcherson and [Buddy] Baker beating and banging away behind him.

Other fun took place on lap 17 when a furiously-racing Tom Pistone was passing them as he got to them and lost it entering turn one. Tiger struck the railing at the perfect angle to launch the two-tone blue '64 Ford over it and into the lighted sky, then into darkness. It nosed harmlessly down, settling among the small trees and shrubs fringing the backside of the first turn embankment. ~ p. 66
Turner made his only scheduled stop, but it didn't go according to plan. An excruciatingly slow stop pinned Turner deep in the field - but it also gave the fans plenty to watch as Pop picked his way back through the field.
Petty was out for a couple until pesky and popular number 2 scooted under and Allison had the lead. The Hueytown Hustler held the point for 30 laps until his 327 cubic inches started wilting.

On lap 167, unstoppable David Pearson powered past Petty and ambushed Allison for the lead... With Turner screaming past a rapidly fading Allison and closing on the others, a three-car Armageddon was at hand.

With less than five to go, [J.D.] McDuffie got crossed up and ditched his Ford along the backstretch for 12th, bringing a caution flag that doused a surely explosive finish. Under the yellow, Pearson rolled to the checkered flag with Petty and Turner lined up right behind. Even though nearly 10,000 enthusiasts did not get to see the incredible race to the wire that was inevitable, no one felt cheated. ~ p. 67 
Pearson claimed his fourth consecutive Columbia win in the '66 Sandlapper 200. Also, the race was the fifteenth of 63 times Petty and Pearson finished in the top two spots.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

August 10, 1968 - Myers Brothers Memorial

On Saturday, August 10, 1968, NASCAR's Grand National drivers arrived in Winston-Salem, NC for the 250-lap Myers Brothers Memorial race. The same drivers raced at Bowman Gray Stadium just two days after a Thursday night, 200-lap race on the half-mile, dirt Columbia Speedway in South Carolina.

Many newer fans of NASCAR may not recognize the names associated with this memorial race. Many may recognize, however, the name Chocolate Myers from his tenure as the gasman for Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt and his more contemporary employment as a midday co-host on SiriusXM's NASCAR channel.

Chocolate's father was Bobby Myers, and his uncle was Billy Myers. If unfamiliar with either or both, Google a bit to learn about their contributions to racing...and their untimely deaths.

Twenty cars arrived at the track for the event, and Richard Petty put his #43 Plymouth on the pole. David Pearson, fresh off his win at Columbia two nights earlier, started second in his Holman Moody Ford. Bobby Isaac, James Hylton, and Bobby Allison rounded out the top five starters.

Petty took the lead at the drop of the green flag and held onto it for the first 139 laps. As Petty ran upon Bobby Allison to put him a lap down, the engine in Allison's Chevrolet blew sending him into the wall. As Allison's engine dumped oil on the track, Petty spun and brushed against the wall. The unfortunately timed event was just enough to allow Pearson to slide under and take the lead.

Petty regathered his Plymouth and continued. His excursion to the high side, however, was all the advantage Pearson needed. Once out front, the Silver Fox led the remaining 111 laps on the quarter-mile track and was the first to take the checkered flag. Pearson and Petty were the only two cars on the lead lap with Isaac finishing third four laps down.

Pearson won at Bowman Gray for his third and final time - though the first and only time with Holman Moody. He also had the Big Mo as he pursued his second Grand National title. Pearson went back to back with wins at Columbia and Bowman Gray. He was also in the midst of a four out of six winning streak with additional wins in the Volunteer 500 at Bristol and Nashville 400 (and a P3 and P4 in the two races he didn't win.)

The race was also the 25th of 63 times Petty and Pearson finished in the top two spots.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

August 7, 1964 - Rambi Raceway in Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach's Rambi Raceway opened in 1958, and track hosted nine Grand National races from 1958 through 1965. As a car owner, Julian Petty experienced early success at Rambi with Bob Welborn as his driver. Welborn won the track's first two marquis events - a NASCAR convertible division race in July 1958 and the Grand National race a month later.

The GN drivers arrived in Myrtle Beach in August 1964 for a 200-lap race. What many likely couldn't have anticipated is that the race was to be the next to last GN race at the track. Ned Jarrett was looking for his third consecutive win at Rambi having won in 1962 and 1963.

Records show only twelve drivers qualified for the race. The limited number is tied with six other GN/Cup races for the smallest starting line-up. The others are:
  • August 1953 - Hickory NC
  • August 1956 - Oklahoma City
  • May 1959 - Nashville Fairgrounds
  • April 1961 - Richmond (won by Richard Petty)
  • May 1964 - Savannah
  • October 1964 - Savannah
Factory Mopars swept the top two starting spots. David Pearson won the pole in Cotton Owens' Dodge, and Petty qualified second in the Petty Enterprises Plymouth. Lee Roy Yarbrough, Jimmy Pardue and Jarrett rounded out the top five starters.

Pearson mashed the gas at the drop of the green and seized the lead. He pulled the field around the half-mile dirt track for the first 78 laps. The lead then changed hands - presumably because of a series of pit stops. Jarrett took over the top spot, set sail for 80+ laps, and likely smiled as neared his third straight win at the track.

With just under 40 laps to go, however, Pearson took his Dodge around a fading Jarrett. Pearson was unchallenged the rest of the way, and he won by a full lap over second place Petty. Jarrett completed the race, but he finished fourth - eight laps down to the winner.

Though the finish wasn't very close, the race was the eighth of 63 times for a Petty-Pearson, 1-2 finish.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

August 3, 1975 - Pearson Procures Pocono's Purolator over Petty Protest

The Winston Cup Grand National Series teams returned to Pocono for the track’s second annual Cup race - the Purolator 500 on August 3, 1975.

Bobby Allison won the pole in his Roger Penske Matador prepared in nearby Nazareth, PA. David Pearson qualified alongside him in the Wood Brothers’ Mercury. Buddy Baker in Bud Moore’s Ford, Dave Marcis in the iconic Harry Hyde-prepared #71 Dodge, and Cale Yarborough in Junior Johnson’s Holly Farms Chevy rounded out the top 5 starters.

Richard Petty timed sixth. The King had won the two previous stock car races at Pocono – the 1973 USAC Acme Super Saver 500 and the track's inaugural NASCAR Cup race, the 1974 Purolator 500. Petty had also already won eight races in 1975 – a number he’d grow to a modern era record of 13 that has been matched just once, by Jeff Gordon.

Fans got a competitive race with the lead changing hands multiple times. Pearson jumped out front at the start and led the first 10 laps. Pole-winner Allison got by the 21 and paced the field for three laps. He and Pearson then went back and forth for a while before some new races appeared upfront because of pit cycling.

Allison’s pole-winning effort and early time at the front, however, was for naught. He lost the engine in his Matador was done after 22 laps.

Source: Reading Eagle via Google News Archive
Benny Parsons and Marcis had their time up front as well before Pearson and Petty glided their way back to the top of the heap. Around the half-way point of the race, however, the all-too-familiar mountain rains arrived to interrupt things. The race - which already needed an extraordinarily long time to complete the scheduled 500 miles - was delayed over an hour as the rains passed and the track dried.

As the race resumed and proceeded to the mid and late stages, Buddy Baker let it be known he too would part of the action. He led on multiple occasions during the race though only for a single-digit number of laps each time.

With about 25 laps to go, the 43 STP Dodge Charger took the lead from Pearson’s white and candy-apple red Mercury. Petty held Pearson at bay for the next 13 laps. With 14 to go, however, the 21 passed Petty again and set sail towards the win.

With just a handful of laps to go, however, Pearson’s car began smoking badly. Petty, obviously hoping to pounce at the right opportunity, had a tough time peering through the smoke. NASCAR black flagged Pearson with 2 to go, but the Silver Fox had no intentions of giving up the lead and the win.

He continued for the next two laps and took the checkered flag. Petty was none too happy at having to drive through the cloud of smoke. But with Pearson having up to three laps to acknowledge NASCAR’s black flag before having his scorecard pulled, the team knew it had some margin to finish the race and collect the trophy.

Source: Pocono Raceway's Facebook Page
Petty was not happy at all about Pearson’s staying on the track. He did concede, however, he likely would have done the same thing had the roles been reversed. Besides, he had eight wins under his belt already, had the points lead as he headed for his unprecedented sixth championship, and became the first driver to surpass $2 million in career earnings.

Source: Tuscaloosa News via Google News Archive
The race was the 55th of 63 times Petty and Pearson finished in the two two spots.

Source: Wilmington NC Star-News via Google News Archive
An edited version of MRN's broadcast of the race is available for streaming free on-line or through iTunes.