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.


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