Saturday, September 17, 2016

September 17, 1972 - Delaware 500

As NASCAR's Winston Cup series schedule hit mid-September, only six races remained between Richard Petty and his pursuit of an unprecedented fourth title. Petty and his fellow drivers arrived in Dover, Delaware for the annual Delaware 500.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Bobby Allison won the pole in his Junior Johnson-prepared Coca-Cola Chevy. David Pearson lined up alongside Allison. Former teammates Buddy Baker (who had moved to the #71 Harry Hyde-led team) and Petty made up the second row. Coo Coo Marlin qualified fifth, one of his best career starting positions.

After a slam-bang affair at Richmond 500 a week earlier (and a handful of other on-track encounters over the years, Petty and Allison were reported by the media to be feudin'. Officially, both competitive drivers declined to take the bait - even in the face of a tight battle for the 1972 Cup.

Baker led a couple of sizable segments of around 50 laps each. Petty and Allison also led a few laps here and there. The day belonged, however, to the #21 Wood Brothers Purolator Mercury team. Pearson led 350 laps - including 345 of the final 350.

When the checkers fell, Pearson won over second place Petty by three laps. Though separated by three laps, the finish was the 46th of 63 times Petty and Pearson claimed the top two spots.

Source: York Daily Record
The rest of the top 10 was filled by some near-career days by independent drivers including:
  • 3rd: Ramo Stott driving for the Virginia gentleman car owner, Junie Donlavey
  • 4th: James Hylton
  • 5th: future Richard Childress Racing mechanic Cecil Gordon
  • 7th: future Winston Cup pace car driver Elmo Langley
  • 8th: Walter Ballard (Ballard fielded the car for Dale Earnhardt's second career Cup start)
Source: The Hour via Google News Archive
Before the race, Petty may have told the press any feud that may have existed with Allison was over. Few believed it. Though the two didn't swap much paint at Dover, the hard racing between them continued down the stretch of 1972 including the two post-Dover battles in the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville and the legendary Wilkes 400 at North Wilkesboro.

Petty won two of the final five races as did Allison. When the season concluded, however, Petty prevailed over Allison to capture his fourth title.



  1. I can tell you one thing from personal experience. To have your car go out very early in the race in those days of 500 laps at Dover and no way out of the track until after the checkers was a fate worse than death.

  2. Great to see so many "independent" drivers finish in the Top 10!