Friday, September 9, 2016

September 9, 1966 - Buddy Shuman Memorial

As the 1966 Grand National season began to wind down, a couple of story lines stayed in the news week-to-week.
  • David Pearson's incredible season - Through 42 races of the 49-race schedule, Pearson had tallied 13 wins. He was well on his way to winning the first of his three career GN titles.
  • Curtis Turner as a fans' favorite - In a limited schedule with multiple car owners, Turner continued to thrill fans on and off the track - and give his fellow competitors, owners, and NASCAR officials the same treatment. Fireball Roberts was gone, and Richard Petty's popularity continued to climb. Despite his career headed well on the downside, however, Pop Turner was still one of the biggest drawing cards for race promoters.
Hickory Speedway hosted the 43rd event of the season - the annual Buddy Shuman Memorial race. The 250-lap race on the 4/10-mile dirt track honored the memory of Buddy Shuman, a NASCAR pioneer who perished in a 1955 hotel fire.

Fans and likely the Hickory management were looking forward to round 3 of a feud between Turner and newcomer Bobby Allison. The two started on the front row five races earlier at Columbia and danced a couple of times during the event. Three races later, Pop and Bobby hammered the snot out of each other at Bowman Gray Stadium. Turner believed he deserved respect, and Allison was trying to bank some of his own.

Source: Statesville Record and Landmark
Turner was slated to make yet another start for owner Junior Johnson. After trashing Junior's car at Bowman Gray and wrecking again at Darlington, however, Turner didn't make it to Hickory. Johnson fired him and came out of retirement to drive his own car.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
Petty, the defending winner of the race, won the pole. Pearson qualified for the front row alongside Petty's #42 Plymouth. For six consecutive short-track races late in 1966, Petty sported #42 on his Plymouth in place of his customary 43.

East Tennessee's Paul Lewis started an impressive third, and Elmo Langley started beside Lewis. Allison rounded out the top five starters.

Pearson put a whuppin' on the field. When the green flag fell, Pearson jumped Petty from the front row, seized the lead, and led the first 15 laps. Driving the car originally scheduled for Turner, Johnson then led for a stretch of 55 laps in his car before having to pit to pull a wrinkled fender off a tire.

More bad luck fell Johnson's way. When he pitted, a safety truck was still on pit road tending a pit fire. Junior's pit exit was blocked by the truck, and he lost two laps just trying to get back on the track. Thirty laps later, Johnson was gassed. He retired as a driver after the 1965 season, and Hickory was only his second start back. He turned his car over to relief driver Dick Hutcherson who then turned the car over ... on its roof! ... about 100 laps later after rallying Junior's Ford back to 4th place.

Once Johnson made his first stop to pull the fender, Pearson went back to the point and led the remaining 180 laps to claim his fourteenth trophy of the year. Petty hung around to finish second - albeit one lap down to the winner. The race was the 17th of 63 times Pearson and Petty finished in the top two spots.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive

1 comment:

  1. Can you imagine what would happen today if a driver pitted and couldn't get back on the track because a fire truck was blocking the way? People have no idea what teams had to endure in days of old. The film of the 1963 Daytona 500 shows a large water puddle on pit road at the entrance to the pits - it had rained earlier, and track crews had cleaned up as best they could, leaving the rest of the water there. Today's drivers are good, but they don't have to put up with things like that.