|Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers|
|Credit: Bryant McMurray via University of North Carolina Charlotte|
- Petty Enterprises and Richard Petty
- Wood Brothers and David Pearson
- Junior Johnson and Cale Yarborough
- L.G. DeWitt and Benny Parsons
- Bud Moore and Buddy Baker
- Nord Krauskopf and Dave Marcis
One driver who did not have the financial security to guarantee future races was second-year Cup driver Darrell Waltrip. After losing to 1973 Rookie of the Year award to Lennie Pond, Waltrip raced in about half the events in 1974. He won one pole and averaged a 14th place finish coming into the Charlotte race. But a second place finish in Darlington's Southern 500 was sandwiched between two rotten finishes - 44th in the Talladega 500 and 35th in the Delaware 500 at Dover. Anemic purse payouts and the absence of a backing sponsor led Waltrip to believe 1974 would be his second and final season in Cup.
Another driver facing tough times was California's Dick Brooks. After two years of driving for himself in the late 1960s, Brooks drove for couple of other owners in the early 1970s - including Jimmy Crawford with whom he won at Talladega in 1973. Brooks went back to driving his own cars in 1974 with limited support from Simoniz.
|Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal via Google News Archive|
With less than a couple of weeks to go before Charlotte, a fire consumed much of Brooks' shop in Spartanburg, South Carolina. With the tireless efforts of several friends and crewmen, Brooks salvaged a car, had it painted, and readied it for the race.
|Source: Spartanburg Herald|
|Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal|
|Source: Sumter Daily Item|
|Source: The Monroe News Star|
The problems unfolded, however, behind the crop-dusting Schild. Baker, Jim Vandiver, Joe Frasson, Soapy Castles and independent driver Richard Childress all barreled through the dust and wrecked as they headed for turn one. Brooks misfortune continued as well. After the shop fire and two-week thrash job, the multi-car wreck also snared Brooks' rebuilt Dodge.
Immediately behind that group was Marty Robbins, country music singer and part-time Cup racer. Robbins had a split second to make a decision between two unpleasant choices:
- hammer Childress in the driver's side door or
- hook right and drill himself into the wall.
The race continued with additional wrecks and several engine failures. Yet, the event was competitive up front. Fans saw 47 lead changes throughout the day with each new leader spending only a handful of laps out front. Though the lead changed hands dozens of times, the laps were largely dominated by Pearson, Petty, Yarborough, Donnie Allison, and Waltrip.
Pearson led about 30 laps during a couple of segments in the early stages of the race before cutting a tire. Other drivers then took their turn dicing for the lead in the middle stages. With about 50 laps to go, however, Pearson decided it was once again go-time.
The #21 Mercury went to the point and brought the King with him. Petty, seeking his first 500-mile win at Charlotte, kept Pearson honest in the last few laps. He got within about three car lengths, but Pearson took the checkered flag for the win and the season sweep at the track. The Silver Fox also won the World 600 in May - coincidentally also over Petty. The race was the 53rd of 63 times Petty and Pearson finished in the top two spots.
Waltrip led 39 laps, finished a solid third, and was able to continue racing. A little over six months later, he found himself in victory lane for the first time at his home track (drink!), Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway. Less than a year after Charlotte, he parked his own Cup team and began a six-year stint with DiGard replacing the fired Donnie Allison.
With his second place finish, Petty wrapped up his fifth Cup title. At the time, no driver had won more than three titles. Only two drivers have matched the feat since - Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson.
|Source: The Robesonian via Google News Archive|
|Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal|