Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30, 1979 - Coca-Cola 500

From 1974 through 1981, Pocono Raceway hosted only one Winston Cup race per season. The track was a bit ahead of its time in that Pocono signed title sponsors for its races. The first three were sponsored by Purolator, and then Pocono signed a multi-year deal with Coca-Cola.

The 1979 Coca-Cola 500 was scheduled for Sunday, July 29. As has been the case on multiple occasions over the decades, however, rain caused a postponement of the race until Monday, July 30.

Harry Gant won the pole for the first time in his Cup rookie career. He was driving the #47 Jack Beebe Monte Carlo and was still about 18 months from joining Hal Needham's Skoal Bandit team. Harry's car sported McCreary tires which delivered a lot of speed for qualifying but generally fell off on long race runs.

Cale Yarborough started second in Junior Johnson's Busch Beer Chevy. Rookie Dale Earnhardt lined up third in Rod Osterlund's self-funded Chevy, and Bobby Allison flanked Earnhardt in Bud Moore's Ford - a ride Earnhardt would drive in 1982 and 1983. Benny Parsons rounded out the top five starters.

Darrell Waltrip originally qualified third fastest. In a post-qualifying practice session, however, Waltrip crashed his #88 Gatorade Chevy, and the car had to be withdrawn. Waltrip was in tight points battle with Richard Petty, and he simply could not afford to miss a race.

Waltrip's DiGard team worked a deal to rent the ride of Al "A.J." Rudd, Jr., Ricky Rudd's brother. A.J. had qualified 18th for his Cup debut in a Chevy fielded by his father. DiGard leased the car, the Buddy Parrott-led crew replaced just about every thing but the paint and number, and Waltrip lined up Monday in Rudd's 18th starting spot.

A.J. later made his first Cup start - and as it turns out his only one - about a month later at Michigan. The Michigan car likely had a boocoodle of quality DiGard parts under it from the Pocono race.

Cale grabbed the lead at the green and held it for a lap to grab a few bonus points. On the second lap, however, Gary Balough, Al Holbert, and Roger Hamby collided. Holbert's car caught fire, and safety crews had a tough time fully extinguishing it. Fortunately though, all drivers exited their cars without significant injuries.

Earnhardt passed Cale on the second lap as the yellow flag was displayed, and he held it after the race went green again through lap 14. Darrell Waltrip then took the lead for a couple of laps in the Rudd-to-DiGard converted Chevy. 

And so it went for about the first half of the race. Earnhardt, Cale, DW, Bobby Allison, the King, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, and Gant all got their time on the point. But any lead was short-lived and lasted only a handful of laps.

The lead changed hands a remarkable 55 times during the day. The rookie Earnhardt led 43 laps in the 200-lap race's first half.

On lap 98, however, Earnhardt's Chevy blew a tire and crashed driver's side first into the steel barriers in turn two. He was choppered to the local hospital with fractures of both collar bones along with several cuts and bruises.

Tom Higgins reported about the injuries in the Charlotte Observer:
He was first taken to the track infield hospital, then transported by helicopter to East Stroudsburg Hospital, where his injury was diagnosed as a bilateral fracture of the clavicle (both collarbones).

"Dale was in extreme pain...they put him on the helicopter on a board because the doctors felt there might be some back injuries, and they felt an ambulance ride would be too excruciating for him," a team member said. "The seat and steering wheel were wrenched a good bit to the left. He took quite a lick."

Earnhardt's girlfriend, Teresa Houston of Hickory, talked briefly with Earnhardt, who was sedated heavily. She said all Earnhardt could remember was the tire blowing. He did not remember hitting the wall.
The second half was every bit as competitive as the first half - albeit without Earnhardt in the mix. Fans were pumped for the next lead change and the next and the next - particularly if one could happen on the last lap.

With a handful of laps to go, however, Cale Yarborough had pulled out to a three seconds lead over Waltrip's #22. Waltrip seemingly caught a break when independent owner/driver Nelson Oswald, running several laps behind, blew an engine in the third turn bringing out the caution.

Second place Waltrip and third place Bonnett in the Wood Brothers Mercury both hit the pits for fresh tires. Their teams were certain the race would go back to green with one or two laps left. Yarborough's team, however, elected to leave Cale on the track. Junior Johnson knew, fresh tires or not, passing Cale on the last lap of a race would not be an easy thing to do.

But the green flag never waved again. NASCAR allowed the race to finish under yellow with Cale cruising behind the pace car and Richard Petty holding down second. The assembly of fans erupted with a chorus of "boos" as the checkered flag was displayed to Cale.

Waltrip finished seventh and blasted NASCAR saying "Isn't that some southern fried chicken feathers? I ain't no sore loser, but they should've started it back again." When told of Waltrip's comments in the winner's press conference, Yarborough smiled and said "Looks like he's a sore loser to me."

Gant found his McCreary tires were fast, but they lasted only a few laps before blistering. He finished 15th, five laps off the pace.

The race was the 28th of 31 times Petty and Cale finished in the top two spots.

Source: Spartanburg Herald Journal
Using the current rule of The Overtime Line to finish a NASCAR race, the outcome of the 1979 Pocono race may have been different. For decades, NASCAR ended races at their advertised distance - under green or yellow. Then after several years of complaints sparked by finishes such as the one at Pocono in '79, NASCAR implemented the Green White Checkered rule to end a race.

After many complaints about that rule, The Overtime Line rule was adopted for 2017. Now, it seems to be in vogue for many to simply end races at the advertised distance - as it was originally. It's as if fans and media have come full circle - such as that one can make a circle out of Pocono's triangle.

Following the race, Osterlund tapped David Pearson to drive his #2 car as Earnhardt healed. Pearson had a great run in four starts with one pole, one win, no starts worse than fifth, and top 10 finishes in all four races. Osterlund, however, almost needed a B alternate. Pearson considered declining the offer to race because of a possible conflict with a commitment to work as TV color analyst.

Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July 25, 1982 - Mountain Dew 500

NASCAR's 1981 season saw a ton of change.
  • A reduction in the wheelbase of Cup cars to 110 inches. 
  • A non-aero friendly notchback rear window on all but one model.
  • Several notable driver / team changes including Darrell Waltrip from DiGard to Junior Johnson, Cale Yarborough from Junior's team to M.C. Anderson, and Bobby Allison from Bud Moore to Ranier Racing.
It took several races before most teams adapted to their new teams and cars. One team that seemed to gel right away, however, was Waltrip and his new Mountain Dew Buick team. The team banked a dozen wins and Waltrip's first title in 1981. 

Another team that fared pretty well without a driver change was Richard Petty. The King banked three wins in 1981 - the Daytona 500 plus wins at North Wilkesboro and Michigan.

When 1982 arrived, Waltrip still had his mojo. With two-thirds of the season in the books, Waltrip and Junior's team had piled up another gaudy six wins. Allison left Ranier after one season and moved to DiGard - the team vacated by Waltrip when he joined Junior Johnson in 1981 - and notched four wins by mid-season. Petty's STP team, meanwhile, was scratching his head as he fought through a winless dry spell dating back to August 1981..

After Waltrip won the Busch Nashville 420 on his home track, the NASCAR circuit headed for Pocono. Next on the schedule was, perhaps fittingly for DW, the Mountain Dew 500.

Cale Yarborough scored the pole in his #27 Valvoline Buick. Harry Gant qualified alongside him in the Skoal Bandit Buick. Ricky Rudd lined up third in his #3 Richard Childress Racing Pontiac. (Yes, RUDD in the #3 folks.) Allison started fourth in the Gatorade Buick.

Kyle Petty started 17th in Hoss Ellington's #1 STP/UNO Buick. Today, Kyle is a retired driver and an NBC commentator. In his second season as a full-time Cup driver in 1982, however, he still struggled to keep a toehold in Cup. The finances in Level Cross were stretched then in an effort to field two full-time cars.

At mid-season, the team announced a novel alternative. Kyle would continue to race short-track races for the family team. For superspeedway races, however, he would race for Ellington. The experiment ended later in the season, but all parties thought it worth the risk to help both organizations.

Yarborough got the jump at the green and led the first half-dozen laps. Allison and Dave Marcis then led the next six. Then Marcis and Gant split the next six. And on it went for the rest of the race. In addition to the early leaders, many others grabbed their opportunity to be on the point - even for a few laps, which is all most leads lasted. Waltrip, Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Tim Richmond, and a couple of young, emerging drivers - Bill Elliott and Mark Martin - all saw their number posted in the top spot for one or more laps.

Mark Martin had issues with his exhaust or firewall. The heat inside the car became so intense that he had to pit the car for a relief driver. Long-time independent driver Ronnie Thomas took over to spell Martin a while.Yet Martin knew Thomas couldn't last long either and eventually re-entered the car. The tandem survived to notch a 10th place finish for Martin's #02 Apache Stove Pontiac.

Though the racing at the front was exciting, the race is perhaps best remembered for an incident with just under 70 laps to go. Earnhardt drafted Richmond as they barreled into turn 1. But they then touched. Richmond spun, but Earnhardt took a tough right turn into the wall. He pummeled the boilerplate, got up in the air, and rolled over as he slid a good distance before coming to rest upside down.

Long-time motorsports photographer Jack Kromer got a shot of the #15 Wrangler Ford after it was righted and hauled back to the garage.

Greg Moore, Bud's son and long-time team crewman, recalled the incident in the book Bud Moore’s Right Hand Man: A NASCAR Team Manager’s Career at Full Throttle by Moore and Perry Allen Wood:
Earnhardt and Richmond were battling, and you had to use a little bit of brakes back then, but Dale didn't use brakes much. They wrecked, and I can remember hearing the fans reacting and seeing Richmond go out of sight. There was a car upside down with a gray bottom. I knew that was us. Daddy's on the radio saying, "Caution! Caution! Come on in. We're going to change all four." I hadn't even had a chance to say anything to Daddy, and Earnhardt was on his damn roof. Earnhardt keyed the mic and said "Yeah Bud. If you come down here to turn one and two, it'll be real easy to change them because all four wheels are off the ground." That's how conscious he was. Earnhardt went to the infield care center, and we flew back to Spartanburg on a private plane together. We played cards on the airplane, laughing and talking about it.
Dave Fulton, director of Wrangler's NASCAR marketing program, has memories of the wreck as well:
I was standing next to car owner/crew chief, Bud Moore on pit road at Pocono. The blue & yellow T-bird climbed the old boiler plate steel wall and rode for a distance on its roof before coming back down on the track. The car almost cut down the "Winston Pack" MRN radio booth with Eli Gold inside - a very scary moment for Eli.

Those were the days of racing back to the flag and very slow emergency response times. Dale was being inundated with hot oil from the oil cooler as he struggled upside down to get free. A photographer ran across the track to assist, along with Richmond, who helped Dale to the ambulance that finally arrived at the crash scene. I always remember Tim helping Dale that day.

The late Don Naman called me in Greensboro at Wrangler headquarters on Monday morning after the crash to see if I could get Bud to donate the car to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame Museum in Talladega as a "safety" display. Bud, who had no use for wrecked cars and had lost drivers Joe Weatherly and Billy Wade in crashes, politely declined the request.
With Earnhardt and Richmond having survived the wreck with only minimal injuries, one was then allowed to wonder. Were either of them perhaps distracted by the Schaefer Beer logo on the wall? Maybe they lost focus momentarily when suddenly hit with a thirst for the one beer to have when having more than one.

With 43 laps to go, all of the lead lap cars made stops under another yellow. The timing of the stop challenged each crew chief and driver to carefully manage their fuel mileage over the remaining laps.

The King had led the most laps of the race and was having one of his most fortunate days of the season. He could seem to go back to the lead when he wanted. Waltrip ran second, and Allison was content to follow the other two cars in third.

With just 7 laps to go, however, Petty's Pontiac had to make a quick stop-and-go for gas. His time out front, though impressive, burned more fuel than Waltrip and Allison running behind him.

Darrell Waltrip took the lead as Petty hit pit road, and Junior's team planned to go the distance and finish on fumes. Allison drafted Waltrip, and Petty returned to the track and made his way back to third.

With three to go, Waltrip's car began to burp. He rolled out of the throttle in an effort to manage his remaining fuel. Allison blew by him and stretched a bit of lead. On the last lap, Waltrip's #11 Buick consumed its last drop of dew. Despite jostling his car, he fell away from Allison. Petty made up some of his lost ground and sailed by Waltrip to take second.

Waltrip faded to a sixth place finish. He did so by getting a push on the final lap from infrequent Cup driver Joe Booher. Interestingly, Waltrip accused Harry Gant nine years later at Talladega of getting a push from Rick Mast even though it was unclear if Gant got a winning assist.

With cable TV still in its infancy and NASCAR TV coverage fractured over a number of media outlets, the race wasn't broadcast live. A condensed package of it was aired later through syndication.
  • 30:00 mark: Martin's heat issue, driver change, and interview
  • 35:00 mark: Earnhardt / Richmond wreck and Tim Richmond interview
The race was the 50th of 51 times that Petty and Allison finished in the top two spots.

Source: The Free Lance Star via Google News Archive
Greg Moore recalls the following few days between Pocono and the next race at Talladega:
Two days later, Earnhardt came down to the shop hobbling on crutches with a buddy of his. They looked at the car and he said, "Look how the roll bars held up," and he laughed about it. A lot of the drivers wouldn't have wanted to look at it. Daddy had already checked Dale's leg, and Earnhardt pulled me off to the side and told me it was broken. We didn't want NASCAR to know that, so we never said a word to Daddy. Dale never said a word to anybody. Only he and I and some doctor knew about it...If NASCAR had known it was broken, they would not let him start the race. 
Earnhardt did indeed race the next week at Talladega. And once again, he wrecked and left the race early. Tom Higgins reported in the Charlotte Observer that Earnhardt had surgery two days after the Talladega race and nine days after Pocono:
...Dale Earnhardt underwent apparently successful surgery Tuesday in a Statesville hospital for the broken left knee he suffered in a race crash July 25.

Joe Whitlock, an associate of Earnhardt's, said there were no problems in the operation, during which two screws were inserted into Earnhardt's knee.

"The only hitch was that Dale is miffed that the doctor wouldn't follow his suggestion and make the incision in the form of a W like that sewn on the back pockets of Wrangler jeans," said Whitlock chuckling.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23, 1972 - Dixie 500

The recently released 2018 Cup schedule included no new tracks; however, a few races were moved around during the calendar and from one track to another. One notable change was the movement of the Chicagoland race from the first race of the playoffs to July 1, a week before Daytona's summer race.

Soon after the announcement, fans began to chirp about how hot it's expected to be in Joliet on a July day. Seriously.

Genuinely hot races of NASCAR's salad days included the daytime Firecracker 400 at Daytona, the Talladega 500 in July and August, and Atlanta's Dixie 500 before it was moved to November. One such Dixie 500 was held on July 23, 1972.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
The 1972 season was the second one sponsored as the Winston Cup Series by R.J. Reynolds but the first with a significantly reduced schedule. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the length of NASCAR's Grand National division schedules ranged from 45 to 60+ races. With RJR coming aboard, the schedule was trimmed to 31 races in 1972.

The season was largely controlled by three drivers: Richard Petty and Bobby Allison in full-time efforts and David Pearson in an abbreviated schedule with the Wood Brothers. Petty was the two-time defending winner of the Dixie 500 in 1970 and 1971, and Allison won the Atlanta 500 earlier in the season.

A few days before the race, Petty joked with a few writers by reminding them to tell fans not to forget their blankets for the race. Blankets in July? "They're not for the temperature. But folks might want to throw a blanket over the finish. That's how close things are."

Pearson captured the pole - his second in seven starts with the Woods. Bobby Isaac qualified alongside him in the #71 K&K Insurance, Harry Hyde-prepared Dodge Charger. Allison, Coo Coo Marlin, and Petty rounded out the top five starters.

On Saturday night before Sunday's race, the track hosted a country music concert. Ferlin Huskey, Ray Price, Don Gibson, Donna Fargo, and fellow racer Marty Robbins entertained the fans and apparently a few drivers in a matinee and an evening show.

Everyone deals with heat and humidity in their own way. Independent, life-of-the-party driver Joe Frasson handled the southern, summer climate by downing beer poured into his hat!

Donnie Allison raced a few times for Bud Moore in 1972 - the ride Pearson vacated after two starts earlier in the year before joining the Wood Brothers. For most of the 1970s and into the early 80s, Bud's #15 Fords were always plain white. In 1972, however, he painted them butterscotch yellow.

The race was highly competitive throughout its first half. The top five starters along with Donnie Allison and a couple of others swapped the lead regularly. No lead lasted longer than a single-digit number of laps other than two segments when Pearson held serve for 47 and 13 laps, respectively.

In the middle stages of the race, Pearson put his #21 Mercury into the wind and decided to keep it there. Whereas the first part of the race saw many lead changes, the middle third saw Pearson pull the field around Atlanta lap after lap after lap. He was seeking his first Atlanta win since the 1961 Dixie 400, his third career victory.

Around lap 230, the skies could no longer hold the mugginess of the day. Showers arrived, and a yellow flag flew for the damp track. Today's crew chiefs have all sorts of weather technology at their disposal. In 1972, however, teams had to survey the skies and read the winds. Glen and Leonard Wood believed plenty of rain was on the way, the race would soon be called, and Pearson would be declared the winner.

As a result, the Woods chose not to have Pearson pit. The Junior Johnson and Dale Inman led teams of Allison and Petty believed otherwise. Both were called to pit road.

Sure enough, the rain was short-lived. With one to go before returning to green, Pearson was called to pit road after all. He got fresh tires and a load of fuel, but he lost a lot of track position.

Allison took off with Petty in pursuit. Pearson was about a half-lap behind the duo after his team's weather gamble failed to pay off. With a quarter of the race left to go and still some uncertainty about the weather, Pearson picked up his pace. But in doing so, he burned a valve in his Mercury's engine. Down on power, he cruised the rest of the race. He still managed a third place finish albeit three laps down to the winner.

Petty was a three-time winner of the Dixie 500 - all in a Plymouth. He was looking for his first Atlanta win after Petty Enterprises converted to Mopar's Dodge brand. But Allison had the mojo in his Coca-Cola Machine.

The #12 Chevrolet stretched the lead over Petty's Dodge and led 90 of the race's remaining 92 laps. Allison took a comfortable win over second place Petty - the only two cars on the lead lap at the finish.

The win was Allison's third in a row after having won at Trenton Speedway and Bristol. He also swept Atlanta's races in 1972. The race was the 34th of 51times Petty and Allison were the top two finishers.

Source: Free Lance Star via Google News Archive


Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20, 1975 - Nashville 420

From 1975 through its final Cup race in 1984, Nashville's fairgrounds speedway was slotted as the next race following Daytona's Firecracker 400. The drivers went from the 2-1/2 mile superspeedway to the 5/8 mile, 18-degree banked short track in middle Tennessee. Coincidentally, the two tracks opened within about six months of one another - Nashville in August 1958 and Daytona in February 1959.

The 1975 edition of the Nashville 420 was slated for July 19th - about 2 weeks after the Firecracker and a bit of a season's breather for the teams.

Richard Petty was The Man in 1975. He had won 8 of the season's first 16 races - including the race before Nashville, the Firecracker 400. The King hit on one streak where the STP Dodge won five of 7 races, including three in a row.

Cale Yarbough started the season in a bit of a bind. His Junior Johnson-owned team had split sponsors in 1974. The first half of the season had been sponsored by Kar-Kare, and the #11 Chevy carried the colors of Carling Black Label in the second half.

Carling was gone when the calendar turned to 1975, however, and the team had no replacement sponsor. To save costs, the team skipped the season opening race at Riverside.

When Yarborough's team arrived in Daytona, the car's official photo was made with prior year colors and no sponsor name on the side. A last minute, one-race deal with Valvoline provided Johnson's team with a few dollars to pay the tire bill, but the team's financial - and winning - challenges continued.

Johnson finally landed a  sponsor in the spring. The company was in his own back yard and had backed him a few times in his own driving days: Holly Farms Chicken.The Kar-Kare / Carling red was painted over with solid white, and a handful of Holly Farms emblems were affixed to the hood and sides.

Many of today's fans are baffled by many of NASCAR's rules, penalties, and its decision-making process in general - and rightfully so. While many are more aware of the sanctioning body's oddities in today's era because of the size of racing, social media, etc., NASCAR certainly had plenty of quirks back in the day to make one scratch his head. 

NASCAR struggled to draw full fields for its races in 1975. One reason: lack of sufficient team sponsorships. Two: woeful track purses. So what was NASCAR's decision when one sponsor offered to sweeten the purse - even if it may have benefited the sponsor's own driver? Read on in this excerpt from the July 9, 1975 edition of The Tennessean.
NASCAR has turned down an offer by the STP Corporation to donate additional prize money to the first Dodge to finish in next Saturday’s Nashville 420.

The offer was intended to help Richard Petty, an STP-sponsored driver, reach the $2 million plateau in career winnings. Petty, who needs $10,172 to break the $2 million barrier, is one of only five Dodge drivers who generally make the 40-car lineup for Grand National races.

The winner’s share of the Nashville 420 is $6,085. Petty, however, can take no more than $5,485 as $600 of the total purse is posted by STP, and Petty’s earnings from the sponsoring corporation cannot be counted in his official winnings.

Yesterday’s offer of $5,000 in additional prize money to the highest finishing Dodge driver was flatly rejected by NASCAR. Lin Kuchler, Executive Vice President of the governing body, told Nashville Speedway promoter Bill Donoho permission for such an offer would be granting special favors to the Dodge drivers.

“They said they would not permit STP to boost the prize money, so it looks like Petty won’t have a chance to win his $2 million on this track,” said Donoho. Petty will likely reach the $2 million mark in the Aug. 3 Pocono 500, next stop on the Grand National circuit after Nashville.

Ironically, Petty narrowly missed another milestone on the local track as the first driver to win $1 million in 1971. Petty won the Nashville 420 that year but left town still $2,357 short of the $1 million mark. And now again it appears Petty is going to just miss making racing history on the local track. 
When the teams arrived in Nashville, Junior Johnson had added a bit of burnt orange to the hood, trunk deck, and hood of the 11. Cale also had a Monte Carlo at his disposal vs the Chevy S3 he raced on the superspeedways. The Monte became his go-to car for him as well as many others through 1980.

With his new colors, Cale and Junior were ready to get back the mojo they had for much 1974. Among their wins during the previous season was a controversial one in the Nashville 420. So the duo looked forward to repeating in 1975.

Another driver who planned to keep both Petty and Yarborough at bay was Darrell Waltrip. With a career still teetering between potential and a busted bank account, Waltrip still had his confidence. He was a two-time late model sportsman champion at Nashville and had 50+ victories at the fairgrounds. He also captured his first career Cup victory earlier in 1975 in Nashville's Music City 420.

Benny Parsons won the pole on Friday night, July 18th. Waltrip lined up alongside him. Yarborough, Petty, and Dave Marcis rounded out the top five starters.

Starting shotgun on the field in a car fielded by Bobby Allison was Neil Bonnett in only his third Cup start and his first one on a short track. Bonnett was no stranger to Nashville though. He had raced several time previously at the fairgrounds - including a win in a 100-lap late model race about a month before the Nashville 420.

Allison wasn't entered in the 420. He was in Michigan for the USAC Norton Twin 200, a twin bill of stock car and Indy car races. He raced his famed AMC Matador in the stock car race a Roger Penske McLaren in the Indy car headliner.

Though night races are now a common part of the Cup schedule, that wasn't the case in the 1970s. Even Bristol didn't host its first night race until 1978. Throughout the 1970s, the only track to host two scheduled night races was Nashville.

But Mother Nature screwed with Nashville's scheduling in 1975. Rather than race on a dark, hot, muggy, summer evening, the teams returned to race on a Sunday afternoon. They then got to race on a bright, hot, muggy, summer day.

Source: The Tennessean

When the green fell on Sunday, Waltrip got an early jump on pole-winner Parsons. Ol' DW - then a young pup - led the first 18 laps before losing a transmission and heading to the garage.

With Waltrip's exit, Yarborough took over the lead and picked up where he'd left off at Nashville the previous summer. Cale put his #11 in the wind and for the most part didn't look back.

The only wreck in the race happened at lap 30 when two Tennesseans tangled, Coo Coo Marlin of Columbia and Grant Adcox of Chattanooga.

Another caution fell just past lap 300 that must have caused Cale's stomach to lurch into his throat. Two-time Nashville track champ and Cup indepenendent David Sisco, lost his car off turn four and looped it down the front straightaway. To avoid clobbering Sisco, Yarborough looped his car right at the starter's stand.

With a lap lead over second place Petty, however, Cale never lost his top spot. He righted his car, got a fresh set of tires, re-entered the fray, and continued on another 100+ laps to capture his second consecutive Nashville 420.

The race was the 19th of 31 times Petty and Yarborough finished in the top two spots. Bonnett had a solid day. He rallied from his 30th and dead-last starting spot to finish 14th.

By finishing second, Petty still wouldn't have cleared the $2 million career earnings mark even if the STP incentive money had been allowed. It seems to me NASCAR was more in-the-way than necessary for a local track promoter's effort to draw attention to a race. But it wasn't the first time such a decision was made - and it certainly wasn't the last.

Yarborough celebrated in victory lane with multiple Miss Winstons - along with 18 year-old Sterling Marlin who photobombed the photo shoot while clinging to a fence post.

Credit: Marchman Family Collection

Source: The Tennessean


Sunday, July 2, 2017

43 More Reasons to Dig Richard Petty

On Friday, June 30, Ryan McGee of ESPN noted 80 reasons to love Richard Petty. His 80 examples matched the King's 80th birthday to be celebrated on July 2nd.

I agree with all on McGee's list - and have had my own personal experiences with many of them. While I won't denote another 80 examples, I have outlined 43 additional reasons of my own.
  1. My first time meeting the King and getting his autograph - July 1982 at Nashville's fairgrounds speedway
  1. Learning through others that King has read many of my blog posts - primarily the series about his 200 wins
  2. Having him tell me as much on the floor of Petty's Garage! 
  3. Allowing himself to put cool on the shelf long enough to ham it up with Tim Richmond 
  1. Stopping his van as he exited the track following the 1990 Firecracker 400 in Daytona to sign an autograph for my friend's nine year-old son. The kid recognized the van ahead of him and broke out in a sprint in an attempt to chase down the King. The 30+ year-old kid still has that autograph. 
  2. Stopping after the fall 2013 Dover race to sign an autograph for the kid of another friend of  mine. Their family had flown from Australia to attend a few races and support Marcos Ambrose. 
  3. His 1980s Son of a Gun commercial - shoot da dash, shoot da tars
  1. Letting the competition know his coolness would not be compromised on the track. His battle with Bobby Allison in 1972 at North Wilkesboro was epic, and 43 prevailed to notch P1.
  2. Making bank by compromising a bit of cool to pose for an ad with Allison 
  1. Having enough coolness to meet with Allison, agree not to rough each other up any more, and to park their so-called feud while at its peak. 
  2. Calling out Dale Earnhardt after getting wrecked in the 1986 Southern 500 (13:30 mark)
  1. Telling Ned Jarrett that he planned to keep on winning after capturing his 7th Daytona 500 in 1981. (2:00:00 mark)
  1. Having my pic made by the STP Dodge for the first time in 1978 at Nashville 
  1. Having him spend a few minutes with me most recently at Phoenix in November 2013 and chatting about the old days
  1. Bailing on a scheduled interview with Jim Rome and explaining later that he had something else to do during the original date and time 
  2. Flying to Vietnam to visit US troops right after winning the 1971 Winston Cup title 
  3. Making it possible for others in his family to race: Kyle Petty, Ritchie Petty, Mark Petty, Adam Petty, Austin Petty, and Thad Moffitt 
  4. Making a D.K. Ulrich car look cool in 1986
  1. Mayonnaise sandwiches 
“I remember when I was 6 or 7 years old,” said Kyle recently. “Daddy would have been 26 or 27 and in his prime. He would go to work in the morning at the shop near the house, come home and have a mayonnaise sandwich with pepper.

“If you don’t know, daddy’s mayonnaise sandwich with pepper was two pieces of bread with mayonnaise. He put mass quantities of pepper on the bread, put the slices back together and ate it.

“Then, daddy drank a big old glass of milk. When he ran out of milk, he’d bang the glass on the table which meant (for mom to) fill it up again,” Kyle said. “Then dad would get up and lay in the floor face first. He just laid out - feet out - and laid there resting his eyes for about five hours.

“Everybody else would be over at the shop working. They’d come and wake daddy up and he’d go back to the shop for about an hour. Then he’d come home, eat supper and sit in a chair watching TV until about 12:20 or 1 o’clock.

“Daddy would get up about 7 and go back and do the same thing,” said Kyle. “Every day the man ate a mayonnaise sandwich, and I know the man’s won a million races and done all this great stuff for the fans. But just think of what he could’ve done if he had worked whole days all his life instead of half-days.” ~ Asheville Citizen-Times – June 14, 1992
  1. Being invited to the grand opening of the current Petty Museum - where I also got to trade stories about being a Petty fan with the aforementioned Ryan McGee
  1. Listening to King tell the story of driving the family race car as a teenager to the only GN race held in Corbin, Kentucky because his dad, Lee, was arriving from another track 
  2. Having my uncle and aunt name my cousin Richard based on their King fandom
  3. Having my bud name his son Richard Lee for the same reason - and then being at Dover in 2011 for his first Cup race
  1. Winning the only NASCAR Grand National / Cup race sponsored by Schaefer beer
  1. My getting to hold the Schaefer 300 winner's trophy 40+ years later
  1. Having King autograph our Schaefer Hall of Fame 20th Anniversary banner in Dover.
  1. Having an uncle care enough to mail me my first Petty postcard in the mid 1970s - and I still have it
  1. Exiting the 43 early in a Riverside race because of an injury and then coolly delivering TV commentary 
  1. Respecting everyone. King is equally cool with kids, fat dudes, fans of other drivers, hot chicks, grammaws, celebs, politicians, athletes, common folks, etc. 
  2. My bicycle that I converted from a yellow bike with a red banana seat to a Petty Blue, motocross bike.  
  1. An interview with David Letterman following his spectacular wreck in the 1988 Daytona 500 (26:20 mark)
  1. The Hat - The combo day-glo red (e.g. orange) and blue panel hat was a universal sign of being a Petty fan in the 70s and 80s. I had two of them - one of Richard and one of Kyle. Wish I still did. 
  1. Being more concerned about who took his boots than a destroyed race car after nearly wiping himself out at Darlington in 1970.
  1. The silhouette profile logo 
  1. Seeing the joy on his face when the 43 returned to victory lane at Phoenix in 1996 with Bobby Hamilton aboard. About 10 years later, my son and I were able to stand by the winning car at Hamilton's shop.
  1. Wearing snakeskin cowboy boots to meet President Ronald Reagan 
  1. The super cool, logo'd Petty Enterprises hauler unveiled in the early 1980s. It was among the first of its kind and established a new trend towards the modern, luxury transporters.
  1. Rejecting doctor's advice for additional rest after having overdue surgery for stomach ulcers. A few weeks after the surgery, he won his sixth Daytona 500.
  2. The way he pronounces Pontiac: Pony-ack
  3. His driving a bulldozer in February 1988 as part of the ceremonial ground breaking for the new 3/4 mile Richmond Raceway. One week earlier, he endured a spectacular crash in the Daytona 500.
  1. Having the local volunteer fire department number their station after the King's famous car number.
  1. His service to his community and the nation - including his participation in the Hayride 500, a 1986 drought relief program to transport hay from Ohio to North Carolina.
  1. All the friendships and relationships I've developed through being a Petty fan for 43 years.