Friday, March 19, 2021

March 19, 1967 - Bristol's Southeastern 500

The seventh race of the 1967 NASCAR Grand National season was the Southeastern 500 at Bristol International Speedway. The Bristol-then was a far cry from Bristol-now. The track name, seating capacity, and most important to most - the track surface - was completely different than they are in 2021. 

The six races of the season were won by a Who's Who of Racing with Hall of Fame names such as Fast Freddy Lorenzen, The King Richard Petty, Mario Andretti, and Dan Gurney. As the teams pulled into East Tennessee, however, 1966 Rookie of the Year driver James Hylton sat atop the points. 

Despite winning ROTY, finishing third in the 1967 Daytona 500, and leading the points, Hylton's arrival at Bristol wasn't a sure thing. His partner in their independent racing organization decided the costs were simply too prohibitive to continue. With no one to share the burden - including no factory support from Dodge, Hylton was at a crossroads. 

After working out an exit plan with his partner though, the points leader did tow to Bristol in an effort to keep things afloat as long as he could. Unfortunately, Hylton's challenges continued as he fell out of the race with over 100 laps to go.

Source: Greenville News
Darel Dieringer captured the pole in Junior Johnson's Ford, and Lorenzen lined up alongside him in his pearl white #28 Holman Moody Ford. The King qualified third, and Dick Hutcherson timed fourth. Independent G.C. Spencer rounded out the top five starters.

Famed Baltimore Colts quarterback, Johnny Unitas, served as the grand marshal for the race. His appearance at Bristol prefaced his fantastic 1967 season as he later captured the NFL's Most Valuable Player award for the season.

Dieringer led the first two laps before Petty took over to lead four laps. As the King led, Joe Edd Neubert had himself a handful in his first NASCAR GN race. He spun in front of the race leader leaving Petty little room. The King went as high as he could and scraped between Neubert's car and the guardrail. Though he narrowly slipped by, a cut tire two laps later (presumably from the incident) sent Petty into the fence and onto the trailer. 

With Ol' Blue done for the day, Hutcherson moved out front on lap seven and kept all challengers at bay until lap 54. Jim Paschal forced his way by Hutch and pulled the field for about the next 60 laps.

David Pearson soon took his Cotton Owens Dodge to the point. He led until lap 189 before surrendering his lead to Dieringer. For the next 300 laps or so, fans enjoyed a great battle between Hutch, Dieringer, and Cale Yarborough. All led sizable chunks of laps as Pearson stayed in the mix with the trio.

With 18 laps to go and the checkered flag within reach, Dick Hutcherson had stretched his lead to a full lap on Yarborough and two laps over third place Pearson. But as Ray Wylie Hubbard sings in Mother Blues, love and fate are mysterious things in this funky old world.

Hutch suddenly blew an engine in his Ford and just like that was done after having led 209 laps. When green flag returned, Cale was back in the lead with a one-lap advantage over Pearson and pulling away. But then like Hutch, he too fell into a pit of misfortune. His Wood Brothers Ford ran over some debris causing the #21 to blow a tire.

With so few laps remaining and a full-lap lead over second place, Cale opted to stay on track in an attempt to run the rest of the race on the tire's inner liner. Pearson gave chase to get to Cale, pass him, make up his lap, and pass the 21 again. He accomplished just that within a few laps and continued on to a welcomed but unexpected win. 

Pearson's 29th career win was his first of five victories at Bristol. Hutcherson would coincidentally serve as Pearson's crew chief in his Holman Moody years, and Pearson of course later piloted the Wood Brothers car that Yarborough occupied in 1967.

Source: Charlotte News

1 comment:

  1. Johnny U rode around in the pace car tossing miniature footballs into stands. Pretty cool.