By now, most of you have heard that the adventurous Richard Petty – who’s done everything from win NASCAR championships to run for political office- will now try his hand at getting a car into the Indianapolis 500 with John Andretti behind the wheel. What you may not now, this isn’t Petty’s first rodeo outside the world of “stock” car racing.
Jeremy Sellers, he of Jerm’s Joint Racing Pub, shares the story of days gone by when Richard Petty veered off his path to NASCAR glory into the world of drag racing. Even more fascinating are the reasons why.
To add a little ambience, I interspersed some photos of old school Petty cars. (However Dawg has astutely pointed out that with the “Busch” sticker, the coupe in the middle is likely not a real Petty car. I’ll leave it there for ambience)
Without further adieu, here’s Jeremy Sellers with:
RICHARD PETTY AND THE QUARTER MILE
In this modern, boring, sterile era of NASCAR, I thought it would be nice for a change of pace to go off-beat, and perhaps bring you a story that I would bet most of you are unaware. In fact, my father, a good ol’ school quarter mile, muscle car guy was the one that laid the ground work for this piece. Indeed it was something I didn’t know about the one we have referred to as “The King” and is a tribute to the stance that at least one driving organization took when the France dictatorship was out of hand.
It was no secret that Big Bill favored the Chevys early in NASCAR’s heyday. However, the 427 Mark IV was just too powerful and was the first to suffer the dictatorial ban set forth by the France regime. However, that same year of 1964, Ford was crying tears in their beer as Chrysler tore up the tracks, dominating the Grand National Division. Regardless of the fact that Ned Jarrett gave the Petty’s a run for their money in a Ford, it wasn’t enough. Ford threatened to boycott the 1965 season if the Hemis were not banned from NASCAR competition.
This was a possible move that concerned Big Bill greatly, enough to cave to pressure and indeed, ban the Hemi from all NASCAR competition for the 1965 campaign. However, the founder of NASCAR had no idea just how much this decision would backfire, nearly sinking NASCAR before its modern era began. Chevy held true to its ban, and Chrysler imposed a boycott of its drivers participating in the ‘65 run, thus leaving Fords and Mercurys the sole cars on the tracks. The public stayed home in droves, and financially, was a disaster for NASCAR. Since the Petty’s were on Chrysler’s payroll, they felt compelled to stay racing, some way…some how.
Maurice Petty proved that he was not only professed at building NASCAR vehicles, but wasn’t too bad of a drag car fabricator, either. Racing in a Plymouth Barracuda fastback, hauling a Hemi 426 under the hood, Richard lost only six events in the spring and summer of 1965. Carrying the same number 43 as his speedway car, his quarter mile monster was appropriately named “Outlawed”. Finally, on July 25th of 1965, Bill France relented. Under financial pressure and howling mad track promoters, revisions were made to the rules to allow Hemis back in competition. However, making it known his dislike of Chrysler, Big Bill now favored Fords.
Just a little somethin’ somethin’ to let you know that at one time, Richard Petty was not only the King of round track, but could take care of business on the straightaways as well.
Thanks Jeremy. You know it does make you wonder what might happen if one of today’s drivers felt strongly enough about an issue that they took a similar stand. What would the reaction by NASCAR leadership be?
The story certainly does harken back to a different when racers raced anything. A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford all better known for their open wheel exploits- raced in NASCAR at one time or another. A handful of NASCAR greats also also ventured into other forms of racing.