This article attempts to briefly explore some of the highlights of the involvement of Chrysler Corporation cars in NASCAR. The primary source of information in this article and most statistics come from Greg Fielden's fantastic series Forty Years of Stock Car Racing published by The Galfield Press.
The annals of NASCAR racing are rich with Mopar history and tradition from the time of the runs of Chryslers in the very first NASCAR race at the old Charlotte Speedway dirt track on June 19, 1949 by Jimmy Thompson and Frank Smith to the final Buddy Arrington run in a Chrysler on June 2, 1985 at Riverside, California. In between those two events, the Chrysler round track drivers were very much in the thick of things and dominated the circuit at various times. In this article, we will try to explore some of the interesting and unique things associated with that involvement. Incidentally, in that first race, Jimmy Thompson earned $75 for his 10th place finish and Frank Smith received no purse money for his 21st place finish.
The article is organized sequentially by year, and is followed by a bibliography. You may choose a specific year of interest by clicking on it below:
The first win for a Chrysler product came during that first season of 1949 when Lee Petty drove his '49 Plymouth business coupe to victory in a 200 lap race at the old Heidelburg Speedway, a half mile dirt track in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Petty finished that first season second in points with season earnings of $3,855. Red Byron earned $5,800 as he won the point championship in 1949 in his Oldsmobile.
The 1950 season saw a name change for NASCAR's top division from "Strictly Stock" to "Grand National". The 1950 season also saw the total number of events go from 8 to 19 and saw the beginning of the most storied of all events on the circuit--the Southern 500 in Darlington, South Carolina.
The first Southern 500 was won by 9 laps by Johnny Mantz in a Plymouth. The race was started by 70 cars with Mantz's Plymouth having qualified about 9 MPH slower than pole winner Curtis Turner's Olds. As a matter of fact, Mantz's qualifying speed was the slowest in the entire field of starters at 73.460 MPH, but he averaged 75.250 MPH for the race.
Most of Mantz's competitors had never experienced racing on asphalt before and had trouble keeping tires on their heavier cars including Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs. Mantz's lighter Plymouth and harder compound tires similar to those used at Indianapolis helped him keep cruising by his competitors while they were continually pitting to change tires. Mantz's victory earned for him $10,510 from a $25,000 purse.
Lee Petty also piloted a Plymouth business coupe to a sixth place finish in the first Southern 500 about which Richard Petty said in his book King Richard I : "It was the lightest car on the market. It was also one of the cheapest. The business coupe was the deal salesmen used in those days--the kind that didn't even have a back seat, just a big trunk where they could haul their line from town to town. He [Lee Petty] figured this would work fine for them, what it lacked in horsepower-I think it had 97-it would make up in dependability. A light car would be easier on parts, he [Lee] figured."
"If I get out there and take it easy on the car and let those other cats blow up their cars," he [Lee] said, "then I'll be around at the end of the race when they aren't. You know, they pay first-place money to the car that's leading the race at the checkered flag. It don't [sic] matter when he got there."
About Mantz's tires, Richard Petty said: "At that point in my life, I didn't even know that there was such an animal as a race tire. Neither did most of the other guys. But Daddy knew the difference, and he wasn't too pleased."
"Mantz had them shipped down from his buddies in Akron, Ohio. They were the old five-rib Firestones that had been used on a couple cars at Indy."
"They weren't the best Indy tire, but they had been built to stand high speeds, so they were probably better than the Sears All-States that we had. It meant that Johnny was the only one that had anything that even resembled a real racing tire. It would be a definite advantage. But the Plymouths wouldn't be as hard on tires as the other cars, so I didn't think it would make that much difference. Still it concerned Daddy. After all, he knew more about Plymouths than anybody."
Other Chrysler victories in 1950 included Leon Sales at North Wilkesboro, Herb Thomas at Martinsville, and Lee Petty at Hillsboro, North Carolina. Bill Rexford driving Oldsmobiles and Mercurys was crowned the 1950 champion.
The 1951 season saw Herb Thomas win the championship with part of the season finding him driving a Hudson on some occasions and a Plymouth at other times. Thomas won in a Plymouth at Macon, Georgia that year. Other Chrysler product victories in 1951 were claimed by Tommy Thompson in a '51 Chrysler at Detroit and Lee Petty in a Plymouth at Rochester, New York.
The 1952 season was not anything spectacular for Chrysler Corporation products but did see Lee Petty's Plymouth win three races at Macon, Georgia; Langhorn, Pennsylvania; and Morristown, New Jersey. Goober Sosebee also won that year in a Chrysler at Augusta, Georgia.
The 1953 season saw Lee Petty finish 2nd in the point championship in his #42 car with a different nameplate--Dodge. According to son Richard in his book King Richard I, the team had switched to Dodge because with the Dodge they could use the more powerful V-8 engine, a 331 cubic inch Hemi. Richard said that the new Dodge engine had about twice as much power as the flat head six cylinder Plymouths that they had been using. As Lee was working toward that second place point finish, he posted victories at West Palm Beach, Richmond, Martinsville, Shreveport and Spartanburg. Jim Paschal also posted a Mopar victory in the second race at Martinsville in 1953.
The 1954 season saw Chrysler's first point championship with Lee Petty in a season when he used exclusively Chrysler vehicles. (Herb Thomas drove a Plymouth on some occasions in his 1952 championship run, but he primarily used Hudsons that year.) Petty saw the checkered flag fall on his car seven times that season at the old Daytona Beach/Road Course; Sharon, Pennsylvania; Rochester; Charlotte; Corbin and Martinsville. Petty's total winnings in that championship run were $21,101.35
The 1955 and 1956 seasons saw an era of domination by a team of Chrysler 300's that is unique in NASCAR history. In 1955, Carl Kiekhaefer's team came to the old Daytona Beach/Road Course with a Chrysler 300 and scored the first of 18 victories that year with driver Tim Flock as he won the point championship for the season. The Kiekhaefer Chryslers that season were even hauled in enclosed trailers--something that was unheard of at that time.
Speedy Thompson, Norm Nelson and Fonty Flock also scored victories in Kiekhaefer Chryslers in the 1955 season. Lee Petty added six more victories for Chrysler products that year in Chryslers and Dodges. As might be expected, sales of Chrysler 300's soared during the mid 1950's, and the advertising had cost the Chrysler Corporation very little as Chrysler itself had put very little money into racing. Carl Kiekhaefer had done well in the Mercury Outboard Motor business and decided to come south from Wisconsin to run the NASCAR Grand National circuit. He headed a team financed very well for it's day. With that heavy financing, Kiekhaefer possessed a burning desire to win. And win he did--in the 40 races entered by his team in 1955, victory was claimed 22 times.
The 1956 season saw Kiekhaefer's Chrysler team pick up where it had left off in 1955 and move on to a higher level.
In the first 25 races entered by the team in 1956, Kiekhaefer cars won 21 times. Competitors began to grumble and fans at times began to react negatively to the utter domination by one race team (no, Darrell Waltrip and later Dale Earnhardt were not the first NASCAR drivers to hear "boo's" from fans because they won so often).
That reaction from fans was somewhat mysterious to Kiekhaefer and something that he apparently did not fully understand, but that reaction helped make him decide to leave NASCAR. He had hoped to boost outboard motor sales, but he apparently came to the realization that his image would receive more harm than good from his continued presence on the racing circuit. His team finished the 1956 season, and then he went back to Wisconsin where he became as completely removed from NASCAR as he had been before his sudden arrival in 1955.
It should be noted that one of Kiekhaefer's drivers, Buck Baker, won the point championship in 1956. That year Baker, father of Buddy Baker who also wheeled some pretty fast Mopars, won 14 races.
The total domination of the Kiekhaefer Chryslers is almost unbelievable. During the two years of his presence, of the 90 events that his cars entered, they were victorious 52 times.
The feat was accomplished in Chrysler 300's as stated previously at very little monetary cost to the Chrysler Corporation. Arguably, the only other time that a team dominated the circuit so completely was the Petty Enterprises team in 1967.
Along with Kiekhaefer's team, most of the Chrysler vehicles disappeared from the Grand National circuit in 1957. Johnny Allen in a Plymouth was the only driver to pilot a Chrysler vehicle regularly that year, and his season was not particularly spectacular. He never saw victory lane at all that season. Lee Petty had switched to Oldsmobile for the season. (Incidentally, on June 15, 1957, "Fireball" Roberts drove his #22 Ford to victory in a 200 lap race in Newport, Tennessee. Johnny Allen finished that race running 20 laps down in 11th place.)
For Mopars, the 1958 season was pretty much a repeat of the 1957 season with Johnny Allen again running the only regular Chrysler product. Lee Petty was the point champion that year again while piloting an Oldsmobile.
The 1959 season saw a reversal of the fortunes of Chrysler Corporation vehicles as Lee Petty drove his Plymouth to his third repeat as points champion after having switched back from Oldsmobile during the season. In that championship run, Lee Petty won eleven races and earned $49,219.15.
The 1959 season saw the opening of the new 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway and the emergence of NASCAR's "king" to be, Richard Petty. Richard entered 21 races that season, and although he wasn't a race winner in 1959, he did have six top five finishes and nine top ten finishes.
One of the most interesting things to happen that year occurred on June 14, 1959, at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta. Richard Petty driving an Oldsmobile convertible (during an era when open cars and closed cars sometimes competed against each other) was flagged the race winner. However, after the race, the second place finisher protested the order of his finish, and he asked for score cards to be checked again. A review of the score cards caused race officials to realize that a mistake had been made and the finishing positions of the first place person and second place person were reversed. Thus, Richard Petty's first of 200 wins would not occur until the following season. Just who was the person whose finish was flagged second to Richard Petty but who was later declared the race winner after his protest? The protester was none other than defending points champion Lee Petty, Richard's dad.
Incidentally, during the 1959 season, Richard Petty's cars were not all painted "Petty Blue". His soon to be famous #43 car was painted white in the Darlington 500 that year. The famous "Petty Blue" that became so closely associated with Petty Enterprises had not yet become associated with the team. The story goes that at one point, the Pettys were going to paint their car and had some blue paint and some white paint but not enough of either to paint the car. However, they found that by putting the blue and white together and mixing them, they had enough to paint the car. Thus, the birth of "Petty Blue". The color used on later Petty cars that is similar in color to that original shade is a color used on Ford trucks and called "Electric Blue" by Ford.
The Petty name has always been synonymous with the fortunes of Chrysler Corporation and the story of NASCAR. A Petty or Petty Enterprises car has been entered in almost every race in the entire history of the NASCAR circuit including the very first one in 1949.
Lee Petty and brother Julius worked together in the early days of the sport. Later Richard and his brother Maurice "Chief" worked together with Maurice specializing in engine building after exploring the idea of driving for a while in the early 60's. Today, Kyle Petty is still carrying the family name as driver with Kyle's cousin Richie Petty having entered a few races in fairly recent times. Richard Petty, although retired from driving, is still very active as car owner with a Winston Cup team that seems to be poised on the precipice of greatness with driver Bobby Hamilton in Pontiacs.
Sure, the Petty's ran other brands of cars from time to time, but still remained somewhat loyal to Chrysler vehicles as long as Chrysler would provide them with something to work with.
Even today, the Richard Petty team campaigns Dodge trucks on the NASCAR truck circuit and rumors continually abound that the Petty's are going to campaign a Chrysler on the Winston Cup circuit. No doubt the Petty's would give the idea serious thought if Chrysler were to build a vehicle that could be approved by NASCAR and held the potential for success.
The 1960 season saw Richard Petty win the first of his 200 Grand National wins at Charlotte, North Carolina on February 28, 1960, in a 200 lap race on a half-mile dirt track at the fairgrounds. He and his dad often saw their Plymouths running at the front of the pack that year--especially on the short tracks. Richard won again that year at Martinsville and Hillsboro, North Carolina as he scored a second place finish in points to Rex White's Chevy. Lee Petty won five times in 1960 to finish sixth in points.
The 1961 season saw Richard Petty win twice at Richmond and Charlotte as Chrysler products were not overly impressive that year. However, the biggest news event of the season for Chrysler fans was not pleasant... a terrible crash at Daytona caused the career of Lee Petty to be cut short after he suffered serious multiple injuries in that accident. Ned Jarrett was point champion that year.
The 1962 season saw Richard Petty finish second in points with eight wins, and Jim Paschal winning four more times in Petty cars. Interestingly, Paschal won his first outing in a Petty car at Bristol in the July 29th race. Joe Weatherly won the point championship that year.
The 1963 season saw Richard Petty again finish second in points as Joe Weatherly was the repeat champion. Petty posted fourteen Plymouth wins and Jim Paschal added five more victories for Plymouth.
Another notable of the 1963 season was David Pearson who drove the Cotton Owens Dodge.
An extremely interesting story of the year involved the sudden appearance of the Chevrolet 427 "mystery" engine. The engine paraded most notably by Junior Johnson in his white #3 Ray Fox 1963 Chevrolet Impala SS seemed to be unbeatable when it was running. The problem was that the engine seemed to have trouble lasting the entire race. For some reason Chevrolet chose to remove support for the program half-way through the 1963 season and teams had to scrape for parts to finish the season. However, little did the general public know that in 1963 Chrysler had something on their drawing boards that was poised to blow away all competition when they came to Daytona in February of 1964.
Plymouths had won many races and had consistently won in 1962 and '63 on shorter tracks, but they seemed to struggle on the longer faster tracks. That was to change in 1964 as Chrysler unveiled what is considered by many to be the most awesome engine ever produced--the famed 426 Hemi.
In reality, the Hemi engines that powered the Plymouths of Richard Petty, Jimmy Pardue and Paul Goldsmith to positions one, two and three in the Daytona 500 on February 23, 1964, were not completely new to NASCAR. Dodges had used Hemis in 1953. The engines that powered the Kiekhaefer Chrysler 300s were also "Hemis". They displaced 331 cubic inches in 1955 and 354 cubic inches in 1956. The 354 engine was rated at 355 horsepower and was the first production engine capable of producing one horsepower per cubic inch (in 1957, Chevrolet incorrectly advertised that one of their engines was the first to produce one horsepower per cubic inch).
Even when Chrysler had first started working with the hemispherical-head design in 1951, they were not breaking new ground. The combat planes of World War II had regularly used the hemispherical combustion chamber with their radial designs. Moreover, the manufacturers of high performance engines had also worked with the design--Duesenburg, Miller, Offenhauser, Stutz and Jaguar.
Of course, the secret to the success of the Hemi lay in the breathing ability of the engine. About the engine, Randy Riggs said on page 46 of Flat-out Racing, "The double sets of rocker arms, rocker shafts and push rods allowed the Hemi's valves to be large and inclined. It's spark plugs were mounted in the exact center of the combustion chambers, creating a complete and even fuel burn. High efficiency was the result."
"The Hemi's disadvantages were complexity, weight and expense. With four rocker arm shafts instead of two, eight intake and exhaust push rods and eight intake and exhaust rocker arms, the engine was a monster. It cost a fortune to mass produce, but it also created more than a few fortunes for the racers who used it. Next to the Chevy small block, it might be the most famous engine of all."
In King Richard I, Richard Petty reflected on the Hemi: "The feeling of the Hemi was unbelievable on the high banks. Maybe you wonder how they came up with it and why it took them so long--well, we did too. Chrysler had originally built the engine in 1951 for the street version car, but it wasn't any good for that. It didn't run good at low speeds. Since Chrysler was a little-old-lady's car in those days, they ended up with a lot of burned valves and a lot of little old ladies who were burned up. They discontinued the engine, but when nothing else seemed to be able to combat the Fords and Chevys, they brought it out of mothballs, did some modifications and stuffed it back in a few street cars, just so it would be legal for racing. NASCAR rules said that anything that raced had to be available to the general public. We've been through all that. The engine was so good that Chevy gave up. Ford didn't quit, but I'm sure they felt like quitting."
"I had driven a lot of hot cars before, and I have since, but I've never been in anything that felt quite like a Hemi. The power was there all the time. It didn't matter when you punched it, it socked you right back in your seat. It sounded like it was going to suck the hood in."
"You might take one of today's hot turbos and get from point A to point B pretty quick, but you won't get the thrill you did with the Hemi. They don't feel as good, and they don't sound as good. I've never forgotten how they responded. Man, if we knew back then what we know today about working on engines, we would have been getting 800 horsepower out of those Hemis."
Richard Petty went on to earn the first of what was to become seven championships in 1964 as he posted nine victories and earned $114,771.45. Other wins in Chrysler Corporation cars during the 1964 season included wins by Junior Johnson, Bobby Isaac, David Pearson, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Jim Paschal, Buck Baker and A.J. Foyt. The final tallies for 1964 showed Ford with 30 wins, Dodge with 14 wins, Plymouth with 12 wins and Chevrolet with a single win (with that being a win coming at Jacksonville, Florida on December 1, 1963 by Wendell Scott, the only regular black driver in the history of NASCAR's premier circuit).
As the 1964 season saw the emergence of the Hemi, success for Chrysler and rising speeds, we also saw the death of three of the sport's greatest stars. Defending points champion Little Joe Weatherly died of injuries suffered in an accident at Riverside. Popular driver Fireball Roberts died from complications from burn injuries suffered at Charlotte. Finally, Plymouth driver and 2nd Place Daytona 500 finisher Jimmy Pardue received fatal injuries in a tire testing session at Charlotte later that year.
For 1965, rule changes caused the Chrysler Corporation to withdraw all of it's factory teams and boycott NASCAR. The rising speeds and shocking deaths of three drivers in 1964 helped prompt several rule changes for 1965. Banned were the Chrysler Hemis and the Ford SOHC engines of 1964. Also, the rule changes called for cars of 119 inch wheel base to be run on superspeedways--those cars included the Plymouth Fury, Dodge Custom 880 and Dodge Polara. Moreover, with the rule change, NASCAR had the hope that General Motors cars would be more competitive.
Ford thought that it could live with the rule changes, but Chrysler thought that it could not. With Chrysler's decision to boycott NASCAR competition, Ford completely dominated things in the early part of the 1965 season. In the Daytona 500, Fords finished in positions one through thirteen. Attendance at races suffered when compared to the previous year. The running of a few Chevrolets against the Fords didn't seem to help attendance much, and track owners were calling for some rule changes that might help bring Chrysler back into the fold. On June 21, 1965, NASCAR agreed to allow the Hemi to be used in the larger cars on the tracks longer than a mile and in smaller cars (Belvederes and Coronets) on tracks of a mile or less. Slowly, Chrysler teams began to return with all of them back when the circuit went to Rockingham in October. Interestingly, in the early days of the boycott, NASCAR's head, Bill France, had purchased a Plymouth Fury for Buck Baker. In that Fury, doing what head people at Chrysler said was impossible, Baker bolted a Hemi. In that non-factory Fury, Buck's son, Buddy Baker drove to a second place finish in the July 4, 1965 race at Daytona.
During their time away from NASCAR competition, Petty Enterprises fielded a Plymouth Barracuda at various drag races in 1965. At a drag strip in Dallas, Georgia on February 28, 1965, Petty's car went out of control and crashed into the crowd of spectators. Seven people were injured, and an eight year old boy died as a result of the accident. The tragic accident made Petty Enterprises rethink their drag racing endeavor, and they participated in only one more drag race that season.
As the relationship between Chrysler and NASCAR improved, Richard Petty entered fourteen of the 55 races in 1965--winning four times. David Pearson also scored two victories for Chrysler that season in his Cotton Owens Dodge.
The 426 Hemi became a production engine for 1966. In December of 1965, Bill France visited a Chrysler engine production plant about which Greg Fielden quoted Mr. France as saying, "I saw more Hemi engines today than Ferrari makes cars in a year." However, rules for 1966 stipulated that the engine could be run as a 426 cubic inches engine only in the larger cars (Furys, 880's , Polaras, etc.) In the smaller cars (Belvederes, Coronets and Chargers) it would have to be down sized to 405 cubic inches.
The 1966 season was Ford's turn not to be able to live with rule changes resulting in their teams pulling out of the sport, much like Chrysler had done in 1965. Chrysler products pretty much dominated the circuit in the beginning of the season, but Ford's withdrawal did not seem to affect the sport the way Chrysler's withdrawal had done the previous season. For one thing, Ford did not seem to generate the outpouring of public sympathy the way Chrysler had in 1965. Besides that, many fans had just plain grown tired of hearing boycott talk. Additionally, there did not seem to be the kind of support that Ford needed among participants in the boycott. One Ford driver, Marvin Panch, even "boycotted the Ford boycott" and drove a Petty Enterprises Plymouth to victory in the World 600 at Charlotte in May of that year.
David Pearson won the point championship in 1966 in the Cotton Owens Dodge with fifteen wins. Richard Petty finished third in points that year with eight wins. Paul Lewis of Johnson City won at Maryville, Tennessee in his Plymouth with other Mopar victories in 1966 by Paul Goldsmith, Earl Balmer, Jim Hurtubise, Jim Paschal, Sam McQuagg and LeeRoy Yarbrough.
In 1966, some creative body work was done to a Ford and a Chevy. At Atlanta in August, these two strange cars were somehow approved. The #13 Chevy was a black and gold Chevelle entered by Smokey Yunick and driven by Curtis Turner. The car had a hand-crafted front end and a unique spoiler lip molded into the roof line. Junior Johnson's bright yellow Ford Galaxy that was driven by Fred Lorenzen highlighted the return of Ford to the circuit. The car had a dropped nose and a seemingly chopped roof line. Competitors referred to the car as "Junior's Joke" and the "Yellow Banana". After the car wrecked during the race, Greg Fielden quoted a news person as saying, "It's pretty hard to drive a banana at 145 MPH." The Yunick-Turner car suffered mechanical problems during the race. Incidentally, Richard Petty won that race in his Plymouth.
The 1967 season saw a Prince elevate himself to the status of King. Richard Petty had the kind of season that most others can only dream about. He won over half of the races he entered--27 victories in his 48 starts--with brother Maurice "Chief" Petty as engine builder and cousin Dale Inman as crew chief. Moreover, the bulk of those Petty victories came in a single 1967 Plymouth Belvedere.
"Old Blue" had been built as a 1966 model and had not been anything special as a race car during the 1966 season. However, the car seemed to take on a personality of it's own when the '66 sheet metal was removed and '67 sheet metal was hung on. About the car, Richard Petty said: "That car had an undeniable personality all it's own. The further into the season we got, the more we all realized it. Now, you might think that a car, just a piece of equipment, can't possibly have a personality."
"Cars can have a personality, just the same as people. Just ask any race driver or the guys who work on the car. Some cars respond to good engineering and others won't perform no matter what you do." Petty Enterprises had a particular car that worked exceptionally well, and they were willing to use it as often as possible. At one stretch during the 1967 season, "Old Blue" set a record that will probably never be equaled. Petty drove to victory lane ten straight times between August and October of that year.
In King Richard I, Richard Petty said, "I'll tell you now, there were many times in 1967 when I could have lapped the whole field, but I didn't do it. I was smart enough to know they'd [NASCAR] change things [rules] on me. Besides that, I didn't want to make the other cats look that bad."
About Richard Petty and their success, Maurice "Chief" Petty was quoted by Herman Hickman: "I think that we have an edge on some of the other teams, but we haven't got any real secret. The difference is between the seat and the steering wheel. We've got the best driver."
Today "Old Blue" can be viewed alongside other classics from racing history in the National Motorsports Press Association Hall Of Fame in Darlington, South Carolina. Other Mopars that can be viewed there include the Plymouth of Johnny Mantz and the Buddy Baker driven #6 Cotton Owens Dodge Daytona.
The Cotton Owens color scheme and Charger styling arguably made the prettiest race car to ever grace the NASCAR tracks. In the 1969 and 1970 seasons, the Cotton Owens Dodge was painted red with fluorescent orange numerals and tail trim (wing on the Daytona and bumble bee stripes on regular Chargers and 500's). On sunny days, the appearance of the car was dazzling.
As he drove to the championship in 1967, Petty earned $150,196.10--an amount nearly twice what the second highest money winner earned that year (Dick Hutcherson earned $85,159.28). Other Chrysler winners in 1967 included LeeRoy Yarbrough, David Pearson, Jim Paschal, Bobby Allison and Buddy Baker.
However, it was the Petty team which received the media attention in 1967. About the Petty team, Buddy Baker said that they were two years ahead of the other Chrysler teams, and one year ahead of the Fords.
For 1968, the Ford team did not want a repeat of the 1967 season. Ford stepped up it's effort and did additional engine development work. Apparently their efforts paid off as the Holman-Moody Ford of David Pearson won the point championship. Richard Petty finished third in points in his Plymouth with sixteen victories. Other than the wins by Petty, Chrysler wins were posted in 1968 by Bobby Isaac, Buddy Baker and Charlie Glotzbach.
Possibly the biggest disappointment of the 1968 season for Chrysler was the fact that the new and beautiful Dodge Charger design did not function well on the NASCAR circuit. The car looked fast, but the blunt and hollow nose and tunnel effect around the rear window (back light) seemed to create an aerodynamic nightmare for the crews and drivers.
Interestingly, in 1968, vinyl tops were used at various times. Notably, black vinyl tops were sometimes, but not always used on the Cotton Owens Dodge. In 1968, the Petty team drew a great deal of attention when it arrived at Daytona with a black vinyl top. Richard Petty, always very popular and cordial with the media and fans, was something of a joker.
He, tongue-in-cheek, said that the reason they used the vinyl top could be compared to the use of dimples on a golf ball. He said that the rough texture of the vinyl on the top created a dead air effect that made the car go faster. During the running of the 1968 Daytona 500, the Petty team had trouble with the top blowing loose around the windshield and flopping as the glue began to turn loose (apparently the Petty team never used a vinyl top again after that one race).
Concerning Petty's joking nature--on another occasion, when asked by the media after a track testing session what the team was doing, Petty replied that they were testing out a new style of hood pins. He was open and cordial, but he was not about to let out any secrets.
The 1969 and 1970 seasons saw Chrysler and Ford create some of the most exotic and unique "stock" race cars of all times. Actually Richard Petty's unbelievably successful 1967 season was embarrassing to the blue oval boys, and the fast back Ford Torino and Mercury Cyclone were part of Ford's response to their desire to not let a Plymouth beat them that badly again. For the next few years, both Ford and Chrysler tried to out-do each other in the aero-wars of auto design. That progression in those battles for supremacy on the NASCAR circuit led to exotic machines--the most exotic of which were the Dodge Charger Daytona and the Plymouth Road Runner SuperBird.
In 1968, Dodge had created a beautiful new body design, but that design had problems on the super speedways. For 1969, Dodge wanted to fix some of the problems that prevented their Charger from being as successful as they had hoped. Designers proceeded to bring the headlights and grille forward and eliminate the hollow air dam up front. In the area of the rear window, they added a plug that was raked from the roof line to half-way back on the trunk deck, with the trunk lid being shortened to accommodate the window plug. To make the car legal for racing, rules at that time stipulated that 500 units be built, and that was the reason for the name "Charger 500".
The Charger 500 was faster and had definite advantages over the regular Charger. However, it was still not as slick and fast as the new for 1969 modifications that Ford had put on their Torino and Mercury Cyclones to create the Ford Talladegas and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II's. The sad fact for Chrysler was that the Dodge Charger 500's were still being beaten regularly by the Ford products.
Chrysler racing powers-that-be decided that it was time to remove all stops and create a machine--no matter how exotic or expensive--that could beat the Talladegas and Spoiler II's. Thus, the birth of the Dodge Charger Daytona came half-way through the 1969 season.
To test the new design and find out what worked best, extensive wind tunnel and track testing was conducted. However, in 1969, neither Chrysler nor any other auto maker for that matter owned a wind tunnel. To test the new design, Dodge engineers borrowed the wind tunnel facilities at the Huntsville, Alabama Space and Rocket Center that had been used to test rocket designs for NASA. *
*WW/NBOA wishes to thank Dick Lajoie of Chrysler Corporation, who recently provided the following facts to set the record straight on some information found in this section:
"It is not (or was not) the Alabama Space and Rocket Center; it was called the George C Marshall Space Flight Center, and we worked for the Chrysler Space Division under contract with NASA, not to work on rockets but rather on the Apollo-Saturn Space Program. There was never a wind tunnel in Huntsville to do any kind of car testing. Some testing was accomplished in Huntsville, but this was on full-sized cars and this was done at the old airport. All the full-sized car aero tests were done at the then new Lockheed-Marietta low speed wind tunnel. Interestingly, Chrysler was the first company to test in this facility. In fact, the first test required the car to be dropped through the ceiling in a very precarious angle (45 deg.)!"
The design for the Charger Daytona had started out as a Charger 500 and incorporated the aerodynamic improvements in that design. To the front of the 500 was added a shark shaped nose that sliced through the air more efficiently. To the rear of the vehicle was added a wing that was like an upside down airplane wing whose angle of attack could be adjusted. Studies indicated that at speed, that wing could add as much as 600 pounds of down-force on the rear wheels of the vehicle, thus countering the lift effect on the rear at high speeds.
Incidentally, tests indicated that the wing did not really need to be two feet above the deck. The same effect could be achieved with a wing only a few inches off the deck. The extreme height of the wing was chosen primarily for it's psychological impact on competition.**The upright also helped serve as a rudder to help keep the car running straight. Also, the extreme height of the wing made it possible for the trunk deck lid on the Daytona to open.
**"The other faux pas [in this section] was the comment that the wing height was based on 'psychological' reasons....not so! Actually, we were at Creative Industries looking to make sure the prototype was being built as tested, both in 3/8th scale and at the P.G. (proving grounds). We were looking at the rear deck and the wing, (which was actually developed at about 6 in. above the rear deck), and discovered that, lo and behold!!.... the deck would not open high enough to utilize the trunk space acceptable for normal production usage. So, we raised the wing until the trunk could be opened and used normally....the rest is history! We, of course, went back to the tunnel and the track to optimize it's height and to define the aerodynamic characteristics. As it turned out, the increased height allowed the vertical stabilizers to be much bigger. From that, we gained a lot of lateral stability which is what really gave the driver the ability to turn faster lap speeds due to it's improved cornering ability. We also discovered that the high wing also provided better handling characteristics during drafting and passing maneuvers. All because we could not get the trunk open!!"
Frank Moriarty in Supercars: The Story of the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth SuperBird, quotes Charlie Glotzbach as saying that in the summer of 1969 at the Chrysler test track at Chelsea, Michigan, "I hit 243 MPH at the five mile oval."
The Daytonas were consistently running laps of well over 200 MPH at the facility, but test personnel couldn't tell anyone about it at the time of testing. The potential of the Dodge Charger Daytona was not to be revealed until the car's unveiling at the September race at Talladega.
For the 1969 season, one of the names most closely associated with Chrysler fortunes in NASCAR abandoned ship when the Petty team switched to Ford. Petty had wanted to stay with Chrysler and drive a new Dodge Charger 500 in 1969 rather than the 1969 Plymouth Road Runner. Chrysler told him "no", that his name was too closely associated with the Plymouth nameplate for him to drive a Dodge, especially after his phenomenal 1967 season in a Plymouth. Because Petty thought that there was no way for a Plymouth to successfully compete with the Charger 500's and the Ford products, he was willing to listen to other offers. Therefore, the team switched to Ford.
In his book, Richard Petty said that Ford did not offer him any more money than Chrysler, but they did offer him a deal where he could earn more money and be more successful than in the boxy Plymouth design. In 1969, he did win nine times in his Ford and once in a Plymouth at Macon in November of 1968 (which was then considered the first race of the 1969 season).
As stated before, Ford Talladegas and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II's dominated the first part of the 1969 racing season, winning all of the superspeedway races. In September, that was to change with the arrival of the new Dodge Charger Daytona. The Dodge boys were back in the hunt with their Winged Warrior.
The 1969 season also saw the opening of a new super-speedway coinciding with the unveiling of the Dodge Charger Daytona--Alabama International Speedway at Talladega. The first race at that facility was shrouded in controversy. Most of the top name drivers from Ford and Chrysler chose not to participate in that initial race at the speedway because they considered it unsafe. It seems that their tires would not hold up to the extreme speed and conditions that they were being subjected to. Additionally the new Professional Drivers Association voted not to participate in the event for safety reasons, and this helped unite the drivers.
Concerning the refusal of the drivers to participate in the inaugural "Talladega 500", Greg Fielden in Forty Years of Stock Car Racing quotes Richard Petty, the President of the newly formed Professional Drivers Association, as saying: "This track is simply not ready to run on. Most of us felt the tires we have are not safe to race on at speeds of around 200 MPH. It was just that simple."
However, the race was run as scheduled by those who chose to participate, and the race was won by Richard Brickhouse in his first and only NASCAR win in the "Plum Crazy" purple #99 Ray Nichels Dodge Charger Daytona. Brickhouse was hired as a replacement for regular driver Charlie Glotzbach after Charlie withdrew.
Dr. Don Tarr, who now resides in Mountain City, Tennessee, ran well in that race until his 1967 Ray Fox Dodge Charger was side lined with engine problems. He led the race for six laps and, according to Greg Fielden, Dr. Tarr's team owner, Ray Fox said about the performance that, "He's driving that car 20 MPH faster than it will go."
Bobby Isaac, driver of the K&K Insurance Daytona #71, was one of the few regular factory drivers to participate in that race. He ran well, but had tire problems. Isaac was quoted by Fielden as saying: "I was just coolin' it, but I still had the tires blister. I knew I could win the race, but I fell a lap behind."
About the new Charger Daytona as a racing machine, Jim Vandiver, who drove a Charger 500 in the inaugural Talladega race, was quoted by Fielden as saying: "The new Daytona was worth 5 MPH, but I didn't have one...."
The point champion for 1969 was David Pearson in his Holman-Moody Ford. Richard Petty finished second in his Ford (with one victory coming in a Plymouth), and James Hylton was the third place finisher in points with his Dodge. Mopar wins in 1969 included victories by Bobby Allison, Richard Brickhouse, and Bobby Isaac with 17 victories. However, Isaac finished sixth place in the points championship.
Ironically, in 1969, we saw the races at Daytona both won by Talladegas and the race at Talladega won by a Daytona.
The 1970 season saw the introduction of the Plymouth Road Runner SuperBird and a season where super speedways were dominated by the Daytonas and SuperBirds. Due to a NASCAR rule change for 1970, Plymouth had to build one SuperBird for every two Plymouth dealerships, about 1935 units, as compared to 500 units for the Charger 500 and Charger Daytona in 1969. (the number of SuperBirds produced is believed to be about 1935, and the number of Daytonas produced is believed to be about 503. Even Chrysler does not know for sure how many of each model was produced). The 1970 season also saw the first of something that has continued until today--restrictor plate racing as speeds then at Talladega and Daytona neared the 200 MPH mark.
For 1970, Richard Petty and Petty Enterprises returned to the embracing arms of Mother Mopar. About the change back to Plymouth, Richard Petty is quoted by Greg Fielden as saying: "Guess you can say that we're headed back home. It'll be like rejoining family. The big reason is the new SuperBird. We feel Plymouth now has a car that will get the job done on the big tracks. Before, we felt like we were at a big disadvantage on the super-speedways."
"We had a one year contract with Ford which was renewable," he continued. "We chose not to renew it. The deal we have with Chrysler calls for us to run two cars on the superspeedways and one car on all the smaller tracks. I will run the car on the short track and go for the point title." Pete Hamilton drove the other Petty Plymouth on the superspeedways.
Fielden quoted the general manager of the Chrysler-Plymouth Division, Glenn E. White, as saying that he was extremely happy to have Petty back "home". White said that, "Flags at over 3,400 dealer show rooms have been flying at half-staff since Petty left us a year ago. Now they are at full staff."
Pete Hamilton drove the Petty Plymouth Road Runner SuperBird to victory in the Daytona 500. Interestingly, a big red triangle was painted on the nose of Hamilton's Petty Blue #40 SuperBird. The red was painted on the car so that the crew could more easily distinguish between the cars in their stable as they sped toward them on pit road.
On May 9, 1970, at Darlington, Richard Petty suffered major injuries in an accident that is arguably the worst of his career while driving his Road Runner. He had wrecked his SuperBird in practice and was driving his short track Road Runner that his crew had gone back to the shop in Level Cross, North Carolina to retrieve.
About that accident, Fielden says, "Coming off the fourth turn, the car clipped the outside wall and shot head-on into the inside wall. The car began a series of rolls." The car then came to rest on it's roof.
In photographs of the flipping Plymouth, Petty's arm and head are clearly shown outside the window of the rolling car while Petty himself was unconscious. Bob Meyers, in American Racing Classics, indicates that apparently Petty's shoulder harness had come loose and that Petty's shoulder (which was broken in the accident) was hitting the ground with each roll. Moreover, Petty's helmet showed scuff marks from contact with the pavement. Apparently, observers of the accident looked on in silent horror as most seemed to think Petty was dead. That accident led to the use of window safety nets on the race cars.
Later, Petty compared the performance of the SuperBird to his regular Road Runner at Darlington. Bob Meyers quotes Petty as saying: "To show you how much faster the SuperBird was compared to the coupe, when we came back with the coupe at Darlington, we were three seconds (a lap) slower. Three seconds!" Probably, the accident was caused in part by Petty's trying to over-drive his Road Runner in an attempt to keep up with the competition.
At the time of the accident, Petty was the point leader, but he had to sit out of five races while recovering from injuries. That accident probably cost him the 1970 point championship even though he saw the checkered flag waving eighteen times that season.
Bobby Isaac was the point champion in 1970 while driving the Poppy Red (a Ford color) K&K Insurance #71 Dodges to eleven victories. In addition to Isaac and Petty, other winners in Chrysler products during the 1970 season included: Bobby Allison, Charlie Glotzbach, Buddy Baker who won the Southern 500 and Pete Hamilton who won the Daytona 500 and the Talladega 500.
Bobby Isaac's car builder, Harry Hyde, who passed away in 1996, was quite a character in his own right and was the inspiration in part for the Robert Duvall character in the movie Days Of Thunder. Additionally, much of the plot for the movie was based on the interaction between Hyde and Tim Richmond and other drivers for whom Hyde was crew chief during later years.
Not long before his death in an interview, Hyde reflected on the winged machines. Bob Meyers quoted Hyde as saying: "There is no telling how fast they would have run. Two hundred and eighty would not have been out of the question with the tires we have today. But it is really just a guess as they (Dodge Daytonas and Plymouth SuperBirds) were almost the perfect race car. They were so stable. They had real low drag numbers, and we all know how important low drag numbers have become."
As to handling, Hyde indicated that the wing was paramount in importance as Myers quoted Hyde as saying that, "You could just tilt the wing and make the car either loose or tight, whatever you wanted. No matter what the driver wanted, you could give it to him. The wing was tilted 11 degrees to start with, and this was almost perfect. But if needed, you could change the handling of the car just by tilting the wing. They were the easiest cars I've ever had to work with, (but) NASCAR could see that they were too fast back then. The speeds were getting out of control. Yeah," Hyde continued, "The worst thing about the Daytona (and SuperBird) was they helped create the carburetor plate." Later in the 1970 season, carburetor restrictor plates were required at Michigan, resulting in speeds being cut there by about 5 MPH.
Concerning the ultimate legacy of the winged warriors and the aero-wars, Bob Myers, in American Racing Classics, says that in their lifespan of only about 18 months they "Created three major stories that will last forever in the History books--Petty moving to Ford, the first 200 MPH lap and the carburetor restrictor plate."
Frank Moriarty addresses the success of the winged cars in his book Supercars: The Story of the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth SuperBird: "The wing cars had been amazingly successful given the rushed debut of the Dodge Charger Daytona in September of 1969. In 1969 and 1970, the Daytonas and SuperBirds had 14 wins on tracks of a mile or more in length compared to 10 for the Ford and Mercury. These figures become even more one-sided when you look at the top-five finishes for the 1970 season. On tracks of a mile or more in length, the wing cars placed in the top-five finishing positions 61 times compared to 38 top-five finishes for Ford and Mercury. These figures include the two 125-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 (Ford had one win and three top-five finishes compared to Chrysler's one victory and seven top-fives)."
"Even more outstanding than the wing cars' racing record is their qualifying record. Ford was the fastest qualifier at only three of the 1970 races on tracks over one mile in length, while the Chrysler Corporation cars started on the pole a commanding 15 times that season. The Charger Daytonas driven by Charlie Glotzbach and Bobby Isaac were the fastest qualifiers five times each. The wing cars were clearly the swiftest and strongest of the aero warriors."
In one final note to the 1970 season, we saw the end of an era in NASCAR racing at Raleigh, North Carolina as NASCAR saw it's last dirt track. As Bob Dylan said, "The times, they are a-changin". Richard Petty's Plymouth won that race, and on that run, Richard reflected in King Richard I: "The race at Raleigh in 1970 was both significant and sad--not like there was anyone hurt or anything like that--but it was the last Grand National dirt track race ever run.
When we lined up for the start, I couldn't help but think of my first race at Columbia, back in the days when I thought I was doing well if I got the car around the track for a complete lap without hitting the wall."
"When the starter dropped the green flag, I though 'Man, I'd like to win this deal.' I did. It was about as important to me as winning the Daytona 500." That humbleness and propensity to remember where he came from has helped Richard Petty become and remain a fan favorite.
The 1971 season saw some major rule changes and some major cutbacks on the part of Chrysler and Ford. Ford announced that they were no longer continuing with factory backed cars in racing, and Chrysler cut its support to two cars--one Plymouth and one Dodge--both to be run out of the Petty stable. Richard Petty would drive the Plymouth and Buddy Baker would drive the Dodge. Left out of the shuffle was 1970 point champion Bobby Isaac along with Bobby Allison and Charlie Glotzbach.
To say that Harry Hyde, Bobby Isaac and the K&K Insurance crew were a little upset would be something of an understatement. After Chrysler's announcement about sponsorship intentions for the 1971 season, K&K Insurance team owner Norm Krauskopf had his team gather up their car and tools and go to Talladega to show the Dodge powers-that-be that they had selected the wrong Dodge to sponsor in 1971. He wanted his team to turn a faster speed than Buddy Baker had ever turned. Myers quoted Harry Hyde as saying that, "He [Krauskopf] wanted to let someone know who had the best Dodge team that year." They proceeded to set unofficial speed records at the speedway that stood for over a decade with a four lap average speed of 201.104 MPH. It would be some 13 years later before Benny Parsons would run an official lap at better than 200 MPH and Cale Yarborough in his Monte Carlo SS and Bill Elliot in his Thunderbird in turn would break Isaac's record. Some Chrysler fans have been known to tell some of the Ford buddies that a Dodge set a record that Ford needed 13 years to break--that is, 13 years after Chrysler quit racing.
Rule changes spelled the doom of the winged cars in 1971. Bob Myers quotes a section of the NASCAR rules for 1971 saying that, "Special cars including Mercury Cyclone, Ford Talladega, Dodge Daytona, Dodge Charger 500 and Plymouth SuperBird shall be limited to a maximum engine size of 305 cubic inches."
The Mario Rossi team with driver Dick Brooks was the only winged entry in the 1971 Daytona 500, and that was the last run for a winged car in NASCAR competition. Brooks actually led the race for five laps but was hit in the rear by a Plymouth driven by Pete Hamilton when the Brooks car got loose. Brooks lost two laps in the mishap and was never in contention after that.
About the Rossi-Brooks effort in the 1971 Daytona 500 with their Dodge Charger Daytona, Allen Girdler in Stock Car Racers stated: "There was one dare devil, Richard Brooks. He had worked with Keith Black, the drag racing builder who'd been developing aluminum Hemis. They came up with a 305 Hemi [?] , ultra short stroke and put it in Brooks' Daytona....."
Brooks himself is quoted by Moriarty in Supercars....as saying: "From the beginning, it didn't seem like it was going to work, but Keith Black's organization had pretty good engine builders. They'd used smaller engines and they knew the motor. It was a whole lot lighter--a small block, light rods, light pistons. It was a little bitty motor they nicknamed the 'lunch box'. When somebody walked by they'd say, 'Hey man, somebody left their lunch box under your hood!'...."
"It [the 305 engine] sounded funny. In those days, with those big old thumpers, this had a whining sound. It sounded funny, but that little sucker sure would run. Running by itself it didn't do anything, but what a hoss it was when the race started!"
Brooks laughed about what was seemingly a miracle in the making and talked of the excitement of the fans that resulted when he took the lead on lap 60. "They tell me that the drunks fell out into the aisles!" he said.
Moriarty quotes the head of the winged car project at Chrysler, Gary Romberg, as saying: "We really wanted that car to win. It would have been neat for Chrysler, but to really stick it to the NASCAR people--that would have been fun to do. If we could have won with that car, they probably would have put a 105 cubic inch limit on it! The message from NASCAR was 'Take those cars off the track.'"
The 1971 season also saw the re-emergence of a white #3 Chevrolet associated with Junior Johnson reminding fans of the excitement that a similar looking car had created in 1963. This time, the car wore the soon to be successful Monte Carlo nameplate with Johnson as the wrench man and former Chrysler ace Charlie Glotzbach as driver. The Monte Carlo saw it's first of many victories in a caution-free July 11, 1971 race at Bristol in front of 20,500 fans.
Richard Petty was point champion again in 1971 with 21 victories. Other Chrysler wins in 1971 were posted by Bobby Isaac, Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, Ray Elder and Pete Hamilton.
In a final note on the 1971 season, a NASCAR rule change late in the season allowed smaller cars--including Mustangs, Camaros and AMC Javelins--in NASCAR's Grand American division to compete with the larger Grand National cars at some short tracks. In several events, Jim Paschal drove an AMC Javelin, with his best finish being third place on August 27, 1971 at Columbia, South Carolina.
Major change wore on the horizon for the 1972 season. Helping facilitate those changes was the coming on board of a major corporate sponsor for the circuit--the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and it's Winston Cigarette brand. Winston put up $100,000 for bonus money to be shared by the top point winners with the top award being referred to as the "Winston Cup".
What had been known as the "Grand National Series" became known as the "Winston Cup Series". The name "Grand National" was later revived and used as the name for what had once been called the "Late Model Sportsman Series". Also for 1972, the number of events on the Winston Cup Series was pared back from fifty-plus races to thirty one as events on some of the shorter tracks were dropped.
About Winston's entry into the sport, in King Richard I, Richard Petty says: "Winston's entry into NASCAR made a difference in more than just money--that was the most important thing, but the whole race scene changed. For one thing, it was because of them that the dirt tracks were eliminated. They wanted to play to a much bigger audience and they were willing to pay for it. They told NASCAR that if they dropped the little races, they would make the pot sweeter. Races of less than 250 miles were scratched."
Factory teams were all but eliminated by 1972. Chrysler, as stated previously, had cut back their support to two cars run out of the Petty stable in 1971. Although the Petty Plymouth and the Petty-Baker Dodge team continued in 1972, the factories had greatly cut back on their support, and Chrysler offered very little support to the team in 1972.
About that cutback, Greg Fielden quotes a Chrysler spokesman: "We reached a point where we had everything to lose and nothing to gain...Ford won virtually all the big races in 1968 and 1969, so we built the Plymouth SuperBird and Dodge Daytona. Both were approved by NASCAR for three years. But as soon as the cars won some races, NASCAR changed the rules........"
NASCAR officials, on the other hand, contend that the factories had tried to control the sport and problems occurred when rules had to be enforced.
At about the same time that the factories started to pull back, other corporate sponsors began to get more involved with the sport. For 1972, Richard Petty and Petty Enterprises landed what is arguably the best and definitely the longest team sponsorship deal in NASCAR when they signed with STP. That sponsorship continues to this day. In King Richard I, Richard Petty tells the story of how that deal initially came about: "Right on the heels of Winston, came one of my biggest breaks ever. At the end of the 1971 season, we knew that Chrysler was about to get out of racing, so we were scouting around for another sponsor. On the last race of the season, Andy Granatelli came to the track in Texas [College Station]. He stopped by our pits and chatted for a while, but he didn't say anything about sponsorship. You see, Andy was president of STP at that time, and he made the decisions."
"He called me at the shop one day after that and asked if I would be interested in coming to Chicago to talk about STP sponsorship. In my coolest manner, I told him I thought I could work it into my schedule. 'In fact, I can stop next week, on my way to Riverside' I told him."
"Chief and Dale and I went up to see what they had to say. We sent the rest of the guys on to California with the race car. The meeting we had scheduled for 'an hour or so' stretched into the night. We finally had to send Chief and Dale to the airport so they could fly on out and get the car ready for me to practice and qualify. I stayed for another day."
"Andy and I dickered about this and that, but finally, we had a deal put together--well, almost a deal. We agreed upon everything but the color of the car. Andy wanted it red, which was STP's color, and I insisted on Petty Blue. He wouldn't give in, so I said, 'Well Andy, I gotta go race my blue car. Lemme know if you change your mind.' And I got up to leave. I wasn't bluffing, there was not way I was ever going to drive a car that wasn't Petty Blue. There wasn't that much money in Chicago."
"'Now wait a minute, Richard,' Andy said. 'We can work something out.' While we were talking, Andy was doodling. 'What if we paint it red and blue?' he asked, and he showed me a rough sketch."
"'You mean blue and red,' I said. He grinned. 'We got a deal, partner?' Andy asked. That's the nice thing about two bosses dealing: you can decide right on the spot. 'We got a deal', I said."
"I couldn't believe how quick Andy got things put together. The next day, he had a press conference set at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He didn't tell any of the press what it was about. STP had been very active in Indianapolis racing and the press guys knew that if Andy had something to say, that it was probably pretty important."
When the contract on the STP deal was delivered to Petty for him to sign, it included a clause giving him extra money if the car were painted all red. Petty scratched out that phrase before he placed his famous signature on the dotted line.
Incidentally, much as the color "Petty Blue" has always been associated with Richard Petty, in another of his trademarks and unlike most other drivers, he never had his name painted on his car.
The 1972 season saw the short tracks being dominated by Richard Petty's Plymouth and the Coca Cola Monte Carlo team led by Junior Johnson with driver Bobby Allison. With that domination came one of the classic running feuds in NASCAR history. For most of the second half of the season, Petty and Allison were continually bumping each other on the short tracks.
For a while, they both denied that a problem existed, but later they engaged in a few verbal battles. According to Greg Fielden, Publisher Hank Schoolfield called the feud "an automotive boxing match". Noted racing journalist Bob Myers said, "Petty and Allison are NASCAR's answer to the Hatfields and McCoys."
One of the most interesting anecdotes of the 1972 season involves Dodge driver and noted country and western star Marty Robbins. Robbins competed on the NASCAR circuit from time to time in addition to his regular competition at the Nashville Fairground track, followed by his rush across town for his regular appearance on the late Grand Old Opry Saturday Night Show. It seems that at the May 7, 1972 "Winston 500" at Talladega, Marty Robbins' Dodge Charger ran extremely well. As a matter of fact, uncharacteristically, he was running with the leaders and regularly passing cars that he ordinarily did not pass. Late in the race Robbins' car was clocked at 188 MPH, which was about 14 MPH faster than he had qualified.
After the race, the story goes, Marty went up to one of the NASCAR officials and told him that something had to be wrong with his car--it ran too fast. Robbins then suggested that the official check his carburetor. When the carburetor was checked, it was found to be illegal, and Marty's car was disqualified. According to Greg Fielden, the lost purse cost Robbins about $1300, about which he laughed, "It was worth it. In fact, I'd have paid that much money for a picture of Joe Frasson's face when I passed him." Frasson's Dodge finished sixth, one lap off the pace in that race.
Joe Frasson was also apparently quite a character in his own right. He even made an appearance at Volunteer Speedway, the three-eighthes mile dirt track in Bulls Gap, Tennessee, where he produced a very vivid and memorable image as he walked around the pits in his characteristic black felt slouch hat. However, at Bulls Gap on the night he ran there, his car was not competitive with the track regulars.
Incidentally, in that same event in which Marty Robbins' Dodge "ran so well", NASCAR fans saw the first Winston Cup appearance of super star to be Darrell Waltrip.
The 1972 season saw several appearances by an AMC Matador. The car belonged to Roger Penske and was driven by Mark Donohue. This is the same car that was in later seasons campaigned fairly successfully by Bobby Allison. Richard Petty was the point champion in that 31-race season, with eight wins. Other winners in 1972 in Chrysler products included Bobby Isaac, Ray Elder and Buddy Baker.
In what was a mild upset, Benny Parsons won the point championship in 1973. While winning his championship, Parsons had one victory in a season that saw the Wood Brother's Mercury driven by David Pearson dominate the big races. Pearson's team entered only 18 races that year, but they won eleven of them. Their effort seems something of a reminder of the 1967 Petty season.
As might be inferred from the previous statements, the 1973 season was a somewhat lack luster one for the Chrysler teams. The highest point finisher in a Chrysler product was Richard Petty's fifth place finish with six wins for the season. Buddy Baker was the sixth place finisher in the point race with two wins in the K & K Insurance Dodge.The Baker-Petty association had ended during the previous season of 1972, and Baker was signed to drive a second K & K Insurance Dodge for a few races. The team's primary driver, Bobby Isaac, had become frustrated at the team's limited amount of success and problems associated with running two cars. Isaac resigned from the team just after the September 4, 1972 "Southern 500" in Darlington. Baker then became the primary driver for the K & K team for the rest of the 1972 and the 1973 season.
The Petty team switched from Plymouths in 1972 to Dodge Chargers in 1973. The Charger seemed to make a slicker racer than the Plymouth body style used in 1971 and 1972. Several years later, Petty indicated that the 1973 style Charger was his all-time favorite race car. The same basic body style was used through the 1977 season, and the body style produced many wins for Petty.
One highlight for the 1973 season saw a Mark Donohue victory at Riverside in an AMC Matador. Of course, American Motor Company was not yet in the folds of the Chrysler Corporation, but we can still consider his win as a highlight in a season that was not a particularly impressive one for the Dodges and Plymouths.
It may also be noted that during the early seventies, the progression away from "stock" continued. Even the door handles seen on NASCAR race cars throughout most of the sixties, although not functional, had disappeared by about 1970. Through most of the 1960's, Richard Petty had characteristically left much of the chrome trim mouldings on his Plymouths because he thought it made them look better.
By the early 1970's, the doors that had at one time been functional and tied shut with a leather belt or held shut with a broom handle through the eye of an eye bolt in the door saw NASCAR giving specific requirements that doors be bolted shut in the four corners of each door or welded shut.
Also, by the early 1970's, the sanctioning body had come up with specific plans on how to build the roll cages and how to tie the roll cages to the factory frames. In the case of cars with unibody construction like the Chrysler vehicles, NASCAR had specific recommendations as to how to strengthen the bodies.
The unibody construction had never been able to withstand for long the rigors and stresses that cars were subjected to under racing conditions, and unibody cars had always been reinforced. In building their Mopars, Petty Enterprises had realized something early that had helped contribute to their success. NASCAR rules had only addressed the amount of total weight of the cars, but weight distribution was not mentioned in the rule book. The weight of the Petty cars had long been biased toward the left side of the car.
In the early 1970's, few people realized what the ultimate outcome of those specific designs for car building would lead to. From then until now, that progression has continued away from "stock". Today almost nothing on the cars that run on Sunday afternoons is really stock that can be purchased at the local Chevrolet, Pontiac or Ford dealer.
Most components on modern Winston Cup racers are hand-fabricated. The body sheet metal is, for the most part, hand formed and then hung onto a custom-made chassis and roll cage. The body panels are required to conform to templates that NASCAR designed. When the car bodies conform to those templates, the cars have something of a "stock" appearance.
One of the last purely stock items on the racers went by the wayside a few years ago when cars were no longer required to use factory stock windshields. Now the cars use lexan plastic. Broken windshields (an unpredictable variable) and the excitement of seeing teams having to replace them during races is now only a memory. There were even instances in which race teams had to go to local dealerships in the towns where they were racing to acquire replacement windshields.
The 1974 season saw Richard Petty and Petty Enterprises return to prominence in their Dodge as he won the point championship for the fifth of his total of seven championships. It has been said that great drivers win races, but really great drivers win championships. Surely Petty would rank in the latter category.
The 1974 season saw the end on the circuit for Chrysler's Hemi as a rule change called for a special Holley carburetor to be used on all engines larger than 366 cubic inches. About the rule, Greg Fielden quotes NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. as saying: "We are phasing out the high performance big engines primarily because Detroit manufacturers have done so. We are sort of governed by the size of what they make and sell to the public."
About the rule change, Richard Petty is quoted as saying: "If NASCAR wants to get rid of the big engine, it's a good rule. If they want to equalize competition, it's a bad rule." Petty made that comment after he had qualified for the spring race at Atlanta where his speed, using his Hemi, was about 5 MPH slower than the speed of some of the teams using smaller engines.
Numerous rule changes were made in 1974, in attempts by NASCAR to equalize the competition between the various manufacturers and various engines, both big and small. With those numerous and frequent rule changes, teams grew frustrated and angry. To try to put an end to bickering and get things running more equally and smoothly, in the summer of 1974 NASCAR announced that for the 1975 season no engine larger than 358 cubic inches would be allowed to compete on the Winston Cup circuit.
During the continuous rule change confusion, Petty Enterprises began working hard on their small engine program. Petty's first success with the Chrysler 340 came in April at North Wilkesboro. About that race, Greg Fielden says: "Six weeks earlier when NASCAR announced new carburetor rules, Petty said that it would take six months to get a Chrysler small engine ready to race on the Winston Cup Grand National Tour. 'Give credit to Maurice,' Petty said of his engine-building brother. 'He made this thing by hand in three weeks. It cost us about $50,000. So we're still in the red right now.'"
The 1974 season saw only five different individuals in victory lane. Richard Petty's Dodge and Cale Yarborough's Chevrolet tasted victory ten times each. David Pearson's Mercury won seven times. Those three drivers accounted for wins in 27 of the 30 events that season. Canadian Earl Ross claimed his one and only victory in NASCAR as a teammate to Cale Yarborough in a Junior Johnson prepared Chevrolet. The other two wins in 1974 were claimed by none other than Bobby Allison in his Roger Penske owned AMC Matador.
The 1975 season saw the last time that a Chrysler product won the point championship. Richard Petty won his sixth of his total of seven championships in 1975 in his Dodge Charger. (Petty's seventh championship came in 1979 with Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles.) During the 1975 season, the Petty STP Dodge saw the checkered flag 13 times in the 30-race season.
The K & K Insurance Dodge finished second in points in 1975 with driver Dave Marcis and Harry Hyde again serving the team as crew chief. The team owned by Norm Krauskopf of Fort Wayne, Indiana had won the championship in 1970 with driver Bobby Isaac. However, the team had sat out much of the 1974 season because of running disputes with NASCAR over rules and rule changes.
Dave Marcis won his first race in a long and admirable career at Martinsville in 1975 in that K & K Dodge. Marcis, who came south to race from Wisconsin, still makes his home and runs out of his shop in the Ashville, North Carolina area. He chose to drive Chrysler products during the early years of his remarkably long career.
Moreover, Marcis bridges the gap as a driver between the days of the big "factory teams" and today. However, Marcis has usually run as an "independent" and became the last of the successful "independents" to continue to run into the 1990's.
During Marcis' racing, he was rarely blessed with seemingly limitless sponsor dollars. However, he has made do and done well with what he had.
Marcis holds the distinction of being the last active driver who did battle in one of Chrysler's winged warriors. During the 1970 season, Dave Marcis drove the #30 Dodge Charger Daytona. Greg Fielden and The Galfield Press chose to grace the cover of Volume III of Forty Years Of Stock Car Racing with a nice photograph of Marcis' beautiful light blue Daytona in the foreground as he races with the two Petty SuperBirds of Richard Petty and Pete Hamilton.
After it was retired from racing, the Dave Marcis Daytona changed hands a few times and was reportedly the one acquired by the Goody's Headache Powder Company. The company had the Daytona painted Petty blue, placed #43 decals on it and brought it to many race tracks during the late 1980's and 1990's. The car participated in pre-race parade laps and was reportedly still equipped with it's race Hemi. The car was made into a Petty "replicar" because Richard Petty was an advertising spokesman for the Goody's Headache Powder Company.
A tremendous amount of controversy surrounded the victory and dealings of two Chrysler drivers in the Dover "Delaware 500" on September 14, 1975. In that race, Richard Petty's Dodge came from six laps down to claim victory. However, many of Petty's opponents that day angrily cried "foul" and that the race was "fixed".
It seems that on that day, Petty's Dodge was extremely fast and definitely the fastest car in the field. In the race, he built up a two lap lead but had to pit to replace a tie rod that was damaged by running over a piece of debris. In making the repairs, the Petty car lost it's two lap advantage and six additional laps.
The combination of caution flags and his extremely fast car put Petty back at the end of the lead lap with twenty laps to go. However, his car was not fast enough to have made up the rest of the lap to take the lead in those remaining twenty laps if the race had continued to be run under the green flag.
It just so happened that as soon as Petty got back on the lead lap, Buddy Arrington's Plymouth developed what Arrington said were severe handling problems that made it dangerous for him to continue to drive any further. So he pulled off the inside of the track and stopped. NASCAR officials figured that the car was far enough off the track and did not throw a caution. Arrington, seeing no caution flag come out, then drove to his pits, but he shortly came back on the track again.
Before he made a lap, his car's handling problems returned, and the car's handling became so bad this time that he had to stop and park his car on the track. The handling was so bad this second time he stopped that he could not "safely" return to the pits--that is, until the caution flag waved.
Just as soon as the yellow flew, Arrington was able to pull back to the pits where NASCAR officials retained his Plymouth for the duration of the race. This happened with fifteen laps to go.
Because the track was cleared so quickly, the race resumed. Petty was able to pass the other two cars on the lead lap and drive his Dodge to victory. What makes the incident even more intriguing is the fact that Buddy Arrington had purchased a car hauler from Petty a week or so before the incident. Greg Fielden quotes second place finisher Richard Brooks on the incident, "Sometimes it takes two to win a race. There's not a damned thing anybody can do about it. I guess Arrington needed that truck paid for."
Travis Carter, who was the crew chief for third place finisher Benny Parsons, is quoted as saying that the outcome "was a rip-off. We had a chance to win, and we deserved a full chance to win."
Bobby Allison won three times in the 1975 season in the eighteen events he entered in the Penske AMC Matador. His biggest win of the three came in the Labor Day "Southern 500" in Darlington, South Carolina.
Allison had also won the Darlington spring race of 1975 in his Matador. Dodge victories in 1975, as stated before, were scored by Dave Marcis and Richard Petty.
The 1976 season was not a particularly impressive season for Chrysler vehicles. Richard Petty, with three victories in his Dodge, finished second in points to Cale Yarborough. Dave Marcis also scored three victories in his Harry Hyde prepared Charger that he drove again in 1976. Those six victories by Marcis and Petty were all for Chrysler in 1976. The Roger Penske team, with Bobby Allison as driver, had chosen to field Mercurys rather than American Motors vehicles during America's bicentennial year.
The finish to the "Daytona 500" in 1976 has to rate as one of the all-time classic finishes in NASCAR history. The finish involved Richard Petty's Dodge and David Pearson's Mercury. The following is Greg Fielden's description of the event: "ABC Sports geared up for it's third live presentation of the conclusion of the Daytona 500. There was no flag-to-flag coverage in 1976."
"The final 22 laps were a green flag trophy dash between head liners Pearson and Petty. Pearson held the lead until Petty shot past with 13 laps to go. The two rode in nose-to-tail formation for 12 laps."
"On the back stretch of the final lap, Pearson shot his Mercury around Petty. Pearson, in the lead, drifted high in the third turn. Petty took the opening to duck under Pearson--and the two came off the fourth turn door-to-door."
"In an instant, the two cars slapped together. Pearson and Petty both wobbled. Then Pearson went nose-first into the wall, clipping Petty's rear bumper in the process. Both cars spun crazily out of control. Petty's Dodge ground to a halt in the infield 100 feet short of the finish line. Pearson bounced into the path of Joe Frasson and twirled to a stop at the foot of pit road. Pearson was able to knock his car into gear and cross the finish line at 20 MPH. Petty's engine had died."
"Pearson won his first Daytona 500, denying Petty his sixth."
"Everybody offered opinions of the final lap entanglement, but the principles refrained from criticizing each other. With the country looking on, the two most respected stock car racers had represented their sport well."
News reporters were awed by what they had witnessed:
Bob Hoffman, Southern Motorsports Journal: "It was the most dramatic finish in NASCAR history."
Bob Moore, Charlotte Observer: "It was a classic confrontation between the two greatest stock car drivers in the world."
Randy Laney, Columbia State: "....the most spectacular super speedway finish in the history of NASCAR's Grand National Division."
Fred Seeley, Jacksonville Times-Union: "What was supposed to be a great race on asphalt ended with a wild finish on dirt like a half-mile bull ring."
Tim Carlson, Daytona Beach News Journal: "It was magnificent, heart-stopping and just a shade ridiculous."
Frank Blunk, New York Times: "What can they do to top that?"
"Reporters crowded Petty moments after the crash had occurred. They wanted to know what was going through his mind while the crash was taking place. 'Well,' drawled Petty, 'I wasn't exactly hollering Hooray for me.'"
In Flat-out Racing, D. Randy Riggs had these statements about the incident: "What brought NASCAR into sharp focus all over America was perhaps the most electrifying finish ever recorded in the history of motor racing--and certainly in the history of stock car racing. The finish of the 1976 Daytona 500 was being broadcast live on ABC Sports, so millions were glued to their television sets watching the final lap of the 500...."
Folks who never cared a whit about racing were suddenly finding themselves discussing the subject around the water cooler, studying the television listing looking for the next televised NASCAR event or even better, mailing in their ticket requests to experience all the thrills in person. The incident was a boon to stock car racing, with the added benefit of the unbelievable footage being shown over and over again. If people didn't catch the race, there was the likelihood they would see it on the six o'clock news and again on the eleven o'clock news. The following morning, the scene was replayed on all the news shows, and naturally, received plenty of air play on various sports programs."
The 1977 season was another in which Chrysler products did not make a terribly big splash. Richard Petty was again runner up in the points championship battle while driving to five wins. (Actually, the 1977 season was the last season that Petty drove a Chrysler product for the full season.) Other wins for Chrysler were scored by the late Neil Bonnett who drove his Dodge to two victories.
Much of the fireworks that season centered around up-and-coming new star Darrell Waltrip and established star Cale Yarborough. Yarbrough labeled Waltrip "Jaws" because of Waltrip's propensity to never be at a loss for words and to speak his mind--sometimes without thinking. Waltrip responded to his new nickname "Jaws" by establishing the "Cale Scale". The "Cale Scale" was Waltrip's self designed measure of the degree of difficulty of a race. Waltrip apparently was prompted to design his scale after making note of the fact that Yarbrough was exhausted in victory lane at Martinsville.
Waltrip used the next race that he won to introduce the "Cale Scale". Greg Fielden quotes Waltrip in victory lane at North Wilkesboro as he was ribbing Yarbrough by remarking about how fresh and energetic he still was. He described how easy his day's drive to victory had been, "On the Cale Scale, this is only about a one-and-a-half or a two. I wish there were another 100 laps in this race. I guess Cale is getting old." At the time, Waltrip was 30 and Yarbrough was 38. Waltrip kidded Yarbrough a little further by saying, "I think his problem could be his years. I know I'm finding out I can't do the same things I could do 10 years ago."
Just prior to the 1977 season, Dave Marcis vacated the K & K Insurance ride and owner Norm Krauskopf had said that he wouldn't finance the team in the upcoming season. However, Krauskopf told his crew chief Harry Hyde and new driver Neil Bonnett that they could continue to run if they could find a sponsor to help with the finances. Neil Bonnett indeed drove the Krauskopf owned-Harry Hyde maintained Dodge in a few races early in the season, but the team was not able to put together a sponsorship deal to make it possible to run the entire season.
Dave Marcis moved to the Penske team to fill the niche that had been occupied by Bobby Allison before Allison asked to be released from his contract to drive his own car in 1977. Allison said that he would let his fans determine what type of car he would drive and he had a campaign to get fans to give their input. Greg Fielden quoted Allison about the results of the fan survey: "The mail was heavily in favor of my returning to the series in a Matador."
With some help from American Motors Company, Allison ran a Matador in a number of races in 1977. However, he did not score any wins in the car.
In a sad footnote to the rich heritage of the Chrysler Corporation in NASCAR, the last time a checkered flag waved for one of Mother Mopar's finest in a Winston Cup event was at the now defunct Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, California on November 20, 1977. The winner that day in the last race of the 1977 season was Neil Bonnett in his Jim Stacy owned Dodge. Richard Petty finished second in his Dodge.
The Dodges that had been campaigned in the 1977 season had been 1974 models for which NASCAR had waved it's three-year-rule to allow the four year old Dodge Chargers to compete. NASCAR rules had always allowed only three model years to compete in sanctioned Grand National or Winston Cup events, and NASCAR did not extend for the Charger a fifth year of eligibility.
The 1978 season saw the Petty and Bonnett teams trying to make the Dodge Magnums competitive on the circuit, but they were never successful with the venture.
On the subject of car choices in 1978, Greg Fielden says: "In the Chrysler camp, there seemed to be only one choice--the big, bulky Dodge Magnum. A number of teams had campaigned for the Dodge Diplomat [to be approved by NASCAR], but NASCAR had turned thumbs down on the smaller intermediate car. 'We'll be racing full size cars in 1978,' was NASCAR's statement."
"Richard Petty and Neil Bonnett, principal Dodge drivers, had difficulty in getting the Magnum to run competitively. 'The Dodge Magnum is undrivable at 190 MPH,' said Petty."
The decision had been made by late summer of 1978 that the Petty team would change car brands. In a very sad event in the annals of Chrysler Corporation racing, on August 6, 1978 in the Talladega 500, Richard Petty competed in his last NASCAR race in a Chrysler vehicle. To that point in time, most of the driving careers of both Richard and Lee Petty had been in Plymouths, Dodges and sometimes in Chryslers. About that final race in a Dodge in which he finished seventh in his Dodge Magnum, Greg Fielden quotes Petty, "I'm glad it's over. We'll clean 'em [the Dodge Magnums] up and put 'em in the corner of our shops. We'll go with the Chevrolet for the next race."
The 1978 season was a winless season for Richard Petty. It was the only season that he did not score at least one victory during the 25-year span between 1960 and 1984, inclusive.
About the Petty decision to switch from Chrysler vehicles to General Motors vehicles, Greg Fielden says: "By mid-summer, Petty was still struggling with the Dodge Magnum. After 18 races, Petty had finished only six times in the top five. When he was running at the finish, he was usually a number of laps off the pace."
"He was lapped five times in the Winston 500 at Talladega. He was three laps behind at Martinsville, six laps behind at Dover, four laps in arrears at Nashville, and a lap behind at Michigan and the Firecracker 400 at Daytona."
"In July, he had announced plans to switch to Chevrolet for the remainder of the 1978 season. He purchased a Chevrolet Monte Carlo [the one at the Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville?] from privateer Cecil Gordon on July 17. Scheduled debut for the Petty-Chevy combination was the August 26, 1978 Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan. 'It just wasn't possible to get the Dodge Magnum consistently competitive with some of the other cars under the current NASCAR rules,' said Petty. 'We tried everything we could possibly think of. Even though there has been some improvements from the first of the year, everyone else is going quicker, too.'"
"NASCAR President, Bill France, Jr., said the sanctioning body could not rewrite the rule book to suit one team. 'We could not come up with a rule that would be beneficial to Richard and, at the same time, be fair to those campaigning other makes,' said France, Jr."
About the Petty change from Chrysler to GM, D. Randy Riggs said in Flat-out Racing, "It was the end of the line for Richard Petty and Mopar. The '78 Dodge Magnum was such an uncompetitive lump that Petty abandoned the Pentastar symbol for a Bowtie--as in Chevrolet."
About Chrysler's general attitude toward racing, Riggs said: "Over at Chrysler, fortunes were ebbing. Horrendous quality standards had caught up with the company, and styling the 1978 Dodge Magnum to resemble a rounded-off barn wasn't going to help a bit on the nation's stock car tracks. Chrysler's future lay with much smaller cars and a government bail out---NASCAR had become the furthest thing from their minds. It was the unfortunate end of Chrysler's most glorious performance days."
One of Petty's Dodge Magnums that Richard had attempted to get competitive in 1978 was dusted off and campaigned by his son, Kyle, in 1979. Kyle won the ARCA race at Daytona in his racing debut.
The first time that Richard and Kyle were both in the field of a Winston Cup event was at Talladega on August 5, 1979. Kyle Petty had attempted to qualify the Dodge Magnum on several occasions prior to the Talladega race but didn't because of crashes and other problems. In that Talladega race, Kyle drove to a ninth place finish.
After 1978-1979, Chrysler products continued to be campaigned for the next few years most notably by Buddy Arrington and Frank Warren, among others. Chrysler, however, has yet to return to it's glory days in the era prior to the 1977 season.
Buddy Arrington hung on to using Chrysler vehicles longer than all the others. Although he scored a top ten finish here and there, he was never really running with the winners.
In the championship point battle, Arrington campaigned the top Chrysler product each year between 1979 and 1984. His finishes were: eleventh in 1979, twelfth in 1980, eleventh in 1981, seventh in 1982, fifteenth in 1983 and twentieth in 1984.
Arrington's last race in a Chrysler came on June 2, 1985 at Riverside, California. In that race, he finished in 31st position after running 50 of the race's 95 laps. His car dropped out because of oil leaks.
It is sad to note that no Chrysler products are now competing on NASCAR's high banks on Sunday afternoons. However, it is somewhat more ironic to think of the fact that Chrysler chooses to run advertisements on broadcasts and programs that report on NASCAR events. Even more ironic is the fact that in some of Chrysler's commercials, they still like to remind their viewers of their glory days---one, two and three at Daytona in 1964 with the 426 Hemi.
Maybe--just maybe--some decision maker at Chrysler will soon choose to create some new glory days rather than just sit around and brag and reminisce about the glory days gone by. All Chrysler fans would welcome such a decision.
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