- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Last month at the Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C., Ford introduced a trick manifold that partly compensated for the carburetor problem. Ford's David Pearson sat on the pole and led a good portion of that race. Then Bill France banned the special manifold. The reason? " NASCAR doesn't need any reason," said an angry Junior Johnson. "They haven't got any rules."
Meanwhile, the Plymouth and Dodge drivers weren't exactly pleased with the carburetor restriction, either, although it seemed to affect them less, and the outspoken Householder said, "I think people are finally getting tired of having God spelled with a capital F."
But it must be remembered that stock-car racing is a cyclical business. After two years at the top, with Cale Yarborough in 1968 (four major wins) and Lee Roy Yarbrough last season (seven superspeedway triumphs and $188,605 in prize money), Ford slipped and Chrysler established a clear dominance. Besides, the difference in engine performance caused by the carburetor plates, there were other reasons. The first was mechanical: the Dodge Daytona Chargers and Plymouth Superbirds, both with a wing that sits approximately 2� feet above the rear deck, were aerodynamically superior to the Fords and Mercurys. The second reason was that Richard Petty, after serving in the enemy camp last season, returned to Plymouth this year with all his old foot and his priceless fund of experience.
In the 14 major events held before the National 500, Petty Plymouths won six, three apiece by Richard and teammate Pete Hamilton. Dodges chipped in with three more victories for a total of nine. Ford managed just five wins, and yesterday's heroes Cale and Lee Roy accounted for just one of them—a victory by Cale in the Motor State 400 last June.
That is pretty much what developed during practice. Dodge driver Charlie Glotzbach wound up on the pole with a 157.273 clocking. Behind him were Petty and Baker and, in another Dodge, Fred Lorenzen. As he predicted, Lee Roy was half a second behind Glotzbach—in fifth place. In the final practice session on Saturday Baker upped his speed to an unofficial 157.987 mph and began to feel possessive about the winner's share of the $145,000 purse.
In the early stages of the race all of Ford's gloomiest doubts were confirmed. First Glotzbach's purple Dodge, then Baker's crimson one, were in the lead, and then the twin Petty Plymouths took over and dominated the middle third. The Ford team was cut in half after just eight laps when Cale Yarborough's Mercury and David Pearson's Ford collided in the third turn and put each other out of the running.
In Lee Roy Yarbrough's Mercury pits, Junior Johnson all but conceded defeat. " Lee Roy's got just one chance," Johnson said, "and that's for him to never back off. He's got to stand on it all the way."
Yarbrough did. He was never lower than fifth, and the day's heavy attrition claimed Glotzbach, then Baker and finally Hamilton and Petty. Lee Roy kept his white Cyclone barely in front of the rest of the field to win his first race of the season.
But he had to survive a wild finish to do it. With 18 laps—just over 25 miles—to go, Lee Roy was running third. He was behind a slow Dodge driven by Bobby Allison and a very gutty one driven by Bobby Isaac. Allison led the first three of those final laps, then Isaac and Yarbrough both blew past him. On the 323rd lap (of 334) Isaac, who was pulling away from Yarbrough, scattered his engine in the first turn and retired.