NASCAR rules no gas cap, no problem

Sunday, April 25, 1971 – Richard Petty was flagged the winner, David Pearson filed the protest and career win No. 10 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Petty was put into question when he completed the final 18 laps of the 500-lap race with the gas cap on his ’71 Plymouth not secured.

Petty held a half-lap lead when he pitted for a splash of gas and returned to the track side-by-side with Pearson. He eventually pulled away and won the Virginia 500 by more than 1.5 seconds.

Ralph Moody, Pearson’s team owner, met with NASCAR officials as soon as the race ended to lodge a complaint. Len Kuchler, NASCAR competition director, said because Petty took only a small amount of fuel, none was spilling onto the track and the unsecured cap did not create a safety hazard.

Pearson filed an official protest and when it was disallowed by Kuchler, appealed to the NASCAR Racing Commission.

One week later, the Commission disallowed Pearson’s protest, declaring Petty the official race winner. Pearson’s $100 protest fee was returned.

Unofficially, the race was the last of three at the tiny half-mile oval to see only one caution flag wave during the course of an event. As of 2019, there has never been a caution-free premier series race on the .526-mile track.

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