Engines go quiet in Music City

Monday, March 11, 1985 – NASCAR officials confirmed today that the racing organization would not sanction events at Nashville (Tenn.) Raceway due to financial troubles surrounding the .596-mile track. The move reduced the number of points races for the premier series from 30 to 28 for the season and brought an end to a 27-year run of NASCAR competition at the facility.

The financial troubles stemmed from the bankruptcy filings of track owner Warner Hodgdon, who owned Nashville Raceway and Bristol International Raceway at that time. Four days after the announcement, Hodgdon reclaimed the lease during an open foreclosure auction for $260,000. However, NASCAR officials reiterated their earlier decision not to sanction the two previously scheduled premier series events. The last Cup event held at the track, in July of ’84, was won by Geoff Bodine.

The track did eventually host eight NASCAR XFINITY and five Camping World Series events following the financial troubles. But those were no longer scheduled beyond the 2000 season.

A real trophy queen for Hillsboro

Sunday, March 10, 1963 – More than a decade before Elizabeth Taylor attended her first NASCAR event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, and her second a year later Charlotte Motor Speedway, tiny Orange Speedway, a .9-mile dirt track in Hillsborough, N.C. played host to one of Hollywood’s biggest female stars. When Junior Johnson stepped into victory lane, he was presented the winner’s trophy by Hollywood sex symbol Jayne Mansfield, star of the stage, screen and apparently supper clubs.

NASCAR founder Bill France and Enoch Staley (of North Wilkesboro Speedway fame), race promoters for the event, extended the offer to Mansfield, who was performing at a Greensboro supper club during the week of the race.

According to reports, Mansfield told reporters earlier in the week she had “never seen one of these races before, and I’m looking forward to it very much.” To which driver Joe Weatherly was said to have responded: “I’m not at all sure what she’s looking forward to. But man, she really looks forward!”

Hylton hints at retirement

Thursday, March 9, 1967 – James Hylton, the 1966 NASCAR rookie of the year, tells the Charlotte News that he is considering giving up his career as a competitor in NASCAR’s top division. The Inman, S.C. resident beat out Bill Seifert and Frank Warren for rookie honors the previous year. Hylton cited the lack of factory support as a reason for the possible move.

Why is this notable? Because Hylton did not “retire” from driving the following year. Far from it. In fact, he went on to race for three more decades in Cup.

The owner/driver’s last race attempt in that series came in 2009 – he failed to qualify for the Daytona 500 at 74 years of age. In 602 career starts, Hylton won twice, at Richmond in 1970 and Talladega in 1972. His final NASCAR start came in 2011 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in the XFINITY Series – he was 76 at the time.

Hylton continued to race in the ARCA Series for two more years, finally hanging it up after the 2013 season at the age of 78.

Dunaway killed when train strikes car

Sunday, March 8, 1964 – Glenn Dunaway, winner and loser of NASCAR’s first sanctioned Strictly Stock race, was killed when his car struck a train just north of Camden, S.C. He was 49. A passenger in the car, Margaret Fox, was also killed. According to reports, the small car in which the pair were traveling was dragged approximately 100 feet by the Seaboard Railroad train.

Dunaway was disqualified the day after his June 22, 1949 victory at Charlotte Speedway when officials discovered illegal springs on his 1947 Ford. Instead of a win, the Gastonia, N.C. resident was credited with a last-place (33rd) finish.

The win was awarded to Jim Roper of Halstead, Kan. It was Roper’s only NASCAR victory.

Dunaway made 18 starts in the series and earned three top-five finishes. His best result came at Canfield (Ohio) Speedway where he finished second to Bill Rexford in 1950.

Gong Show put Busch on fast track

“That was my big break,” says Kurt Busch and he’s taking about the “Gong Show,” a system used by NASCAR team owner Jack Roush to identify potential talent for his Truck Series program.

The year was 1999 and Roush was one of a handful of NASCAR owners who fielded teams in all three of NASCAR’s national series – today known as Monster Energy Cup, Xfinity and the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Such a system wasn’t new to Roush – he’d used something similar to help identify candidates for his Trans-Am team as far back as the mid-1980s.

The process was one of many routes taken by teams and drivers through the years as owners looked for the next contender while drivers attempted to break out of the local level and make the jump into NASCAR.

Those routes have been as different as the personalities of the drivers themselves.

There has never been a “how-to” manual.

In 1958, Richard Petty was a second-generation racer who only went racing after turning 21 and getting the blessing of his father to follow in his footsteps. The younger Petty went from crewman to driver overnight.

Years later, Ernie Irvan moved east from California, raced Late Models in the Carolinas and worked as a welder to support himself while trying to break into NASCAR.

Midwestern short-track standouts such as Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace and Alan Kulwicki moved South with little money and no guarantees. Some made it, but only after toiling away with lesser teams in lesser equipment.

Some returned home only to eventually try again. Some went home and simply never returned.

Today, Busch drivers the No. 1 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. He’s a former series champion and has won races at Roush Fenway Racing, Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing.

In the late ‘90s, Busch was extremely competitive in the Southwest Series and his success caught the eye of Roush officials.

But to earn a spot driving one of the organization’s Fords in the Truck Series, Busch had to beat out other competitors in two rounds of a driver combine at two different tracks.

The first stop was Toledo (Ohio) Speedway, a half-mile asphalt oval.

“When I got there and looked around, it was ‘This guy’s the top Northwest (Series) guy; I’m the top Southwest Series guy; Robert Huffman, the Goody’s Dash series champion …,” Busch said. There were others as well, most from the west coast, at least one from the Modified ranks.

Each driver got a set of tires for a one-hour practice session, followed by a fresh set of tires and a 50-lap solo run.

“It was random pill draw for who went first; then they would put the truck back to their baseline setup for each person,” Busch said. “In the interim there were interviews, how you interacted with the crew, how you jumped in and just fit in with all of it. They watched every move.

“That day at Toledo, I almost wrecked the truck on lap 1; I didn’t know Trucks had that much horsepower.

“At the end of my 50 laps, I had the fastest lap, but I burned off the tires the quickest. I was lucky to get a second invite back. They had almost drawn a line through my name.”

At Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., for stop No. 2, Busch found himself competing with a new group of drivers.

“They told us that day, ‘One of you is getting the ride after today,’” he said.

“I went into this one way looser, way calmer, comfortable. I wasn’t confident but I was comfortable.”

Busch said his slowest lap “was everyone else’s fastest in a 20-lap run. I knew hands-down that I smoked it. I called my dad and said “I nailed it. If I don’t get the job it’s because I’m too young, I don’t quite know all the media stuff ….’”

But when he spoke with team president Geoff Smith a few days later, Busch said Smith asked, “How do you like Detroit weather?”

“I moved to Detroit and ran with the truck team.”

Roush continued the Gong Show program for several years. At one point it was filmed and packaged by the Discovery Channel as “Roush Racing: Driver X.”

Other teams had driver development programs as well, although not nearly as formal as Roush’s effort.

Hendrick Motorsports used its No. 5 Xfinity Series entry to develop drivers – Kyle Busch split seat time with Boston Reid and Blake Feese while also running Cup at HMS in 2005. The endeavor was short-lived – it quickly turned expensive after Reid and Feese were involved in multiple accidents that season.

In addition to his Cup operation, Ray Evernham fielded a developmental entry in the Xfinity Series for three years (2005-07), using a variety of drivers.

Today it’s the automakers – Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota – that have moved into the driver development arena.

NASCAR is involved in the developmental process as well – its Drive for Diversity program is run through Rev Racing and helps develop female and minority drivers in the K&N Pro Series and Whelen All-American Series. Current Cup drivers Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace came up through the D4D program.

But for the most part, few individual teams have “tryouts” similar to Roush’s Gong Show, where drivers go head-to-head with one another in hopes of landing a ride.

In what some say happens far too often today, if a driver can bring funding to the table, regardless of his experience, he can find a team that will put him behind the wheel.

“Now what we have are owners looking around for money. ‘Which kid has the most money, I want him to come and drive for me,’” Busch said. “That’s the unfortunate part about where our sport is right now.”

Toyota leading driver development push

It’s a well-known story but it bears repeating when discussing the state of today’s driver development programs in NASCAR.

Kyle Larson was a hot shot racer competing in sprint cars when Toyota officials whisked him away to Chicagoland Speedway in the late 2000s and began introducing him to the automaker’s various Cup Series teams.

There was no push from Toyota toward those organizations to sign the youngster, although it was clear that introductions were made in hopes of kindling interest in the California kid.

No Toyota team bit, and Larson was eventually signed by Chevrolet team owner Chip Ganassi.

Today Larson is seen not only as the one who got away, but as the project/prodigy that kickstarted the Toyota driver development program in NASCAR.

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) USA, called it an “ah-ha moment.”

Larson wasn’t the last driver groomed by Toyota who didn’t stick around. But he clearly has been the most prominent.

Now 26 and still at Ganassi, he has five wins in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series and is considered a championship contender with the start of each new racing season. He has qualified for the series’ 16-team playoff the last three seasons.

Jack Irving is the director of team and support services for TRD. It’s his job to help locate potential candidates, track driver progress and assist those who have the ability to advance.

“You can’t help but lose Larson and then look around and watch him kick the hell out of you and think ‘Man, we probably should have kept him,’” Irving said.

Jack Irving is the director of team and support services for Toyota Racing Development. (Photo credit – Toyota Racing)

• THE PIPELINE •

Three automakers, Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, are currently involved in NASCAR and each has its own unique approach to driver development.

Toyota appears to have the most detailed process, with a feeder system that identifies potential candidates as young as, well, there really doesn’t seem to be an age limitation. If you show promise as a racer, chances are someone from Toyota or Toyota Racing Development has noticed you or heard about you and is following your progress at this very moment. You might be 12, you might be 20. You might be aware of their interest or you might not.

Ford officials currently work closely with Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske, two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series organizations that also field Xfinity Series teams. Talks concerning involvement in lower series are said to be on-going. The auto maker still has a foot in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series as well, through an affiliation with ThorSport Racing.

Chevrolet’s program at this time consists of a relationship with Drivers Edge Development, a platform launched just this year by JR Motorsports and GMS Racing. Six drivers are enrolled in the program and are competing in five series – Late Model, ARCA, K&N, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

“Everybody has a different philosophy on where they are with it,” TRD’s Irving said of the various development programs. “I think there are ebbs and flows.

“I think there is this weird, ‘We’re completely out of the box different,’” he said of Toyota’s approach. “We’re not. We’re just doing it now and they did it 15 years ago, 10 years ago.”

Toyota engages with approximately 20 kids on a consistent basis, and many more to a lesser degree. “We probably actively have decent knowledge on a good 100 kids,” he said, noting that number is for pre-teen projects alone.

“The longer we go the more we are learning and the more we’re layering on to the program. I think at this point I feel like we’re in a good spot but we’re still so far away from where we want to be.

“People talk about the program with admiration – we’re years away from being really good at it.”

Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance, said Ford officials are pleased with the progress made in his company’s driver development program for one simple reason.

“Because two years ago we didn’t have one,” he noted.

“Is it to the level that we want it to be? No, absolutely not,” Rushbrook said. “That’s something that we want to continue to be working on.

“We are happy with the balance that we have with Chase (Briscoe) and Cole (Custer) and Austin (Cindric) running in Xfinity. I think that’s going to be a great combination with those three drivers. And as drivers and as teams, I think there will be some collaboration between Stewart-Haas (Racing) and (Team) Penske at the Xfinity level.”

Custer, 21, is in his third full season of Xfinity Series competition with Stewart-Haas Racing. Second in the 2018 standings and a two-time winner in the series, he pilots the No. 00 SHR Ford.

Cindric, 20, finished eighth in points last season driving for Team Penske while Briscoe made a dozen of his 17 starts last year in the No. 60 entry out of Roush Fenway Racing.

Cindric has resumed his duties with Penske for ’19 and Briscoe has landed a ride at SHR as that organization has added a second full-time Xfinity Series entry.

As part of a team building exercise, Ford put the three drivers, along with 24-year-old Ty Majeski, in Mustang GT4 entries at Daytona in January for the Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Rushbrook said the four will likely compete “at the end of the year at Road Atlanta just to continue that team building as well as driver skill building for road course racing.”

It is not yet known just how extensive the Chevrolet involvement will be with the Drivers Edge Development program. In a release announcing the effort, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, JRM general manager, said the program “is going to be critical to the future of the sport and our race team.”

“The fact that you have JRM, GMS and Chevrolet getting this off the ground speaks to that importance,” she said.

JRM is co-owned by Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick and works closely with the Cup Series organization to develop and train talent inside and outside the car.

The six drivers in the Drivers Edge system at this time are Xfinity Series drivers Noah Gragson, John Hunter Nemechek and Zane Smith; Truck Series driver Sheldon Creek; Sam Mayer, who is scheduled for Truck Series, K&N, ARCA and Late Model starts; and Adam Lemke in Late Models.

The Toyota roster is deep and includes associations with numerous teams and drivers at different levels.

“We started developing this network of relationships not just with teams at that (NASCAR) level but with Super Late Models, in ARCA, in K&N, the Venturinis, the McAnallys,” Wilson said. “Kyle Busch Motorsports runs a great Super Late Model program.”

Venturini Motorsports and Bill McAnally Racing provide entry points for racers, particularly those making the transition from dirt to asphalt.

Hailie Deegan, competing for McAnally, won this year’s season-opening NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Las Vegas. It was her second career victory in the series – she became the series’ first female winner last year when she won at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway while also competing for McAnally.

A day after the Vegas victory, Deegan, 17, announced a six-race ARCA schedule with Venturini Motorsports in addition to the K&N effort.

DGR-Crosley is another organization that acts as a feeder system for Toyota talent. The group fields entries in a variety of racing series, from Late Model up to the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Toyota also uses the program to develop relationships with sponsors. Wilson said companies such as JBL, Safelite and Exxon Mobile, “were interested in grassroots racing as well.

“The perception that we are behind the scenes stroking checks and pulling strings is not accurate,” Wilson said. “We couldn’t do this without these B-to-B (business to business) partnerships that we have developed.”

• NO GUARANTEES •

A driver development program can be a fickle endeavor. Not only is it extremely costly and time consuming to operate, but there is no guarantee of a return for the time, effort and finances invested.

Even the best-case scenario, that can’t-miss prospects are found and developed at each level, carries certain risks.

What happens when that talent is ready to advance and there isn’t a seat available? What happens if after putting all that effort into developing a driver, he or she decides to sign with another manufacturer? How many development drivers are too many? How few are too few?

Rushbrook said it’s “a balance we need to strike” when considering numbers.

“The way we’ve approached it is … from top down,” he said. “We want to make sure we have drivers at the Xfinity level to have that opportunity, so they are ready to come into Cup when there’s an opportunity.

“Then the question is when do we extend below that so that we’re reaching into ARCA and K&N?”

The addition of ThorSport for 2018 kept Ford’s presence in the Truck Series, filling a gap created when Brad Keselowski Racing closed its doors at the end of the ’17 season. While the organization has a pair of veterans in former series champions Matt Crafton and the just-returned Johnny Sauter, it also fields an entry for 22-year-old Ben Rhodes.

Myatt Snider, 24, won the series rookie of the year title last season while racing for ThorSport and is slated for a partial schedule this year.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions,” Rushbrook said. “We like a lot of the teams that are running Ford at those different series … it’s just a matter of, when do we formally engage with them so that we’ve got drivers signed at that level to come up through into the Truck and Xfinity (level)?”

The loss of a driver is a risk but some say there still are positives that come from the experience.

“I don’t think there is a huge negative between us if it hasn’t worked for whatever reason,” TRD’s Irving said. “But I think our goal was pure from the minute that we started. It was just to make it better for the kids and better for the sport.

“Ultimately, if they win races and they’re in a Toyotas, great. If they win races and they’re in somebody else’s well, at least we helped.

“One of the things we were told from the start was that drivers break your heart so there’s no point in developing drivers and I completely disagree with that.

“At some point, whoever did develop Jeff Gordon did a great job for the sport. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t end up with you. It doesn’t matter that Kasey Kahne didn’t end up with you. It’s going to suck if William Byron wins Cup races, but it was great that we were with him the year we were with him. And hopefully his view on us is as positive as our view is on him. And if we’ve done our job then I think it will be.”

Gordon, the four-time Cup champion and 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, competed for Bill Davis Racing, a Ford team at the time, in the Xfinity Series in 1991-92. But by the end of the ’92 season he had moved to Hendrick Motorsports, a Chevrolet organization, to begin his Cup career.

Kahne’s story is similar – in 2002 he competed for Robert Yates Racing and in ’03 Akins Motorsports, both Ford organizations, in the Xfinity Series. When he made the move to Cup the following year, however, it was with Evernham Motorsports, one of a handful of organizations helping to bring Dodge back to NASCAR.

Byron is the one of the most recent notables to jump ship – after winning seven times for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2016, Byron moved to JR Motorsports the following year where he won the Xfinity Series title. He was moved up to Cup in ’18, where he took over the No. 24 previously driven by Gordon at HMS.

• WHAT’S NEXT? •

“One thing that they’ve been really good at is every step along the way, they’ve told me I’m going to get X, and then I get X plus five, or whatever that number is,” said Christopher Bell.

Bell is in his second full season of Xfinity Series competition with Joe Gibbs Racing. He won the Gander Outdoors Truck Series title in 2017 competing for Kyle Busch Motorsports, then won seven times in NXS competition last year driving the No. 20 Toyota for JGR.

“When we first did our deal in 2015, (Toyota officials) said ‘OK, we’re going Late Model racing’ and they gave me a schedule of 20 Late Model races,” Bell recalled. “And then the next thing you know, mid-June they’re like ‘Hey, you want to go Truck racing?’ So I ended up getting 20 Late Model races and then I think five Truck races.”

Actually, he ran seven Truck races that year. And the same thing happened after he moved into the Truck series fulltime. “Come mid-March or mid-April,” he said, “they’re like, ‘Oh hey, by the way, we got you a couple of Xfinity races.’

“They’ve always done more than what that told me and that’s something I’m thankful for.”

Bell is just one driver who likely will be looking to take that next step up to Cup in 2020.

Custer is in his third full season in the Xfinity Series; Tyler Reddick won the Xfinity title in ’18; Cindric and Brandon Jones have multiple years in the series. Are any of them ready to move up? Will there be seats available if they do?

Not everything is working in their favor.

Today’s Cup fields are smaller – in 2016 the size of the starting field was cut from 43 to 40 at each of the 36 points races. That means fewer seats are available today as the overall number of teams has dropped. The number of teams with charters, guaranteeing them spots in the starting lineup each week, has remained at 36 but the number of teams competing for those four open spots has fluctuated. Starting fields of fewer than 40 cars is no longer uncommon.

Also, the average age of the drivers in those starting lineups is younger. In 1998 the average age of the starting field for the Daytona 500 was 38. Ten years later it was 32. Fewer drivers are closer to retirement and that also means fewer seats are coming open.

“What would be great, honestly what would be awesome,” Irving said, “I would love nothing more than to have that competition (for talent). That at some point if I miss (on a prospect), then they’re taking them. I think that would be fascinating. It would be our program racing their program and trying to develop the best talent. I would love that. That would be the best thing for the sport, the best thing for us competitively.

“I do think we will get to that point.”

Edwards tap sends Keselowski airborne

Sun., March 7, 2010 – Kurt Busch won the race but that wasn’t what most folks were talking about following the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. With three laps remaining, Carl Edwards, running more than 150 laps down to the leader, intentionally hit Brad Keselowski, causing the Team Penske driver’s Dodge to spin and come up off the track. After tumbling over and striking the wall with the driver’s side A-pillar and roof, the car landed upright. Keselowski was shaken but unhurt.

The incident came after contact between Edwards, piloting the No. 99 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, and Keselowski earlier in the race sent Edwards to the garage and resulted in the loss of multiple laps while repairs were made to his car. Almost a year earlier, contact between the two on the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway had sent Edwards’ car flying off the ground and into the catch fence. Keselowski, driving for Phoenix Racing at that time, scored his first Cup Series win.

“If they’re going to allow people to intentionally wreck each other at tracks this fast,” Keselowski said, “we will hurt someone either in the cars or in the grandstands.”

“Brad knows the deal between him and I … the scary part was his car went airborne,” Edwards offered.

NASCAR’s response? “I would say there seems to be a history between those two drivers. I’m not going to go any further into it right now,” Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition for NASCAR, said afterward.

Anticipating a faster pace at ISM

Worth noting: For the fourth consecutive week, Monster Energy NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will be competing with a different rules package. After the superspeedway package that was used for the final time in the season-opening Daytona 500, and after using the smaller tapered spacer (0.922-inch opening) at Atlanta (minus aero ducts) and Las Vegas (with aero ducts), teams will use the larger (1.17-inch) spacer for this week’s stop at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.

The spacer change will result in a gain of 200 horsepower, from 550 to 750 horsepower.

What does that mean? For one thing, it means a tire change from the folks at Goodyear in relation to what’s previously been run at ISM. According to information provided by the tire supplier, it will be the first time teams in Cup (as well as Xfinity) have run this particular tire code.

Greg Stucker, director of racing for Goodyear, said that when the package was tested last fall at the 1-mile track, “teams were considerably faster than we’ve seen in recent years.”

“With the extra downforce … much of that speed comes through the corners, which generates higher loading on the tires,” Stucker said.

Goodyear provides teams with recommended tire pressures prior to each race weekend. Stucker said they should be especially mindful of those numbers this weekend.

“Running below our minimums can cause the sidewall … to flex more and over deflect,” he said, “generating more heat, higher wear and fall-off and even damaging the tire to the point of air loss.”

Drivers Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson and Paul Menard participated in the ’18 tire test.

Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet) has 35 career poles but none since 2016. Three of the 35 came at Phoenix and he holds the current ISM track qualifying record of 143.158 mph set in 2015.

Speaking of track qualifying records, did you know Kurt Busch holds the most among drivers competing on the Cup series’ current 23 tracks? The Chip Ganassi Racing driver holds the record at Las Vegas (196.328 mph), Texas (200.919) and Charlotte Motor Speedways.

Actually, Busch holds two qualifying marks at CMS – his lap of 198.771 mph in October of ’14 stands as the record for the 1.5-mile layout; he also has the distinction of holding the track record for the Roval at CMS, establishing it prior to the inaugural race last year with his pole-winning lap of 106.868 mph.

There are a handful of drivers who have finished in the top 10 in two of the season’s first three Cup races, but only one who has finished in the top 10 in all three.

Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota) finished second at Daytona, sixth at Atlanta and third at Las Vegas. He has two career victories at IMS and a nifty average finishing position of 11.1.

A year ago, Joey Logano was the only driver to post consecutive top-10 finishes in the first three races. The Team Penske driver went on to win the championship.

Weatherly awarded short Concord win

Tues., March 6, 1962 – Norfolk, Va., native Joe Weatherly is declared the winner of the previous Saturday’s NASCAR Grand National race at Concord (N.C.) Speedway even though only 76 of the race’s 200 laps were completed when rain forced officials to halt the event. The race was initially slated to be resumed the following Saturday.

A race isn’t official today until two of the three “stages” have been completed, a format change announced in Jan. of 2017. Prior to that change, races were not considered official until reaching the halfway point of the advertised distance.

Competitors in the 1962 race were reportedly paid 50 percent of the advertised purse. Because of the ruling, NASCAR and track operator Bruton Smith added another race at Concord, also won by Weatherly, on May 6.

• Weatherly had led all 78 laps (39 miles) after starting on the pole. Richard Petty was credited with second while Ralph Earnhardt was third in the 20-car field.

The victory was the 15th of Weatherly’s career and his second of the ’62 season.

OTD: Foyt’s final win and record entries

Sunday, March 5, 1972 – A.J. Foyt scored his seventh and final victory in NASCAR competition, winning the Miller High Life 500 at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway. Foyt led 132 of 200 laps in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.

Five of Foyt’s seven career victories came with the Wood Brothers organization.

The starting lineup for the Miller High Life 500 consisted of 51 cars. Incredibly, 62 cars failed to qualify as 113 total entries attempted to make the field for the race. It’s believed to be the largest turnout of entries for a NASCAR premier series event.

Among those who did not qualify were current team owner and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Richard Childress, fellow Hall of Famer Wendell Scott and Ron Keselowski, uncle of Brad and Brian Keselowski.