Parsons gets relief, and win, at Bristol

Sunday, July 8, 1973 – Benny Parsons survived the heat and humidity as well as the attrition that sidelined others to score his second career victory in NASCAR’s premier series with a win in the Volunteer 500 at Bristol International Speedway. Parsons, driving the No. 72 Chevrolet for car owner L.G. DeWitt, took the checkered flag a full seven laps ahead of runner-up L.D. Ottinger.

Parsons got an able assist from local standout John A. Utsman, who drove in relief of the Ellerbe, N.C. resident for approximately 180 laps during the race. Parsons was behind the wheel for the final push to the checkered flag.

Ottinger, of Newport, Tenn., finished second in what was only his second career start in the series. His initial qualifying time on Friday, which placed him third in the lineup, was tossed out when his car was found to be too light. He returned the following day to lead second-day qualifying and started in the No. 11 spot.

Several drivers had relief help during the 500-lap affair, including Cecil Gordon, who stepped out to recover while Richard Petty, felled earlier by ignition issues, drove the No. 24 Chevrolet for a short stint. Gordon eventually finished third. Ottinger was spelled by Kingsport’s Gene Glover as well.

It was career win No. 2 for Parsons, who had not won since coming out on top at South Boston, Va. some two years earlier. “I was thinking of how close it was to victory near the end and how tragic it would be if we lost,” the winning driver told reporters.

A crash on lap 347 took out potential winners Bobby Allison and pole winner Cale Yarborough after Allison’s car hit the wall in Turn 3 and Yarborough was unable to avoid.

Two teams were ruled illegal for wheelbase infractions (too long) on Friday – Bobby Isaac’s Bud Moore-owned Ford entry and the Nord Krauskopf Dodge driven by Buddy Baker. Isaac and Moore returned (Isaac finished 22nd) however Baker did not.

Langley scores second and final win

Thursday, July 7, 1966 – Elmo Langley returned to the winner’s circle for the second time in approximately one month when he captured the Old Dominion 150 at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Va. Langley, a native of Landover, Md., was seven laps ahead of runner-up John Sears in his No. 64 Ford. James Hylton finished third in the NASCAR premier series event.

Langley had scored his first victory in June at Spartanburg, S.C.

Only 11 of the 24 starters were running at the finish of the 400-lap race.

Bobby Allison won the pole, his first in NASCAR’s top series. He led 49 laps before being sidelined due to transmission issues.

Tiny Lund led 120 laps but was felled by a blown engine.

Langley went on to work as crew chief for team owner/driver Cale Yarborough, then became an official with NASCAR, driving the pace car in each premier series event.

New venue, familiar face in victory lane

Sunday, July 6, 1969 – NASCAR’s premier series added a new venue to the schedule but at the end of the day it was a familiar face in the winner’s circle – Richard Petty captured the inaugural Mason-Dixon 300 at Dover International Speedway. It was the fifth win of the season for Petty, who had a six-lap advantage on runner-up Sonny Hutchins at the finish.

The race was contested just two days after teams had run the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Because it was a new venue, tire issues were frequent – David Pearson was leading the race when he suffered a tire failure on lap 64 and sent his car hard into the wall.  Lee Roy Yarbrough battled Petty for the top spot for nearly 100 laps before a blown tire sent the Junior Johnson-owned entry to the garage and out of contention.

Yarbrough’s entry was dealt a mechanical blow during practice when the drive shaft in his entry failed. Pearson’s Holman-Moody group stepped up and provided the Johnson team with the necessary parts to make repairs.

Four days after the Dover debut, the series was competing again, this time at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway.

Another Andretti wins at Daytona

Saturday, July 5, 1997 – John Andretti, nephew of Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 winner Mario Andretti, scored his first NASCAR premier series win with a victory in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Andretti led 113 of 160 laps in collecting his first win as well as the first victory for Cale Yarborough Motorsports.

The ’97 race was the last to be run in the morning at Daytona; beginning in ’98 the race was run under the lights on Saturday nights.

Andretti, who would win two times in Cup competition, picked up the victory in his 110th career start.

Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett completed the top five.

Mario Andretti had one win in 14 NASCAR starts, winning the 1967 Daytona 500.

A win for Petty, the President and NASCAR

Wed., July 4, 1984 – Richard Petty, NASCAR’s first seven-time premier series champion, recorded his milestone 200th career victory when he beat Cale Yarborough by a fender in the annual Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Petty became the first driver to win in front of a sitting president, Ronald Reagan, who had arrived at the track after the race had begun.

Petty’s 200th victory came 24 years after his first and it was his 943rd career start.

Petty beat Yarborough back to the line with two laps remaining when the yellow flag appeared for an incident involving Doug Heveron. Petty was leading when the caution came out, Yarborough passed Petty going into Turn 3, then Petty pulled up alongside Yarborough in Turn 4 as they sprinted side-by-side to the finish line.

Petty’s 200th win came with team owner Mike Curb, who he had joined following the ’83 season. The legendary driver competed eight more seasons before retirement without another victory.

Yarborough, driving the No. 28 Chevrolet for owner Harry Ranier, had used the slingshot move – waiting until the final lap to draft past the leader – to win multiple races on the series’ biggest tracks, including that season’s Daytona 500.

The final two laps were run under caution; Yarborough mistakenly thought there was only one lap remaining and pulled onto pit road. As a result, he lost one position, falling from second to third in the final rundown. Harry Gant was awarded the runner-up spot.

Halfway next time by with return to DIS

Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway marks the halfway point in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Race No. 18 takes teams back to where the season began in February. Only nine races remain in the regular season.

It’s a good time to stop and take stock of what’s transpired thus far.

Talk of the 2019 aero/rules package has often overshadowed the competition on the race track. That’s not unusual. It’s simply more noticeable in today’s social-media driven world.

While the aero changes haven’t been to everyone’s liking, that’s hardly any different from seasons past.

Because there are different packages for different tracks, it’s natural that it would be a topic of discussion as the season progressed.

Overall, it seems to have improved the product on the track. But it’s clear that the platform works better at some tracks, under some conditions (night vs. day races for example), than others.

The number of teams winning races hasn’t changed all that much, only the teams themselves. Three organizations (Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports) have produced this year’s race winners – all seven of them.

A year ago? Five organizations, four if you aligned the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing with JGR, which most did, and six different winners.

Who wins first in ‘19, seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson or a team from the Stewart-Haas Racing stable?

The odds would seem to favor SHR, which fields four Cup teams. Drivers Kevin Harvick (8), Clint Bowyer (2) and Aric Almirola (1) combined for 11 victories last season; the organization is 0-for-68 so far in ’19.

 Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports) heads to Daytona trailed by a 76-race winless streak. He did win the season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash at DIS, a non-points event.

NASCAR’s tougher post-race penalty move hasn’t cost any Cup drivers a win, although two drivers in other series have been disqualified when their entries failed post-race inspection.

Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Ross Chastain was stripped of the victory at Iowa while Christopher Bell lost his third-place finish in the Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Single-car qualifying returned in early May after months of issues with the multi-car process. At Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) in March, none of the 12 final-round participants completed an official qualifying lap before time expired. In April, officials reduced the time of each qualifying round to five minutes.

Sweeps: Denny Hamlin led a Joe Gibbs Racing/Toyota sweep in the season-opening Daytona 500 as Kyle Busch and Erik Jones finished second and third respectively;

Team Penske finished 1-2 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with defending series champion Joey Logano winning over teammate Brad Keselowski in a battle of Fords;

Busch and Martin Truex went 1-2 at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., then reversed their order at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway when Truex scored the victory;

Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman finished 1-2 in the Geico 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

First-time winners: Bowman became the 192nd driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race with his first career victory June 30 at Chicagoland. It’s the fourth consecutive season the series has seen at least one new Cup winner. Austin Hill (NGOTS) and Michael Annett (Xfinity) earned their first NASCAR series wins as well, both at Daytona in February.

Equally notable: Christopher Bell gave Toyota its first win with the Supra in the Xfinity Series at Atlanta; Keselowski’s victory the same weekend was No. 1 for the Ford Mustang in Cup competition.

Kyle Busch hit a couple of milestones during the first half of the ’19 season – his became the winningest driver in the Truck series when he scored win No. 52 at Atlanta; his Cup victory at Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) gave him 200 wins across NASCAR’s three national series (Cup, Xfinity, Truck).

Prime time for Daytona, VL for DJ

Saturday, July 3, 1999 – NASCAR’s premier series went prime time on Saturday night for the first time on the Fourth of July holiday weekend, and Dale Jarrett escaped with a victory after almost running out of fuel. The driver of the No. 88 Ford for Robert Yates Racing, Jarrett pitted for a splash of gas with 17 laps remaining in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, then ran out on the backstretch after taking the checkered flag. Dale Earnhardt finished second while Jeff Burton was third.

A year earlier, the ’98 Pepsi 400 was scheduled to be the first to be held under the lights in July at DIS. However, wildfires across the region forced officials to postpone the race. It was run October 17, 1998.

The win was the third in seven races for Jarrett and his 14th consecutive top-10 result.

The race finished under caution after Jeremey Mayfield spun in Turn 4 on Lap 156 following contact from Wally Dallenbach, Jr. Jimmy Spencer and Elliott Sadler were also involved.

The race was the final start in the Cup series for driver Loy Allen Jr. A former Daytona 500 pole winner (1994), Allen finished 40th at Daytona and earlier at Michigan. He failed to qualify at Talladega and Pocono.

Roberts dies after battle with burns

Thursday, July 2, 1964 – Glen “Fireball” Roberts, NASCAR’s top drawing card at tracks across the country, died at Memorial Hospital in Charlotte where he had spent six weeks following a fiery crash in the World 600 race on May 24. Roberts, 35, was the winner of 33 races in NASCAR’s top series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500. A wreck in the 600 resulted in burns over 75 percent of his body.

Officially doctors listed Roberts’ cause of death as pneumonia and septicemia (blood poisoning). The popular star had slipped into a coma a day earlier.

Roberts was injured in a lap 7 crash that also involved drivers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson. Jarrett pulled Roberts from his burning car, which had landed on its roof. “Fireball was the idol of all the drivers,” Jarrett said after hearing of his passing. “We looked up to him. He was a gentleman and a sportsman, all that a man in our profession should be.”

Roberts once said his first racing win, which came on a small dirt track in southern Georgia, earned him “a ham, a sack of pecans and a $20 bill.” At the time of his passing, he had earned more than $300,000, nearly $2.5 million by today’s standards.

A.J. Foyt, in Daytona to prepare for the Firecracker 400, called Roberts “the best stock car driver I have ever raced against.”

Shuman wins as NASCAR series turns north

Tuesday, July 1, 1951 – Buddy Shuman made it to the winner’s circle in his 17th career NASCAR premier series start, finishing two laps ahead of the competition in winning at Stamford Park, Ontario. It was Shuman’s fourth start in the No. 89 Hudson for team owner B.A. Pless and the first time NASCAR had competed outside the United States.

Shuman, a native of Charlotte, made just a handful of starts after his victory, ending his career as a driver in 1955 with the lone win and four top fives in 29 career starts.

The race, No. 18 for the season, featured a 17-car field. Only three cars were running at the finish of the 200-lap race. Herb Thomas finished second, two laps down.

A rules infraction in 1950 allegedly resulted in Shuman being suspended from NASCAR, leading the racer to paint “The Outlaw” on the back of his race car. When he returned to NASCAR competition the following year, he replaced it with “The Inlaw.”

Shuman, a standout Modified racer and track promoter prior to racing the full-bodied stock cars, became NASCAR’s chief inspector after his retirement from driving. By the end of the summer of ’55, however, he had been named technical advisor to Ford Motor Company’s NASCAR endeavors.

Shuman was working in that capacity in November when he died as a result of smoke inhalation after a fire broke out in his hotel room in Hickory, N.C. and he was unable to escape the room.

The Buddy Shuman Award is named in his honor and has been presented annually since 1957.

Hickory Motor Speedway hosted the Buddy Shuman 250 NASCAR premier series race from 1956 through 1971.

USAC bails, NASCAR steps in at Atlanta

Friday, June 30, 1961 – The Festival 250, a 250-mile USAC-sanctioned race scheduled for July 9 at Atlanta International Raceway, was cancelled due to tire concerns and risks associated with competing on the high-banked layout. As a result of the cancellation, track officials were able to obtain a race for NASCAR’s top series to be run on the same date instead.

Firestone officials expressed concern over track temperatures which reached almost 140 degrees when Indy veteran Dick Rathman made laps around the year-old speedway. The tire maker said it had been unable to complete necessary tire tests previously because of paving work taking place at the track. The two tire combinations eventually tested proved to be suitable for the open-wheel cars on the fast, banked speedway.

Atlanta officials said they had done everything they were asked of USAC to prepare of the race, including modifications to the relatively new track.

NASCAR agreed to step in and run an event on the same day with its Grand National series and featuring a purse of not less than $30,000.

The addition gave the series 52 races for the ’61 season.

In 2001, CART officials called off a race at Texas Motor Speedway due to concerns over extraordinary speeds and excessive G forces.