Petty’s first start comes outside U.S.

Friday, July 18, 1958 – Richard Petty, son of NASCAR premier series champion Lee Petty, makes his first official start in the series at Canadian Exposition Stadium in Toronto, Ont. Petty, who turned 21 only 16 days earlier, started seventh in the 19-car field and finished 17th in his 1957 Oldsmobile.

The younger Petty had made his first start in a NASCAR-sanctioned event a week earlier, competing in a convertible race at Columbia (S.C.) Speedway. He finished sixth.

The start in Canada was one of nine for Petty that season. By month’s end he had earned his first career top-10 in the top series, finishing ninth at Wall Stadium in Belmar, N.J.

While Lee Petty would end his career with three titles and 54 victories, Richard Petty would go on to win a NASCAR record 200 races and seven championships. He holds numerous other NASCAR records, such as most starts (1,184), runner-up finishes (157) and laps led (51,406).

Petty was one of five members of NASCAR’s inaugural Hall of Fame class, inducted in 2010. Lee Petty was inducted into the Hall the following year.

The 1958 race was the only visit by NASCAR’s premier series to the Canadian track.

Richard Petty completed only 55 of the 100 scheduled laps in his debut, exiting due to a crash. The reason for the crash has often said to have been the result of his father knocking him aside while battling for the lead with Cotton Owens. However, Petty has also remarked that the incident in question took place in another race.

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.

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.

Donnie gets first, Allisons 1-2 at the Rock

Sunday, June 16, 1968 – Donnie Allison, making just his 29th start in NASCAR’s premier series, collected his first career victory when he survived the heat and attrition that plagued the Carolina 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. The 28-year-old, driving the No. 27 Ford fielded by Banjo Matthews, finished with a two-lap lead over older brother Bobby Allison. Only 14 of the 44 cars that started the 500-mile race were running at the finish.

James Hylton, Richard Brickhouse and Roy Tyner finished third through fifth. It was the first NASCAR start for Brickhouse.

Dave Marcis posted his first career top-10 finish with his 10th-place run.

Track temps were in excess of 140 degrees during the race. Richard Petty fell out due to mechanical woes but eventually returned to the race in relief of Darel Dieringer. Buck Baker gave up his wheel for a relief driver and Charlie Glotzbach was replaced by Paul Goldsmith.

According to at least one report, Petty briefly passed out when dousing himself with a water hose after climbing out of his car. He recovered and went on to replace Dieringer.

The race was originally scheduled for March 10th but was rescheduled due to rain,

It was the first race in which NASCAR required teams to start the race on the same tires on which they had qualified. Previously teams would qualify with softer compound tires which were faster for a shorter period of time, then switch to a harder compound for the race.

Elliott ends skid with MIS victory

Sunday, June 15, 1986 – Bill Elliott, winner of 11 races the previous season, scores his first NASCAR Cup Series win of ’86 with a victory in the Miller American 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The victory ended a 14-race skid for the Dawsonville, Ga.-based racer. Elliott made the winning pass with five laps remaining when he overtook Harry Gant. It was the 16th win of his career and fourth on the 2-mile MIS layout.

Gant, the runner-up, was racing a week after sustaining injuries in the waning laps at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Also injured in the Pocono crash was veteran independent driver Buddy Arrington.

Rick Baldwin, driving in place of Arrington at MIS, was critically injured when his entry slammed into the wall while attempting to qualify. Baldwin remained in a coma for 11 years before passing in 1997.

Richard Petty was honored in pre-race for making what was said to be his 1,000th career start in the Cup Series. Daughters Lisa, Rebecca and Sharon gave the command to start engines twice – first for their father and then for the remainder of the field. However, Petty actually reached the milestone start three weeks later when the series visited Daytona International Speedway. The mistake was due to Petty being credited with a non-points start in 1959.

Petty wins, loses after father’s protest

Sunday, June 14, 1959 – Richard Petty’s first victory in NASCAR’s premier series lasted approximately one hour. That’s how long it took for his father Lee to protest the final results and for officials to rule in the elder Petty’s favor, giving Lee the win at Lakewood Speedway and dropping his once-again winless son into second place.

Richard Petty, competing in a convertible, was making his 17th start in the series and his second start at Lakewood, a 1-mile dirt oval located outside Atlanta.

It was career win No. 42 for Lee Petty, who would go on to capture a third series championship that season. “I lapped Richard twice when he was in the pits,” Lee Petty told reporters afterward. “He’s my boy and I’d love to see him win a race, but when he wins one I want him to earn it.”

Rumors suggested Lee Petty convinced officials of the scoring error in order to collect a bonus for winning with a current-year model car. Lee was driving a ’59 Plymouth, Richard a ’57 Oldsmobile.

The 150-mile race was stopped briefly after 50 laps when dust from the track made visibility nearly impossible. According to reports, fans were so angered by the delay they tossed rocks at the pace car before the race could resume.

Track conditions forced NASCAR to cancel qualifying and instead had drivers draw for starting positions. That move also angered fans and was just one reason track promoter Carl Queen issued an apology afterward.

The race was the 11th and final for NASCAR’s premier series at the facility.

Trailing Lee and Richard Petty across the finish line in third through fifth were Buck Baker, Curtis Turner and Tom Pistone.

Earnhardt’s first pole comes on road course

Friday, June 8, 1979 – It took Dale Earnhardt only 16 starts to win his first NASCAR premier series race. It didn’t take much longer for the future Hall of Famer to score his first pole. On a road course, at that. Earnhardt, 28, captured his first No. 1 starting position with a race record qualifying lap of 113.089 mph at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. The pole came in his 24th start; it was his second appearance on the eight-turn course.

Second fastest in first round qualifying was road-racing ace Jimmy Insolo, a Winston West champion. Insolo had given Earnhardt lessons on getting around the road course during a test in January of ’79.

In addition to the No. 1 qualifying position, the pole also put Earnhardt in the following season’s Busch Clash, a non-points race for the previous year’s pole winners.

Earnhardt had made one start for team owner Rod Osterlund in 1978 before running fulltime with the organization in ’79. Earnhardt’s crew chief was Jake Elder.

Race day wasn’t as memorable for both front-row starters. Earnhardt lost a wheel just 12 laps into the race and had to battle back to finish 13th after an extended pit stop; Insolo, felled by engine trouble after 45 laps, wound up driving in relief for Richard Petty due to the intense heat.

Allison endures heat for Dover win

Sunday, June 6, 1971 – On a broiling day that saw some of NASCAR’s top stars sidelined by fatigue, Bobby Allison persevered to collect his 20th career win in the premier series with a victory in the Mason-Dixon 500 at Dover International Speedway. The temperature in Dover, Del. exceeded 90 degrees – inside the cars it was said to be as high as 140. Allison took the checkered flag a full lap ahead of the runner-up entry of Richard Petty.

Fred Lorenzen was credited with the runner-up although he was replaced by Bobby Isaac with 60 laps remaining; Isaac had gotten out of his own car, which was taken over by Pete Hamilton. Petty was credited with a third-place finish – he was replaced by fellow Petty Enterprises driver Buddy Baker who had fallen out just past the halfway point with an engine issue.

The race remains the only caution-free Cup race at Dover. In spite of a lack of yellow flags, the race still took 4 hr., 30 min. to complete.

Allison’s Holman-Moody team had planned to run a Mercury in the race, but Ralph Moody said team made a last-minute call to switch and raced a Ford instead.

To help cool their driver, the pit crew sprayed Allison with a water hose during pit stops.

Allison’s winning average speed of 123.119 mph was a record for a 1-mile track.

Yarborough wins, but no fan of TWS

Sunday, June 1, 1980 – Cale Yarborough scored the 65th win of his NASCAR premier series career when he won the NASCAR 400 at Texas World Speedway in College Station, Texas. Yarborough led 110 laps in the 200-lap race, including the final 65. Richard Petty finished second and Bobby Allison third, both one lap down.

To say Yarborough wasn’t a fan of the rough 2-mile racing surface at TWS would be an understatement. Yarborough said he had “driven on dirt tracks that weren’t this rough” and added after winning “If I had my way, I’d never run here again.”

Yarborough had other reasons to not be a fan of the track besides the rough surface. In 1969 he was involved in a crash that left him with a shoulder injury so severe doctors initially told him he would likely never race again. In ’79, he was tossed out of the garage before practice when security guards didn’t see his credential and failed to recognize the three-time series champion.

The ’80 victory was worth $21,000 to the winner and made Yarborough the second driver to top $3 million in career earnings, joining Richard Petty.

The Cup Series competed on 17 tracks at that time. The Texas victory gave Yarborough, driver of the No. 11 Chevrolet for Junior Johnson, wins on 16 of the 17; he lacked only a victory at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway.

The race was the seventh of eight premier series races held at TWS and the only one completed without a caution period.

The race was the first for points leader Dale Earnhardt without crew chief Jake Elder, who had resigned from the Osterlund Racing team May 28. Elder left the team due to disagreements with team manager Roland Wlodyka and Osterlund, the car owner. Wlodyka was named interim crew chief following Elder’s departure. Earnhardt finished ninth.

Petty powers way to first pole

Sunday, May 29, 1960 – Richard Petty earns his first career pole in the NASCAR premier series prior to the running of a 110-lap race at Orange Speedway in Hillsborough, N.C. The future NASCAR Hall of Fame driver was joined by his father, Lee, in the all-Petty front row. Richard would go on to finish sixth in the race; Lee Petty won the event.

Petty’s previous best start was second, which also came at Hillsborough, a .9-mile dirt track, the previous year. Once again, Lee Petty was the race winner.

By the end of his career, Richard Petty had won 123 poles, tops for the series. Among active drivers, closest to the record is Ryan Newman with 51 career poles.