The 1973 Season
Pearson, Wood Brothers Run Wild; Cheating Mars Late Season Events
By Greg Fielden
|This was a common scene in 1973, as David Pearson and the Wood Brothers dominated, winning 11 of the 18 events in which they entered.|
It was Wednesday October 3, 1973. The Winston Cup Grand National drivers were in force at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This particular event was drawing every bit as much attention as the annual speed gathering at Daytona in February. The handful of front runners were on hand. David Pearson and the Wood Brothers were in their second year as a unit; Richard Petty's STP Dodge; Cale Yarborough and a newcomer by the name of Dick Trickle both saddled in Junior Johnson-prepared Chevrolets; Buddy Baker in the Harry Hyde wrenched Dodge; Bobby Allison in his own Chevrolet; and Darrell Waltrip in the Bud Moore Ford.
Also trackside was a Sportsman whiz named Harry Gant, who was trying to earn a starting berth in a Winston Cup Grand National event for the first time. And there was also Wendell Scott, back from severe injuries he suffered in a 21-car crash at Talladega in May. It would be the final fling for the 52-year-old Danville, VA driver -- his last time in a Winston Cup car.
Virtually every team was ready to make a run for the pole on Wednesday. Charlotte Motor Speedway's National 500 carried $166,693 in posted awards -- plus a record $33,400 in lap prizes. The leader of each of the 334 laps would pocket $100. With the premium on an up-front starting spot, all teams were ready to make a run for the pole. The National 500 was the 15th superspeedway event of the 1973 season. Pearson and his maroon and white Mercury had won nine of them. It had been the most awesome display on the big track ovals in the 25 year history of NASCAR. It was practically a one-man show.
With Pearson winning week after week, most of the other competitors were pulling out all the stops at Charlotte.
Back in January, the 1973 season held so much promise for so many teams. The sport was becoming a truly big league affair, with attendance and purses at an all-time high. And an eventful season would unfold by October.
Cale Yarborough was back in NASCAR's fold following a two year hiatus on the USAC Indy Car trail. Yarborough had enjoyed a less than successful splurge on the country's premier open wheel circuit. "I got pretty down," said Cale. "About as down as a guy could get. Nothing had worked out like it was supposed to. I made a bad mistake when I left NASCAR." Yarborough had taken himself out of the famed Wood Brothers Mercury ride after the 1970 season. At that time, Ford Motor Co. had announced they would not back any car on the NASCAR tour. Yarborough had an offer to drive the second Gene White entry on the Indy Car Championship Trail. Not knowing what the future held for him in NASCAR, Yarborough accepted White's offer.
"The factories were pulling out and Glen Wood wasn't sure what he was going to do," Cale reflected. "I had the opportunity to sign a two year contract with Gene White. That meant I'd eat for another two years. I left the Wood Brothers on friendly terms." Yarborough drove 12 Indy Car races in 1971 for White's team. He posted a pair of top five finishes and earned $39,342 and managed to finish 16th in the final USAC point standings.
Just as the 1972 Indy Car season began, White was forced to cut his team from two cars to one. That left Yarborough without a ride. He started only the Indianapolis 500 that year. A disgusted Yarborough turned to his native Southland in order to remain active in automobile racing. He hooked up with James Hylton and Hoss Ellington for a few token NASCAR appearances in late 1972. Then he went looking for a full time driving assignment.
Cale didn't have to look very long. Junior Johnson, Manager for the Richard Howard-owned team, and Bobby Allison were splitting up despite a banner season in their only year on the Winston Cup tour. "When I heard that Junior's ride would be open, I knew that was the car I wanted," said Yarborough. "I'm very, very fortunate to be away two years and then, with a lot of good drivers sitting around without a ride, to come back and be able to land one of the best rides in racing. If I hadn't been able to get back in a good ride, I'd really be regretting my decision about going to USAC."
Richard and the PDA
A short time after Cale's attention-grabbing announcement, Richard Petty delivered a quiet statement of his own. Without any fanfare, Petty said he was withdrawing from the Professional Drivers Association, which he had helped form in 1969. Petty was the first president of the PDA, and the fledgling organization made its mark in a hurry. The PDA, under Petty's direction, had boycotted the inaugural Talladega 500 at Bill France's Alabama International Motor Speedway.
In January of 1973, Petty made a brief announcement: "I have severed all ties with the PDA. I feel there is no need for an organization of this type since Bill France, Jr. has taken over as Presidency of NASCAR. I told members when they made me their president that I wasn't sure I could do much for them."
Coincidentally, France, Jr. was speaking at an STP breakfast in the early days of Speedweeks. "This man (Petty) has won many an award and just the other day won another (The Daytona Beach News-Journal's Man of the Year), and I'd like to go on record as saying he is the best ambassador stock car racing has ever had." Petty's withdrawal from the PDA left the organization without any power. It's membership had been dwindling over the three year period. By 1973, the membership had fallen to 30 drivers of various lower divisions and 400 fans.
John Green, Executive Director of the PDA, said Petty's resignation "was because he was under pressure, possibly from sponsor STP. If it is decided to continue the organization, then someone will be named to the presidency. An attempt to continue the PDA as an entity fighting NASCAR would be suicidal at this time. But there is a need for it as a marketing organization," said Green. The Professional Drivers Association fizzled out within a few months.
Pearson's Great Season
The season kicked off at Riverside, and Mark Donohue's Roger Penske Matador led most of the way. He won by five miles over runner-up Allison. At Daytona, Richard Petty outlasted a speedier Buddy Baker to capture his fourth 500. Pearson had fallen victim to mechanical problems in the first two 1973 races. In the season's second superspeedway contest, Pearson led 499 of the 500 miles at Rockingham. He failed to lead only a single lap -- and that was when he was in the pits for a routine tire change.
Pearson won his next start in the Atlanta 500, beating runner-up Bobby Isaac by two laps. Then, he won the Darlington Rebel 500 by an astounding 13 laps. It didn't stop there. Pearson won the Virginia 500 at Martinsville's half-mile oval with a superspeedway Mercury. He won the Winston 500 at Talladega. He finally lost one -- the World 600 at Charlotte where Buddy Baker prevailed. Pearson was second. He won Dover, passed up the big track race at Texas World Speedway, then won again at Michigan in a caution free contest. In 10 Winston Cup Grand National starts in the first half of the 1973 season, Pearson had won seven times. And finished second once.
Then he beat Petty in a last lap shoot-out in the Firecracker. The two Chevy favorites driven by Allison and Yarborough, fell out. Next, Pearson nailed down win number nine at Atlanta. A late engine problem knocked him down to third in the Talladega 500. Dick Brooks, driving an underpowered and outdated 1972 Plymouth, pulled off a stunning upset. Pearson won the Delaware 500 at Dover despite crashing into a slower car in the second half of the event. He lost a lap to the field but came charging back in a wrecked automobile to win going away.
"I can't believe what's been happening this year," said Pearson. "The credit has to go to the Wood boys. They're the best pit crew, they save me time on the race track and they have beat these rules NASCAR has clamped down on us. Plus, we've been having good luck. Not having bad luck is having good luck."
Dick Brooks - and the Talladega 500
It was a typically weird Talladega event. But this one was a little stranger than most. Dick Brooks, a fifth year driver who had never won a race, captured the Talladega 500. His team owners, Jimmy and Peter Crawford of East Point, GA, had never seen their car finish better than 16th. "I was going to drive the car," said Jimmy Crawford, an Eastern Airlines pilot. "But NASCAR had been on my back about my driving. They wouldn't let me drive my own car here. I almost pulled it out of the race."
|During the 1973 Talladega 500, Bobby Issac called his crewchief and said, "get a relief driver. I quit."|
Crawford had competed in the Winston Cup Grand Nationals off and on since 1970. But he had been involved in wrecks at Talladega and Daytona, and NASCAR told him they would assist him in finding a more experienced driver for the Talladega 500. Brooks had showed up at Talladega hoping to be able to drive something. A last minute deal to put him in a Ford had never materialized. Crawford and NASCAR officials met behind closed doors and a deal was made to put Brooks in the car. The rest is history.
Fighting overheating problems nearly from the start, a pit road collision and losing a lap twice due to long pit stops, Brooks never gave up. He took the lead with eight laps to go and scored what would be Plymouth's last Winston Cup victory. Pearson had finished third -- on seven cylinders. The mechanical problem interrupted his bid to win his fifth straight superspeedway event. Larry Smith, the 1972 Winston Cup Grand National Rookie of the Year, had died in the 14th lap. Smith's Mercury had a tire go down and he slapped the retaining wall in the first turn. It looked like a very routine accident.
But within a few moments, Speedway physician Dr. J.L. Hardwick delivered the bad news. Smith had died of "massive head injuries and a basal skull fracture," said Hardwick, "although his helmet is not broken." Official statement of Smith's death was not released until next of kin had been notified. Two laps before the fatal impact, Smith had dropped off the pace. Some observers had said he was driving on the inner-liner of the right front tire. Smith had been concerned about running well at Talladega since a number of top executives from the Carling Brewing Co. had come to watch him compete. Up until Talladega, Smith had struggled all season.
In the 90th lap, Bobby Isaac suddenly delivered a message to crewchief and car owner Bud Moore via two-way radio. "Get a relief driver. I quit," said Isaac. Moore located Coo Coo Marlin sitting on a bench in the garage area. He had fallen out 32 laps earlier with engine problems. Isaac brought the car into the pits, dismounted and told Moore, "I quit. I quit racing." Isaac later said, "I don't have anything to prove to myself or anyone else. I know how it feels to want to drive and I know how it feels to win and lose. I know how it feels to be a champion, and now I know how it feels to quit."
Roger Penske and MIS
When Roger Penske took over the Michigan International Speedway early in 1973, the first thing he did was cancel the Yankee 400, scheduled for August. "We will hold the Motor State 400 Grand National race for NASCAR drivers and cars on June 24," said Penske when he took over. "But we will not hold the Yankee 400-mile NASCAR stock car race in August because of the tight schedule. Instead, we plan to hold twin 150-mile Indy Car races." The Motor State 400 drew what was termed to be the largest crowd in the track's six year history. The NASCAR event netted a profit of $190,000. It was too late to reverse his decision about the Yankee, but Penske promised to consider two annual NASCAR races in 1974.
Rules and Rule Changes
In the meantime, Junior Johnson, crewchief and team manager of Richard Howard's Chevrolet team, was calling out for rule changes. "The only reason I got back into NASCAR was because they were going to phase the big, exotic racing engines out," said Johnson. "But it looks like NASCAR is helping them out with their rules. Those exotic engines Petty and Baker are running can't be bought. I couldn't buy one if I had a million dollars. My engines cost only $1,100, and I can't compete against those exotic engines."
Johnson's remarks brought sharp responses from Maurice Petty and Harry Hyde, two of the best at tuning Chrysler Hemi engines. "Tell Junior to come on down here with $6,500 and we'll sell him a race-ready Hemi engine. He doesn't need a million dollars," said Maurice. Hyde took offense at Johnson's claim that his engines are bought for $1,100. "That's a 14 carat gold lie," said Hyde. "There's no such thing as an $1,100 engine running 188 mph."
By the July 4 Firecracker 400 at Daytona, sanctioning NASCAR had adopted a new set of rules. Gone were the carburetor "sleeves." The much talked about carburetor restrictor plate was once again a fixture in Winston Cup Grand National racing. And, not surprisingly, the new specs helped the Chevrolets. For the Firecracker, Chevrolets qualified in the top two spots. Bobby Allison, who won the pole at 179.619 mph, said, "I'm sure the restrictions will bring down the Hemi. I think we have reduced our disadvantage rather than gained an advantage," he said.
Hyde, crewchief on Buddy Baker's K&K Insurance Dodge, was outraged that the new specifications rendered his Hemi-powered car uncompetitive. "NASCAR is admitting the Hemi engine is better than the Chevrolet engine," said Hyde. "We are being unfairly penalized. If everybody did things like NASCAR, pro basketball would make Wilt Chamberlain play on his knees and horse racing would tie a sled behind Secretariat. I see no basis for having different size plates on different engines."
Glen Wood said he admitted to having an advantage under the prior rules, but it was not because of the guidelines in the NASCAR rule book. "The credit belongs to Leonard (Wood, Glen's brother and crewchief on the #21 Mercury driven by Pearson). If the rules favored us, all the Fords and Mercuries would be running faster than the Chevrolets. That's just not the case. Leonard has done his homework and we shouldn't be penalized for that."
Richard Petty said the 400-miler at Daytona wasn't a true indicator of the new NASCAR restrictions. "The rules are half okay here. But what I'm concerned about is when we get to the shorter tracks. The Chevys have been beating us up there. There's no telling how much farther they'll be ahead at places like Atlanta and the short tracks." Hyde was nabbed by a second inspection the morning of first day qualifying. "They gave me a 50-page set of rules three days ago 4,000 miles from here and expect everyone to check in right to the letter of the rule," huffed Hyde. "They caught us on the air breather. There's a new rule now saying the air breather has to be three inches from the firewall."
Although the mid-season rule change made the Chevrolets among the fastest on the track, they had scored few wins. Yarborough had only two short track wins to his credit; Benny Parsons had won at Bristol, and Bobby Allison didn't score his first win of the season until Riverside in June. Junior Johnson was grumbling again. "I race to make money. We're in the red this year. We've put on a good show, but we have nothing to show for it."
Luck took a turn for the better at Darlington. Yarborough delivered a sudden burst of speed in the late going of the Southern 500 and ran away from Pearson. No one had been able to do that all year. Some railbirds were wondering where all that power came from.
The National 500 and a Little Cheatin' Goin' On
|Richard Petty and his crew got a little "creative" with the engine at the National 500 in Charlotte in 1973.|
Coming into Charlotte for the National 500, the drivers were looking at the biggest payday in NASCAR history. The word was getting around that some of the teams were bending some of the rules. Lap leader awards which were greater than the winner's share seemed to have a way of turning some heads. And some wrenches the wrong way.
Pearson was among the favorites for Charlotte's National 500. On Wednesday, the all-important starting positions would be determined. Everyone would be pulling out all the stops in qualifying for this event. In the biggest upset in pole day qualifying in 1973, Charlie Glotzbach went out and turned in a 158.730 mph lap. It earned him the pole. It was the first time a Hoss Ellington car had won a pole for a Winston Cup Grand National race. Pearson qualified second.
On Saturday October 6, one day before the National 500 and three days after starting positions had been set, NASCAR pulled a surprise inspection on the Winston Cup Grand National cars -- just before they went out for a shake-down session. It was at that surprise inspection that Gazaway's troops discovered an ingenious, illegal carburetor plate lodged in pole-winning Glotzbach's engine. The NASCAR-mandated carburetor plate was rigged with a cable running from the plate to the driver's compartment. Conveniently, Glotzbach could tug on the cable and remove the restrictor plate during the race, whenever he wanted to.
NASCAR stripped Glotzbach and Ellington of the pole and instructed them to requalify. At first Glotzbach threatened to pack up and leave Charlotte Motor Speedway. "We got caught," admitted Glotzbach. "But we didn't qualify with the cheater plate on. We just put it in there Saturday to do a little experimenting. From the looks of the goings on here in the garage area, that's what it's going to take to win or even lead this race."
Car owner Ellington said, "NASCAR really stuck it to us. How do you take a pole car with the plate sealed after we qualified (on Wednesday) and three days later said it was illegal when we qualified?" Racing scribe Benny Phillips wrote, "The penalty of disqualifying Glotzbach is like putting someone in jail on Saturday for being drunk on Wednesday." Pearson inherited the pole slot as Glotzbach requalified at 155.328 mph. Glotzbach lined up 36th in the field of 41.
Bobby Allison told Bill Gazaway, NASCAR's Technical Director, that he intended to protest any car that finished ahead of him in the Charlotte race. "I'm running faster than I ever have here, and if I finish the race with no problems, I want to look at any car that finishes ahead of me. I'm curious as to how I can get blown off the track by as much as I am when I know my car is running the best it has this year. It just gets you to wondering."
Yarborough and Petty ran away with the National 500. Together, they led for 310 of the 334 laps. Yarborough was in front for a total of 258 laps, which was worth $25,800 in lap money. Glotzbach and Pearson were eliminated in a wild crash in the fourth turn of lap 46. Glotzbach, trying to overtake Pearson, slipped sideways for a split instant, then overcorrected his car. Glotzbach took off directly for the wall, taking Pearson with him. Darrell Waltrip was also kayoed in the mishap.
During the middle portions of the race, Buddy Baker was called into his pits by crewchief Harry Hyde. The pit board said "Pit". Knowing it wasn't time to pit, Baker raced on. Within a few laps, a new message was flashed to Baker. "Boss Says Pit." That meant Nord Krauskopf, owner of the K&K Insurance team, had ordered Baker to pit. Baker pulled in and crew member Harlan Cox was instructed to take the car to the garage area. Krauskopf and Hyde were upset that their car was not in the least competitive in the National 500.
When NASCAR officials told car owner Nord Krauskopf they wanted to inspect the car again, he refused. "They've checked my car four times this week. They're not looking at it any more." Baker's car was disqualified on the spot by NASCAR officials for not allowing their car to be torn down in a post-race inspection. Yarborough and Petty raced on, lapping third place Bobby Allison and the rest of the field at least three times. Immediately after the race, Allison chased down Gazaway and posted $200 in protest money. "That's $100 to look at the #11 car (driven by Yarborough) and $100 to look at the #43 (driven by Petty)," said Allison.
As Yarborough was going through the customary victory lane ceremonies, NASCAR inspectors had rolled the first three cars -- driven by Yarborough, Petty and Allison -- into the Union 76 building. At that point, Gazaway told Allison that NASCAR was going to conduct an official post-race inspection. He returned the $200 Allison had posted. The three cars were rolled into the inspection station at a few minutes past 4 pm. Engine blocks were removed from each car and a bore and stroke inspection took place. In most instances, checking the size of engines takes no more than an hour or so. But something was brewing in the orange and blue building in Charlotte's garage area. It was the general opinion that one or two of the engines were in excess of the 431 cubic inch limit.
Allison's Chevrolet was rolled out of the inspection area first. It was declared 'legal' by Gazaway. But there was no word on the Chevrolet of Yarborough or Petty's Dodge. Complicating matters was the hastened departure of NASCAR President Bill France, Jr. and his top aide Lin Kuchler. They left aboard a jet immediately after the race. Gazaway was in charge of the inspection, and apparently he stayed in close contact with France by telephone.
|Bobby Allison decided to sue NASCAR after the Charlotte fiasco, citing permanent damage to his racing career and withholding of prize money.|
Allison was curious why it was taking so long. "It didn't take but a few minutes to check our car because we were clearly legal," he said. "But why is it taking so long to inspect those other cars?" Allison joined a number of newsmen standing outside the inspection station. There, he revealed what he saw moments after the race had been completed. "I followed Petty into the pits after the race and was going to park in the garage right beside him," Allison began. "But some of his crew ran out in front of me before I got stopped. Anyway, I saw members of Petty's crew raise the hood and jerk the air breather off and run away with it. I saw a NASCAR official standing right there with his knees against Petty's car watching it all. Now he says he didn't see anything.
"I am satisfied I know how Petty was beating the game," continued Allison. "Now I want to know about that #11." Richard Howard, owner of the first place car and promoter of the race, told another group of newsmen that he might take legal action against the sanctioning body if the results were changed. "It is not fair for race fans to come and spend the afternoon watching a race and then go home not knowing who the winner was," said Howard. "But NASCAR waits and comes up with something like the Glotzbach deal on Saturday and then this on Sunday -- and they say they can't make up their minds until Monday.
"They give you a stamp of approval at race time and six hours later can't give you a winner," Howard said, shifting into high gear. "I've been paying NASCAR inspectors to be here all week and insure that the cars are legal. Now they tell me they might not have done their job and some illegal cars may have gotten by them. If so, what have I been spending my money for?
"If they rule against the order of finish that the fans saw Sunday, I'm going to court." Howard added. "By letting the cars start, the NASCAR inspectors said they were okay. Now they are reneging. I'm not bluffing about this. I'm sick and tired of seeing stuff like this being allowed to happen, possibly leading to the ruin of a great sport."
At 10:15 pm, over six hours after the teardown began, Gazaway opened the doors and read a prepared statement to the members of the media still waiting to file their stories. "The official measurement of the engine size in car #11 has been sent to Daytona Beach," said Gazaway. "A final decision will be made on the race tomorrow. I have no further comment." Gazaway's prepared statement neglected to mention Petty's car or Allison's. One newsman asked Gazaway about the other two cars. "Excuse me gentlemen," said Gazaway. "I meant to say that the measurements on cars 11, 12 and 43 have been sent to Daytona and a final decision will be reached Monday. Now, I have no further comment."
By Monday morning, no official word had come from NASCAR headquarters in Daytona. It wasn't until 5 pm Monday, 25 hours after the race had been completed, that NASCAR ruled Yarborough's win was official. A printed release by NASCAR said: "The decision to let the results stand was made following a meeting of NASCAR officials after reviewing information that showed in a post race inspection the procedure used to check all of the engine sizes in the pre-race inspections proved inadequate. Since the purpose of the pre-race inspection is to determine that the cars in competition conform to the rules prior to the actual running of the race and that this procedure was in effect for the Charlotte race, the results are official."
When the official announcement came from NASCAR, Allison hit the ceiling. "I figured they would lie out of it. It stands to reason that those two cars did not conform to the rules. Otherwise, it wouldn't take six hours if they were legal. The time spent on their cars wasn't whether they were legal or not. But how to worm their way out of it. We were lied to and cheated out of the money. The first two cars were cheating and that's a fact," Allison complained.
Allison said one NASCAR inspector told him that both cars were illegal. "I was told by one inspector who was in on the post-race inspection that the smaller of the two engines measured 438 cubic inches, and the other one was a whopper," claimed Allison. Petty said all eight cylinders in his car were not checked -- that only three were. And the average of the three were within specifications. He admitted one was above the cubic inch limit. "NASCAR checked three cylinders," said Petty. "They measured 425, 431 and 435. The measurements averaged 431 c.i. NASCAR did not check the other five cylinders of my engine so I guess the inspectors were satisfied with measuring just three. So as far as I'm concerned, I was cleared at the end of the post race inspection when Bill Gazaway first announced that only the measurements of the car #11 would be sent to Daytona. That told me my car was legal."
Most all the attention was being focused on Johnson's car. Junior finally made a brief statement himself. "I don't know what the NASCAR measurement said, but I'll assure all of you that if I ran a cheater engine, it would be nothing less that 500 cubic inches. If I got caught, I'd want it to be worth while," said Johnson. By late Monday night, Allison had said that he was considering quitting NASCAR. "I'm definitely considering not running any more NASCAR races," said Allison. "I don't think my sponsor (Coca-Cola) wants to be involved in a cheating game."
The following day, Allison phoned North Carolina Motor Speedway and withdrew his entry to the American 500. All the next week, Allison sat up and answered all telephone calls from the media. And there were a bunch of them. "They have been caught red-handed and are still being protected and covered up for," said Allison. "I'm very disappointed in an outfit that I thought was working toward the betterment of racing. But instead they had to stoop as low as to lie to protect themselves in their (Yarborough and Petty) behalf."
"All of my equipment is obsolete if it gets into a cheating game," he added. "And what are the limits? I might build a 500 c.i.d. engine and that might be 100 short. I've never had to cheat to win and I don't intend to start now.
"On account of NASCAR's arbitrary and capricious conduct, I find it necessary to withdraw from the remaining races this season. They need to satisfactorily resolve the matter of rewarding people for running illegal engines, while penalizing others for staying within the rules," said Allison.
On Thursday, October 11, Allison announced that he was going to sue NASCAR. "NASCAR has stolen money from me and permanently damaged my career," remarked Allison. "NASCAR has stolen a minimum of $39,000 and maybe as much as $65,000 from me considering point bonuses by covering up for the two other cars involved. I am quite sure I have a good case. I have arranged legal counsel on the assumption of filing a suit."
Allison declined what dollar figure would be affixed to the suit. "It would be a good guess if you said the amount was substantial," he said. News reports continued to hit the Southern dailies, and a good measure were distributed nationwide by the wire services. "If you use the standards utilized by NASCAR, we ought to give Spiro Agnew (former Vice President of the United States) his job back. If you get caught cheating, it doesn't seem to matter in NASCAR's eyes. I'm just one of 38 who got cheated. I feel sorry for the other 37, but I can't speak for them. It was just a case of NASCAR having to discipline the little guys because they don't have enough guts to do what's right with the big guys."
Allison said he would make a precise announcement on the legal suit on Monday, October 15. "I want to prove just how right I am," he said. "This thing has set racing back 15 years, and it's time to do something about it. It's time to take the first step." During all of this, NASCAR President Bill France, Jr. was "unavailable for comment." Over the weekend, NASCAR and Allison agreed to meet and discuss matters in Atlanta on Monday, October 15.
The session was a long one, according to reports. Late that night, Allison and France, Jr. emerged from the room. They issued a formal statement: "Grand National Stock Car Driver Bobby Allison, who had previously withdrawn his entry to compete in the Winston Cup NASCAR Grand National Stock Car race to take place at the Rockingham, N.C. Motor Speedway, Sunday, October 21, 1973, has announced his intentions to compete. "This change came as a result of a meeting Allison had with Bill France, Jr., president of NASCAR Monday night.
"The purpose of the meeting held in Atlanta was to discuss the official outcome of the National 500 stock car race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 7, 1973. As a result of this meeting, Allison said, 'I am confident that NASCAR will take positive steps in the future to avoid any misunderstandings about rules and penalties' and that 'the meeting was most constructive and for the good of stock car racing.' Furthermore, France reaffirmed his previously stated position released last week 'that a study into all inspection procedures is being conducted at this time.' In addition to the pre-race inspection procedure, France said that at the Rockingham event 'there will be a post-race inspection on the carburetor plates, air cleaners, and the engine size'".
The statement was made available at Allison's office in Hueytown and NASCAR's headquarters in Daytona Beach. Aides who were taking calls said there would be no further comment. France and Allison were not available to questioning. Both parties declined to comment on the speculation that a financial settlement had been made. Later, Allison would only say, "I have received satisfactory restitution, and you can read that any way you want to."
|After early contact in the season's final race, everyone in the garage area pitched in to help repair Benny Parsons' battered race car. In the end, it was enough to help him with the 1973 championship.|
The teams went to Rockingham on October 21 not really knowing what to expect.
In qualifying, Richard Petty won the pole for only the third time in 1973. "With a good inspection," Petty said, "the Chrysler cars are closer than they were without a good inspection. I'm not accusing anybody of bending the rules. I'm just saying there's been a lot of stuff going on."
Yarborough had earned the sixth starting spot, but NASCAR inspectors said the carburetor plate was a little out of whack after his run had been completed. They ordered Yarborough to qualify again the next day. Team Manager Junior Johnson didn't understand NASCAR's findings. "The plate they took is the same one I've run all year," said Junior. "I've been expecting trouble from the inspectors. It looks like a way of getting revenge. I think this is part of the Allison deal." Cale qualified the next day at 134.378 mph -- faster than his clocking of 134.058 on pole day. "That ought to show 'em," said Cale. "We ran faster legal then we did illegal." Benny Parsons started fifth on the grid. The Ellerbe, NC Chevrolet driver was gunning for his first Winston Cup championship. He held what was considered a good lead going into the final event -- 194.35 points over Richard Petty. He was 208.65 points ahead of Yarborough.
No one was sure where Parsons had to finish to wrap up the title. NASCAR's point system made that physically impossible. The point system awarded 100 points to the winner of a race plus a half-point for each lap completed.
"All I know is that the race awards a maximum of 375 points and a minimum of 22 points. It's up to what I do and what they do in the race," said Parsons.
Parsons was nervous. He had won one race -- the Volunteer 500 at Bristol -- and built up a good lead via consistency. A comparatively small-time operation was about to cash in on NASCAR's most prestigious prize. "My very livelihood is at stake," said Parsons. "Petty's or Cale's isn't.
"The championship would assure us of continuing. Everyone needs a sponsor and winning would give us a selling point for additional backing next year. Nothing less than winning the championship affords that opportunity."
Parsons settled back in fifth place during the opening laps of the American 500. All he wanted to do was stay out of trouble. Keep it between the fences and keep everything under the hood humming. Then in the 13th lap, Johnny Barnes' Mercury went out of control in the first turn. Parsons tried to sneak past but snagged Barnes' left front quarter panel. The impact ripped Barnes' left side apart -- and it tore the entire right side off Parsons' car. Pieces were scattered all over the track. The roll cage had been ripped apart. The rear end assembly was lying in the middle of the track. Parsons' car was a complete wipeout.
With as many as five drivers in the running for the title, Parsons figured he was destined to finish fifth. "There just went $50,000 down the drain," he moaned. "I thought it was impossible to get the car running again. But Travis (Carter, crewchief) never gave up. I got pumped up when I saw everybody from so many teams pitching in to help. I felt the championship was gone. I figured the best I could do was third."
Parsons got a break when second-ranking Petty dropped out of the race in the 133rd lap. His early demise dropped him to fifth place in the final Winston Cup point standings. Cale continued to buzz around the track in contention for victory. By lap 149, Parsons' rebuilt car rolled back into action. For the remainder of the day, he cruised around slowly, earning the lap points. By the 394th lap, he had accumulated enough points so that the championship was his. Parsons pulled out of the race in his 308th lap with vibration trouble. He got 28th place as Yarborough came in third. The margin of victory was 67.15 points.
David Pearson went on to win the race. It was his 10th superspeedway victory in just 15 starts. For the year, he was 11 for 18. Pearson won one of two short track races, and he failed to finish his only road course start. Harry Hyde, who had suffered through a tough 1973 season, congratulated the Wood Brothers and Pearson. "Give them credit," said Hyde. "They ran against overwhelming odds and won anyway. They wound that thing past the red line and got away with it. Their record is incredible and may never be broken. I know it will never be broken under the circumstances it was set."
Photo credits from top: All NCMS