Racing History Minute - May 5, 1974

Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
5 years ago
3,119 posts

This morning, in Columbia, SC, it is rainy and cool. In fact, the rain is literally coming down in buckets and it's only 53 degrees. If they race in 'Dega today, I'll be kicked back in my recliner, warm and dry, watching the "edge of your seat racing" I expect. In 1974, however, I was in a rainy and cool pit area in Talladega while NASCAR tried to get in the scheduled 450 miler. Yep, that's right, 450 miles. NASCAR had shortened all its races by 10% in response to the contrived gasoline shortage in the country. In fact, as I recall, getting the gas to get to Talladega was a gamble but I did make it.

Much like the weather here today, the weather at the track that day was a rainy, cloudy, cool mixture that made me wonder why I had made that drive alone. Well, I was working for NASCAR that year on the local track level so I had credentials to be there so why not go and enjoy it. My friend who was to go with me got sick at the last minute so I did the trip alone.

The Wood Brothers Mercury, with David Pearson driving, started the scheduled 170 lap race on the pole. To his outside was Gary Bettenhausen in a Roger Penske prepared MATADOR. How many of you remember the Matador? The first 18 laps on the race were run under yellow flag conditions to further dry the track so Pearson is credited with leading those laps. The green dropped on lap 19 and it was Bettenhausen taking the lead for one lap. Lap 20 was led by Dan Daughtery, who had started fourth ina 1972 Ford. The race had 53 lead changes between 14 drivers so it would be burdensome to list the lead changes here but I will give you the names of those who led. In addition to the three previously mentioned leaders, Randy Tissot, Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison, George Follmer, Coo Coo Marlin, J.D. McDuffie, Charlie Glotzbach, and Jim Vandiver, Sam McQuagg, Benny Parsons, and George Follmer all led at some point that day.

Of the 170 laps that day, 60 were run under caution due to the on and off again rain showers and a crash on pit road. On lap 105, a blown engine brought our a caution flag and the car with the blown engine continued to drop oil on the already rain slickened pit road making it as slick as an ice patch on a highway. Gary Bettenhausen, who was still a serious threat for victory in the Matador was pitting as rookie Grant Adcox slipped in the oil and rain and crashed into the back of the stopped Matador, pinning crewman Don MIller between the cars. Don lost his leg in that accident but he has never lost his love for the sport. Don went on to be instrumental in the career of Rusty Wallace and is now involved with the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame in Mooresville as well as "Stocks for Tots" each December. He is a prime example for a fine human being. Grant Adcox when into shock when learning of the seriousness of Miller's injury.

Pearson was leading when he made his final pit stop with 20 laps remaining. As he exited the pits, he appeared to be having difficulty regaining speed in what had been a most capable Mercury. Pearson would say, in Victory Lane, that he was just giving the Wood Brothers "time to get over to Victory Lane". In essence, that was a true statement because it took the Silver Fox only 11 laps to run down leader Benny Parson and blow by to take the lead. Benny tucked right againstt he rear bumper of David's Mercury but said after the race it was all he could do to "hold on" to that Mercury.

Fifty cars started the event with only 28 finishing. It is interesting to note that Hershel McGriff finished 12th in a Petty Enterprises Dodge but said he wouldn't compete in any more Winston Cup events. He felt NASCAR's convoluted rules which handicapped the bigger engine cars made him uncompetitive and he didn't feel racing was about restricting the ability of a car to go fast. Also, a young rookie driver, Neil Bonnett started his first super speedway race, finishing 45th after suffering a blown engine on lap 52.

The average speed for the 450 miles was 130.220 mph which was not that shabby considering all the caution laps.

Top five finishers were:

1. David Pearson, Wood Brothers Mercury, winning $20, 785.00

2. Benny Parsons, L. G. DeWitt Chevrolet, winning $15,015.00

3, Richard Petty, Petty Enterprises Dodge, winning $11,245.00

4. Charlie Glotzbach, Junie Donlevey Ford, winning $6,490.00

5. Lennie Pond, Ronnie Elder Chevrolet, winning $4,640.00

Sixth through tenth were Dave Marcis, Coo Coo Marlin, Sam McQuagg, Cale Yarborough, and Bob Burcham.

Richard Childress finished 11th, Marty Robbins 15th, Iggy Katona 20th, Cecil Gordon 21st, Dick Brooks 29th, Bobby Allison 31st, Buddy Baker 33rd, Travis Tiller 35th, Donnie Allison 36th, Buddy Arrington 46th, and Earl Ross 50th.

Some of you readers may want to research some of the names in this race as the field represents a composite of some of the finest race drivers of the day and some very interesting stories involving several of those driver. These guys are all a part of the rich history of the sport which will be showcased today, if it doesn't rain, before a huge crowd as always assembles at Talladega. While I will remember watching this race from the pits, the memories will be bittersweet at best, because it was such an uncomfortable day. I had gotten soaked twice during the rain showers and it was long drive back to Columbia that night with still damp clothers and really, and I mean REALLY wet shoes. But, it's a part of my memories. I was very thankful for my CB radio and all the folks willing to talk with "The 20th Century Drifter" as I made my "Smokey and the Bandit" run east bound and down.

Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future.


updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
5 years ago
9,124 posts

I also remember the Bettenhausen Matador starting second at Atlanta in a rain plagued event - stats say the first 32 laps of that one were not scored.

It was sometime after I first met Don Miller at a 1981 media lunch & golf tourney in Darlington that I realized he was the one and same from the Talladega accident. You are so right about his being a nice fellow.

Referencing the Energy Crisis and the reduction in race distances that Bill France negotiated to keep NASCAR going for 1974, I always remember it was Energy Czar, John Sawhill who negotiated with NASCAR. I equate the name Sawhill with "sawing" 10% off the distance of the 1974 races.

Tim, you don't mention it, but Sawhill and President Nixon had also instituted the national 55 mph speed limit. That had to be a really trying drive back to Columbia wet, driving 55, lol.

Nothing worse than being wet and cold at a racetrack. Thanks for placing such a personal spin on this race, Tim.

Breaker, breaker. I was "Pants Man" and my brother-in-law, a masonry contractor was "Brick Man." Your History Minutes just keep bringing back all kinds of memories. Fuzz Buster, Whistler and of course, Bear Finder, whose owner sponsored some cars and whose daughter attended the General Motors Institute.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
5 years ago
9,124 posts

By the way, if memory serves, some fellow named BILLY BISCOE was crewing that Hershel McGriff "Almost Heaven West Virginia" Dodge!




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
5 years ago
9,124 posts

One other thought about Talladega and rain.

One year in the early 80s I remember a big storm and the roads into and out of the twin tunnels got covered with so much slick red clay that a bunch of vehicles couldn't negotiate the inclines and got stuck in the tunnels.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
jack lester
@jack-lester
5 years ago
12 posts
I am to young. But I sure do like hearing and reading what racing was like. I sure do thank you for giving us these memories you have. Its like history in school. But better.
Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
5 years ago
3,119 posts

Dave, doing these pieces is bringing much of my life back into sharp focus. All the wonderful memories of races and of the friends I hung out with back in those days. It is absolutely wonderful to be a part of something that allows a bunch of us to get together and enhance each others' memories. I really appreciate what you add and all the kind comments.

Now, as for Nixon and his 55 MPH speed limit. Please note that applied to him and his motorcade. It did NOT, however, apply to The 20th Century Drifter. Talladega is a straight shot down I-20 from my house now, and then. I took the bypass AROUND Atlanta one time and found out that was no good so I always went through Atlanta after that first time. I will say that by the time I got home, my clothes were dry but my shoes were still damp! As I said, "East bound and down" was more than a Jerry Reed song!!!! I think that was the same night I was running behind a trucker who started off five mile markers ahead of me when I picked up his signal. Within just a couple of minutes, I hear the radio crackle and that trucker says "Is that you Drifter in that Plymouth that just went by me?" I said if you're driving the Thurston Motor Lines truck, yep. He said "Man, I can't believe you caught me that fast. Were you lying about your mile marker when we talked?" I said "Nope, never lie, just drive fast". Or, as best I recall, that was the conversation! I have a later story about a CB run from Columbia to New Hampshire just a few years ago which no one would believe, so I don't tell that one.

JACK, I'm pleased you like reading about these races from the past. A rich history in this sport that seems to be getting swept under the rug these days. I want to be sure young folks carry on these memories. Keep reading and keep commenting. Thank you for your support.

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
5 years ago
3,977 posts

Program cover (source: Motor Racing Programme Covers)

Ticket stub - thanks ebay!




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
5 years ago
3,977 posts

And while the following photo was taken at the 1974 Daytona 500, Hershel McGriff's 04 Petty Dodge also looked like this in the Talladega race. Thanks to Smyle Media for allowing me use of the photo.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
5 years ago
3,119 posts

Nice additions to the History Minute, Chase. Thank you for posting. Somewhere in my collection of racing programs would be that same program. Someday I need to organize all those programs. I sincerely appreciate your participation in this continuing effort to preserve and present the history.

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
5 years ago
9,124 posts

From the www.olympia-charger.com web site, showing the then 46 year old Hershel McGriff posed with the Billy Biscoe crewed Almost Heaven West Virginia Dodge ( supported by the West Va. coal industry ) at Daytona in 1974:




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
5 years ago
3,977 posts

A couple of years ago, we had Cup fields comprised of at least 15% start-and-park field fillers with one or two that went home. NASCAR did away with the top 35 rule and pushed away some of the S&Ps. The trade-off, however, is generally ONLY enough cars show to qualify for the 43 available spots. These conditions - most of them economically-driven, I get it - are a far cry from the 74 Dega race when 50 cars were expected to show up to qualify. All of them made the shows! Source:Lewiston Morning Tribune ... of Lewiston, IDAHO!

The 1973 Winston 500 pole winner, Buddy Baker, was expected to challenge for the pole again in 1974. But he dumped his Harry Hyde-prepared, K&K Insurance #71 Dodge in practice and had to call for a backup car from NC to use in qualifying negating his pole run possibility. The whole weekend turned miserable for him as he qualified 39th and finished 33rd. (Source:The Times-News of Hendersonville, NC)

The race results as reported by the AP and included in The Telegraph-Herald ... of Dubuque, IOWA!




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
5 years ago
3,977 posts

Marvin Panch's son, Richie, was still a bit wet behind the ears in his GN/Cup career. Making only his 14th career Cup start, Richie started and qualified deep in the field in his #98 Tracmaster Ford.

Before the race, he consulted with his pop who knew a thing or two about the superspeedways...

... and he got some coaching from veteran driver Bobby Allison. (Source: Gadsden Times)




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
5 years ago
3,977 posts

Don Miller's accident was the pre-cursor of even worse events at Talladega a year later in 1975.

On May 4, 1975 - 364 days later - Richard Petty's crewman, Randy Owen, was killed during a pit stop. Randy was Lynda Petty's brother and Kyle's uncle.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
4 years ago
3,977 posts

Reviving this post after a year.

The pace lap showing Pearson and Bettenhausen on the front row and George Follmer and Dan Daughtry on the second row.

And they're off!

Pearson collects his trophy with an interesting photo capture through the trophy's acrylic.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
4 years ago
9,124 posts

Seeing George Follmer on the 2nd row at Talladega in Bud Moore's car reminds me that Bud said George would tap the brakes going into the corners at Daytona & Talladega and swear he didn't. At Daytona Bud rigged a brake light in rear window during tire testing and practice so he could watch the visible sign of George braking when everybody else was going through the turns with the pedal to the floor.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
4 years ago
3,977 posts

Dadgum it, burned by Getty captions again. The above photo of Pearson was shown as dated August 9, 1974. With his holding a Winston 500 trophy, I knew that date wasn't correct. I figured they at least got the year, track, and driver correct. Well, track and driver were correct but not year. The one above is from 1972 Winston 500 - Pearson's 1st of 3 consecutive Winston 500 wins.

Here is a pic of Pearson in victory lane at the 1974 Winston 500. - Gadsden Times




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
4 years ago
9,124 posts

Judging by the resume link below, Race Stopper, TOY RUSSELL VAN LIEROP

went on to become an award winning makeup artist for film and television, requested by Paul Newman and Robert Redford and Eddie Murphy, as well as being involved in African-American community projects and the John Kerry Presidential campaign.

http://resumes.makeup.s3.amazonaws.com/Criterion.May2011.MakeUp.Toy...




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
4 years ago
9,124 posts

From the web site www.toyrussell.com:




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
4 years ago
9,124 posts

And, here is a link to a short 2010 "Tales from the Set" video interview with former Race Stopper, Toy Russell:

http://makeupmag.com/featured/id/700/

Make-Up Artist magazine's ongoing Web feature "Tales from the Set" features candid videos of award-winning make-up artists telling the good, the bad and the ugly details of working behind the scenes. In our sixth installment, we feature make-up artist Toy Russell Van Lierop, who talks about her role as department head on the critically acclaimed movie Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
4 years ago
9,124 posts

This victory lane shot from the May 5, 1974 Winston 500 at Talladega includes RR member, Doshia Wall, as well as Toy Russell seen in the earlier shot posted by Chase:




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
4 years ago
9,124 posts

In 1972, then 44 year old Hershel McGriff swept both Portland, Oregon NASCAR Winston West races in his 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner, thought to be a former Petty car. Photo below is from one of those two 1972 Portland wins - Beep, Beep!!

www.olympia-charger.com




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dennis  Garrett
@dennis-garrett
2 weeks ago
559 posts

In 1974, Hershel McGriff raced a total of (4) Winston Cup races, driving # 04 Almost Heaven, West Virginia   (Petty Enterprises ) 1974 Dodge.

# 1. Winston Cup race number 1 of 30 - 1974 Winston Western 500  
January 20,1974 at Riverside International Raceway, Riverside, CA. 
191 laps on a 2.620 mile road course (500.4 miles) - Attendance: 32,500
(35) Cars Started the race, (16) Cars Finished the race.
Hershal McGriff started 10th position, finished in 10th position, won $1,725 Dollars, was running at end of race, 7 laps behind race winner: # 11 Cale Yarborough.

# 2. Winston Cup race number 2 of 30 - 1974 Daytona 500  
February 17,1974 at Daytona International Raceway, Daytona Beach, FL. 
200 laps on a 2.500 mile paved track (500.0 miles) - Attendance: 85,000
(40) Cars Started the race, (17) Cars Finished the race.
Hershal McGriff started 8th position, finished in 39th position, won $3,375 Dollars, crashed on Lap 23 and didn't finished the race, race winner: # 43 Richard Petty.

# 3. Winston Cup race number 4 of 30 - 1974 Carolina 500  
March 3,1974 at North Carolina Motor Speedway, Rockingham, NC. 
492 laps on a 1.017 mile paved track (500.4 miles) - Attendance: 33,000
(40) Cars Started the race, ( 21) Cars Finished the race.
Hershal McGriff started 6th position, finished in 32th position, won $ 560 Dollars, drop out of race (overheating ) on Lap 169 and didn't finished the race, race winner: # 43 Richard Petty.

# 4. Winston Cup race number 10 of 30 - 1974 Winston 500  
May 5,1974 at Alabama International Motor Speedway, Talladega, AL. 
188 laps on a 2.660 mile paved track (500.1 miles) - Attendance: 40,000
(50) Cars Started the race, ( 28 ) Cars Finished the race.
Hershal McGriff started 17th position, finished in 12th position, won $1,975 Dollars, was running at end of race, 3 laps behind race winner: # 21 David Pearson.