For those of you who expected to read one of The Legends daily Racing History Minutes on Saturday, September 14th, I apologize. Tim Leeming traveled to Augusta, Georgia this weekend, celebrating with the good folks staging the annual reunion of the Augusta International Raceway.
Tim asked if I might write a History Minute for the Saturday date. However, when I sat down at my keyboard at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, I had NO internet connection. When I went to bed Saturday night, I still had no internet connection. It is now early on Sunday morning and my connection is back.
Rest assured, Tim will return Sunday morning to his accustomed post of sipping his early morning coffee while perusing the volumes of stock car racing historian Greg Fieldens 40 Years of Stock Car Racing and Rumbling Ragtops in order to pick a choice historic race for daily analysis and our reading pleasure.
One other quick apology I dont have any racing reference volumes, so please bear with my ramblings.
When Tim asked on Friday if I could attempt to pen a Racing History Minute for the date of SEPTEMBER 14, I told him Id try. I also told him I already knew the specific race Id want to use. I hope you wont be bored to read about another Richmond race, but Tim said to go ahead with it.
Todays race was the second I ever attended and the first I ever attended with my good friend, Frank. Wed go together to see hundreds more races through the years big and small, outlaw tracks and all divisions of NASCAR from GN/Cup to weekly events dirt and asphalt. I was aged 15 and less than a month from turning 16 and getting my drivers license.
Todays Racing History Minute takes us back 49 years to Richmond, Virginia on September 14, 1964, for the running of the Capital City 300 on the half-mile dirt Strawberry Hill course located at the Atlantic Rural Expositions Virginia State Fairgrounds, just across the Richmond City limits in Henrico County. The Richmond track at that time was leased by partners Paul Sawyer and Kenneth Campbell and the events were always advertised as a Paul Sawyer/Kenneth Campbell promotion.
Sawyers former business partner, Joe Weatherly, had been killed in an accident at the Riverside, California road course in January. Sawyer now handled dealings with the drivers and NASCAR, while Campbell handled public relations and marketing. They shared office space in a small one story brick building at 220 East Belt Boulevard on Richmonds South Side, across the James River from the East End race track. There were two small signs on the door. One read Paul Sawyer Promotions and the other read The Campbell Company. This was where you went in person to buy advance tickets to Richmond races or where you mailed your check. Both of those racing pioneers are now deceased.
The late Paul Sawyer, above in the grandstands of his "new" Richmond track in 1990.
Kenneth Campbell, above was co-promoter of the 1964 Capital City 300.
David Pearson had won the Spring 1964 Richmond race driving the potent #6 Cotton Owens Garage Dodge entry prepared by his Spartanburg neighbor. David had also won at Hickory, NC on September 11, 1964 the race previous to todays subject event. Cotton Owens, himself, was a former Richmond Grand National winner - having driven his Thunder Chicken Ford Thunderbird to victory lane on the Richmond dirt on September 13, 1959 as recounted by Tim Leeming in Fridays racing History Minute.
Pearson had frustrated Owens, who knew he had hired a brilliant driver, but thought his driver should be delivering more wins. The frustration reached a zenith during Pearsons Hickory win, when the 31 year old Spartanburg charger scared the daylights out of Cottons pit crew on every pit stop. The future Silver Fox came into the pits so hot that Cottons crew was afraid to go over the wall for fear of being struck by the #6 Hemi Dodge. All of Cottons admonitions to David to pit more smoothly had been ignored according to Cottons future retellings.
Cotton, who had not driven since a one-race outing in 1963 (at Spartanburg, of course) due to failing eyesight, surprised the racing world by announcing he was UNRETIRING and entering the Richmond race. He planned to teach the young Pearson a lesson by making smooth pit stops. And, what a lesson he delivered!!!
Cotton Owens squinting on a bright day at the track.
The Richmond race was scheduled for Sunday, September 13, 1964. On Saturday, Pearsons #6 Dodge was parked in the showroom of Southside Dodge on Belt Boulevard, just down the street from the offices of the co-promoters Sawyer and Campbell. Over on The Boulevard, heading toward the track sat Richard Pettys blue #41 Plymouth in the showroom of Lawrence Chrysler-Plymouth - Richard drove the #41 at Richmond and Jim Paschal the #43 Petty Enterprises Plymouth. And down West Broad Street, a half-mile from my home, Ned Jarretts dark blue #11 Richmond Ford Motor Company Bondy Long entry was on display in the Richmond Ford showroom.
My dad drove my buddy, Frank and I to see all three cars on Saturday afternoon and talk to David, Richard and Ned. We also snuck peeks at the dealer back lots where the new 1965 models were still under wraps. On Saturday night dad drove us to the Holiday Inn and Richmond Auto Court where we saw a number of Grand National race cars on their open haulers in the motel parking lots.
1964 was the year of a tremendous rivalry between the Dodge and Plymouth Hemi 426s and the Ford 427 wedges. Chrysler set the bar high at Daytona when Richard Petty scored the first of an eventual seven Daytona 500 triumphs enroute to his first of seven NASCAR Grand National/Cup championships.
All of those cars may as well have stayed in those dealer showrooms or in the motel parking lots on the scheduled Sunday race date. Rain prevented the Capital City 300 from getting the green flag on Sunday and the race was postponed until Monday night, under the lights, so local fans wouldnt have to take off from work or miss the race because of work.
Qualifying on the pole for Richmond was Ned Jarrett in our hometown sponsored Richmond Ford Motor Company #11 factory Ford owned by Camden, South Carolinas Bondy Long. On the outside was Billy Wade, a recent 4-time July winner on NASCARs Northern Tour in another South Carolina car - the #1 Mercury belonging to Spartanburgs Bud Moore. Cotton Owens, in his return to racing, put his Dodge #5 on the second row in third place, topping his regular driver, David Pearson who posted a ninth place time.
For those of you not privileged to have seen a NASCAR Grand National stock car race on the Richmond dirt, you really missed a show. The track would get progressively tougher on equipment as the races roared towards their later stages. Beginning with broadsliding through the corners, by halfway, the track was covered in so much tire rubber it looked black and drove like asphalt.
This race was no exception. Only 10 of the 33 starters were running at the finish and two of those drivers didnt even make the top-10!!!
Billy Wade beat pole sitter Ned Jarrett to turn 1, leading the first nine laps, before a hard charging Junior Johnson in the Banjo Matthews factory Ford #27 blew by Wade on lap 10. Junior would hold the point position for 56 laps before Wade got back around, leading for another 66 laps. The Billy and Junior show continued when Junior got back around Billy on lap 132.
While the all out war between Billy Wade and Junior Johnson was taking place on the track, old timer Cotton Owens was making his customary smooth pit stops and gaining tremendous ground on the leaders in the pits. Thus it was that the race suddenly turned into a battle between Owens and Johnson, with Cotton assuming the lead for the first time on lap 170.
The pride of Spartanburg held off the mountain boy from Wilkes County for 18 laps in this barn burner of a contest on the Richmond fairgrounds dirt. When Junior got back around Cotton on lap 188, hed hold that lead until his engine exploded on lap #264, handing the lead back to Owens with 36 laps remaining of a tough 300.
When the checkered flag flew, it was a 40 year old unretired Cotton Owens in Richmonds victory lane with his #5 Dodge, painted an identical black and white scheme contrasting with Pearsons #6 red and white Dodge. Although outrun on the track, Cotton Owens gained so much time on the young Pearson with his pit stops that he was able to beat the 2nd finishing Pearson by a lap!
Cotton Owens takes the Capital City 300 checkers from Richmond flagman Rusty Russ on Monday night September 14, 1964. UPI wire photo as posted on Cotton Owens Garage web site. (If you thought those pieces of tape down by the frame showing the jack man where to put the jack on pit stops were a recent Chad Knauss invention for Jimmie Johnson, take a look at Cotton's car)
Bringing up 3rd place was Richard Petty in his #43 Plymouth, headed to his first driving championship. The Randleman Rocket was eight laps behind old timer Owens. Larry Thomas brought the #19 Ford of Herman The Turtle Beam home in 4th place and 5th went to Jarrett, whose engine had let go on lap 280.
Finishing 5th through 10th were Neil Castles, Roy Tyner, Junior Johnson, Mark Hurley and E.J. Trivette.
Its doubtful a driver has ever displayed a bigger smile on his face while being smooched by Miss Firebird, Linda Vaughn, right, than Cotton Owens did at Richmond on Monday night, September 14, 1964. UPI wire photo as posted at Cotton Owens Garage web site.
Cotton Owens would make one more career start just 6 days after the Richmond win. Hed again beat his own driver, David Pearson by posting a 2nd place finish in a race won by Ned Jarrett at Occoneechee Orange Speedway in Hillsboro on September 20, 1964. What a way to close a driving career a first and a second!!
September 14, 1964 was a special night in Richmond and remained one of Cotton Owens best career memories. I had the pleasure of having Cotton as our guest at Richmond in 1998 during the NASCAR 50th Anniversary celebration and he retold the story of his final win with particular relish. It has been well documented in major stories in publications all over the country and by NASCAR itself.
Heres just a brief excerpt from a retrospective piece in the Spartanburg Hearld-Journal on the career of Cotton Owens.
1964 Capital City 300 (from Racing Reference)
NASCAR Grand National race number 53 of 62
Monday, September 14, 1964 at Virginia State Fairgrounds, Richmond, VA
300 laps on a .500 mile dirt track (150.0 miles)
Time of race: 2:25:16
Average Speed: 61.955 mph
Pole Speed: 66.89 mph Cautions: 5 for 23 laps
Margin of Victory: 1 lap +
Lead changes: 7
Fin St # Driver Sponsor / Owner Car Laps Money Status Led
1 3 5 Cotton Owens Cotton Owens '64 Dodge 300 2,400 running 54
2 9 6 David Pearson Cotton Owens '64 Dodge 299 1,600 running 0
3 10 41 Richard Petty Petty Enterprises '64 Plymouth 292 1,200 running 0
4 12 19 Larry Thomas Herman Beam '64 Ford 289 900 running 0
5 1 11 Ned Jarrett Bondy Long '64 Ford 280 710 engine 0
6 27 88 Neil Castles Buck Baker '62 Chrysler 271 525 running 0
7 15 9 Roy Tyner Roy Tyner '64 Chevrolet 270 400 running 0
8 4 27 Junior Johnson Banjo Matthews '64 Ford 264 300 engine 171
9 7 32 Mark Hurley Dave Kent '63 Ford 262 250 running 0
10 21 52 E.J. Trivette Jess Potter '62 Chevrolet 254 250 running 0
11 17 54 Jimmy Pardue Burton-Robinson (Charles Robinson) '64 Plymouth 223 225 rear end 0
12 14 78 Buddy Arrington Buddy Arrington '63 Dodge 219 225 running 0
13 32 83 Worth McMillion Worth McMillion '62 Pontiac 206 225 rear end 0
14 2 1 Billy Wade Bud Moore '64 Mercury 203 225 engine 75
15 23 60 Doug Cooper Bob Cooper '64 Ford 203 200 running 0
16 31 64 Elmo Langley John Berejoski '64 Ford 186 200 oil cooler 0
17 5 45 Bobby Isaac Louis Weathersbee '63 Plymouth 184 200 con rod 0
18 6 16 Darel Dieringer Bud Moore '64 Mercury 182 175 engine 0
19 33 99 Gene Hobby M.E. Whitmore (Gene Hobby) '62 Plymouth 177 175 a frame 0
20 16 09 Roy Mayne Bob Adams '62 Chevrolet 175 175 engine 0
21 20 34 Wendell Scott Wendell Scott '63 Ford 159 175 radiator 0
22 8 43 Jim Paschal Petty Enterprises '64 Plymouth 116 150 rear end 0
23 26 02 Curtis Crider Curtis Crider '63 Mercury 103 150 shocks 0
24 13 3 Buck Baker Ray Fox '64 Dodge 101 150 rear end 0
25 28 20 Jack Anderson Jack Anderson '64 Ford 99 150 oil pressure 0
26 19 58 Doug Moore Doug Moore '64 Chevrolet 67 150 crash 0
27 24 0 Don Branson Jack Anderson '62 Ford 65 150 crash 0
28 29 61 Bob Cooper Bob Cooper '62 Pontiac 41 150 rear end 0
29 25 01 Joe Cote Curtis Crider '63 Mercury 15 150 handling 0
30 22 86 Steve Young Buck Baker '62 Chevrolet 11 150 oil line 0
31 11 55 Tiny Lund Lyle Stelter '64 Ford 10 150 rocker arm 0
32 30 68 Bob Derrington Bob Derrington '63 Ford 1 150 oil pressure 0
33 18 72 Doug Yates Doug Yates '63 Plymouth 1 150 oil pressure 0
Last February I asked David Pearson about the lesson taught by Cotton Owens. He had a different version, but I like Cottons best. The record book will forever show Cotton 1st and David 2nd.
I count myself among the fortunate in that Monday night Richmond crowd of 8,500 spectators on September 14, 1964 to have witnessed NASCAR history. And I count myself lucky that this would be just the first of hundreds of racing experiences my buddy, Frank and I would eventually share.
We now return to your regularly scheduled Racing History Minute for Sunday, September 15 with Tim Leeming.
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
updated by @dave-fulton: 04/12/18 11:49:45AM