The 1966 Grand National season came to a close at Rockingham with the running of the 2nd annual American 500. This was the first of only two times the season closed at Rockingham the other being in 1973.
David Pearson had locked-up the seasons championship over James Hylton. Richard Petty finished third. He and everyone else were waaaay behind Pearson and Hylton.
John Sears helped promote the race by advertising it on his car. From Dennis Andrews collection.
Two drivers who certainly made their mark on the Grand National circuit and would be elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame when formed decades later made their final career start at Rockingham: Junior Johnson making his first major GN start in a year (from Ray Lamm collection)
and two-time GN champion Ned Jarrett (from Harvey Tollison collection).
Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
Petty Enterprises regrouped nicely in 1966 after Richard Petty had to sit on the sidelines for much of 1965 because of the Chrysler boycott. In 1966, PE fielded a second car occasionally though not as frequently as was done in the early 1960s. Marvin Panch who had lost his ride earlier in 1966 because of another manufacturer boycott this one by Ford picked up a ride with the Pettys at Charlotte for the World 600. In his first outing, he won the race with a relief-driving assist by Richard. The team hired him again to run 4 superspeedway races near the end of the season Atlanta, Darlington, Charlotte and Rockingham.
Because of a prior commitment to test brakes at Daytona International Speedway, Panch was unable to race at Rockingham. So on Thursday of race week, the team hired East Tennessee's PAUL LEWIS to pilot the Petty Plymouth. It was his one and only start for Petty Enterprises. From Paul Lewis collection.
With Lewis moving to the Petty ride, Buddy Arrington then parked his own Dodge and stepped into Lewis Plymouth. When the day was over, Buddy had the best finish between himself and the 2 Petty entries.
Race week notes from News And Courier
Fast Freddy Lorenzen in the Holman & Moody Ford nabbed the pole on Wednesday of race week, and King Richard timed his Petty blue Plymouth on the front row with him. Source: News and Courier
Lee Roy Yarbrough discusses some pre-race strategy. Paul Lewis' 42 can be seen in the background.
The Golden Boy and The King went toe-to-toe from the jump. They traded the lead back and forth for over 60% of the race. From Harvey Tollison collection.
From Harvey Tollison collection
Not only did Junior Johnson make his final career start, but he also entered a Holly Farms Ford for USAC regular Gordon Johncock. The car timed fast as Johncock qualified 3rd, he lost an engine and finished 27th. From Harvey Tollison collection.
Early in the race, the championship contenders Pearson and Hylton raced nose-to-tail with upstart Bobby Allison in his Chevelle close behind. Pearson closed out his championship season with a 7th at Rockingham. Hylton finished 10th. Allison lost an engine early and finished 41st. From Harvey Tollison collection.
Curtis Turner had an uneventful weekend at the Rock in Smokey Yunick's Chevrolet. He qualified 10th but lost an engine, collected Dick Hutcherson as he dumped oil, and finished 34th.
After many laps up front, the Mopar hemi failed on the 43. Petty was done at lap 320 after having led 180 laps. Unfortunately, Maurice Pettys engine soured in Lewis 42 as well, and he exited the race just prior to Richard. Petty was credited with a 28 th place finish with Paul Lewis right behind in 29 th .
With 43 out of the race, Lorenzen continued on unchallenged. He led the final 220 laps and 320 overall. His Ford simply smoked the field, and he won by 4 laps over second place finisher Don White and third place Jarrett in his final event. From Harvey Tollison collection.
The winner was happy - though car owners from throughout the top 5 were not. Protests were slung from right to left over Lorenzen's car - as well as against the 2nd thru 5th place finishers. In the end, however, NASCAR said all was fine and Freddy's win stood.
From Harvey Tollison collection.
Ned had a great day in his final race by knocking down a 3rd place finish. Yet he had to bear a bit of embarrassment as he accidentally set off his fire extinguisher as he tried to loosen his belts. Many thought he was on fire - instead he likely just had a flushed face by the DOH! moment.
Race report from Charleston's News And Courier
|Fin||Driver||Sponsor / Owner||Car|
|1||Fred Lorenzen||Holman-Moody||'66 Ford|
|2||Don White||Nichels Engineering (Ray Nichels)||'66 Dodge|
|3||Ned Jarrett||Abingdon Motor Co. (Bondy Long)||'66 Ford|
|4||Cale Yarborough||Wood Brothers||'66 Ford|
|5||Junior Johnson||Junior Johnson||'66 Ford|
|6||Buddy Baker||Ray Fox||'65 Dodge|
|7||David Pearson||Cotton Owens||'66 Dodge|
|8||Jim Paschal||Friedkin Enterprises (Tom Friedkin)||'65 Plymouth|
|9||Donnie Allison||Robert Harper||'65 Chevrolet|
|10||James Hylton||Econo Wash (Bud Hartje)||'65 Dodge|
|11||J.T. Putney||J.T. Putney||'66 Chevrolet|
|12||G.C. Spencer||G.C. Spencer||'65 Plymouth|
|13||Darel Dieringer||Junior Johnson||'66 Ford|
|14||Buddy Arrington||Paul Lewis||'65 Plymouth|
|15||Jack Bowsher||Jack Bowsher||'66 Ford|
|16||Frank Warren||Harold Rhodes||'64 Chevrolet|
|17||Buck Baker||Buck Baker||'66 Oldsmobile|
|18||Henley Gray||Henley Gray||'66 Ford|
|19||Elmo Langley||Elmo Langley / Henry Woodfield||'64 Ford|
|20||Roy Mayne||Tom Hunter||'66 Chevrolet|
|21||Larry Hess||Larry Hess||'64 Ford|
|22||Don Biederman||Ron Stotten||'64 Chevrolet|
|23||Friday Hassler||Red Sharp||'66 Chevrolet|
|24||Wayne Smith||Archie Smith||'66 Chevrolet|
|25||Clyde Lynn||Bill Seifert||'64 Ford|
|26||J.D. McDuffie||J.D. McDuffie||'64 Ford|
|27||Gordon Johncock||Junior Johnson||'66 Ford|
|28||Richard Petty||Petty Enterprises||'66 Plymouth|
|29||Paul Lewis||Petty Enterprises||'66 Plymouth|
|30||Bobby Isaac||Cotton Owens||'65 Dodge|
|31||Sam McQuagg||Nichels Engineering (Ray Nichels)||'66 Dodge|
|32||Earl Balmer||K & K Insurance (Nord Krauskopf)||'65 Dodge|
|33||Dick Hutcherson||Holman-Moody||'66 Ford|
|34||Curtis Turner||Smokey Yunick||'66 Chevrolet|
|35||Wendell Scott||Tom Pistone||'64 Ford|
|36||John Sears||L.G. DeWitt||'64 Ford|
|37||Paul Goldsmith||Nichels Engineering (Ray Nichels)||'66 Plymouth|
|38||Bobby Johns||Shorty Johns||'66 Chevrolet|
|39||LeeRoy Yarbrough||Jon Thorne||'66 Dodge|
|40||Neil Castles||Buck Baker||'64 Dodge|
|41||Bobby Allison||Delk Pest Control (J.D. Bracken)||'65 Chevrolet|
|42||Don Tilley||George Elliott||'64 Ford|
|43||Tommy Bostick||Crawford Brothers||'65 Chevrolet|
|44||Tiny Lund||Lyle Stelter||'64 Ford|
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
updated by @tmc-chase: 11/25/20 12:15:33PM