Racing History Minute - 1968 Daytona 500

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

There are no "Twins" for the race report today as the races were rained out. However, the story of the rainout is worth talking about. It had rained most of the morning at the track but there was a break in the weather in mid afternoon. Big Bill told them to "line 'em up" and race but not the first car came out of the garage. Drivers believed the track was still much too wet for a race. Big Bill jumped in his car and drove into the garage, getting out and raising that booming voice of his to say "It's time to race, get in your cars". No one moved. Then Bill asked "Are there any of you guys who want to race?". Only ONE driver raised his hand, rookie Dave Marcis. France then announced, "line your cars up and we'll get started. We'll pay the full purse and if the hot-shots don't want to run they can go back to the garage area. Some drivers made a move toward their cars but other stood right where they were. It was about that time the clouds opened up again with torrential rains so the argument was settled.

Cale Yarbrough would start the Wood Brothers Mercury on the pole, having posted a qualifying speed of 189.222 mph. Richard Petty would start second in a Plymouth with a black vinyl top. There are numerous stories about why the vinyl top but my two favorite are:

1. Lee thought it looked like the "dimples" on a golf ball and figured it would be faster through the air, not to mention disrupting the airflow over the car enough to make drafting behind Richard very difficult.

2. That there were so many things on the car where the Pettys were concerned about the "gray area" in the rules, that they figured NASCAR would be so concentrated on the vinyl roof, all other things would be overlooked.

As it turned out, it was the vinyl top coming loose that cost Richard a shot at the win. The picture of him standing on the hood of the Plymouth slamming that big, boot encased foot on that vinyl to get it back down so they could wire it to the roll bar is engrained in my mind.

Speaking of gray areas, this is the race where pre-race inspection of the Smokey Yunick Chevrolet, to be driven by Gordon Johncock, gave a new meaning to "gray area". NASCAR, for some non-specific reason, gave extra attention to the Yunick entry and found problem after problem NASCAR had removed the gas tank to measure capacity and the gas tank was sitting on the ground when NASCAR handed Smokey a list of NINE things that must be corrected before the car could run. Smokey looked at the list, looked at the inspector, and boldly stated "you'd better make that 10" as he climbed in the car without a gas tank, fired it up, and drove it off. Someone was heard to say Smokey had at least 10 gallons of fuel tucked up inside that car. Didn't work that time.

Third place started was LeeRoy Yarbrough in a Junior Johnson Mercury, fourth place was David Pearson in a Holman-Moody Ford, and fifth place went to Tiny Lund in a Bud Moore Mercury. Some 94,800 fans were on their feet as the green waved to watch Cale blast out front with a pack hot on his heels. David Pearson would take over on lap 13 and lead until Richard Petty went by on lap 23. The lead was being swapped every lap or two between Yarborough, Yarbrough, Petty, Pearson, Al Unser, Buddy Baker, Mario Andretti (1967 winner) Butch Hartman and Bobby Allison.

On lap 105, Mario Andretti, John Sears and Buddy Baker were involved in a violent crash that took out all three cars. Buddy was fuming as he was interviewed saying "that guy (Andretti) takes out two or three cars every time he races down here". The true part of that statement was that Andretti had be involved in three crashes in three races AFTER winning the 1967 Daytona 500. Officials kept a close eye on the volatile Baker as a confrontation between him and Andretti could only have resulted in a serious injury to the very short Andretti facing up tothe giant Baker.

The final count of caution flags for this 1968 event was 11 for 60 laps. But the story of those cautions was a huge benefit for Cale Yarborough. On lap 14 the motor in the Mercury was skipping so badly, Cale was in the pits, hood up, as the Wood Brothers went to work. He returned to the track a lap down. Two laps after returning to the track, Cale again roared down pit road with ignition problems. Leonard Wood knew exactly what to do and accomplished the repair almost instantly but not without another lap lost. Without the aid of the caution flags, it is doubtful Cale could have been in a position to win. Cale was on second behind LeeRoy when the last caution flag waved. The field went green again on lap 179 of 200 Cale got trapped in traffic and LeeRoy absolutely disappeared, opening a 10 second lead with less than 20 laps to go. with 10 to go, Cale was 3.2 seconds back and charging as hard as the Mercury could run. With five to go, Cale was on LeeRoy's bumper. With three to go, Cale made his move and went to the point. From victory lane, Cale would say "I knew I could take him if the yellow didn't come out again. Our Mercury ran like a Gem. I knew once I got by him (LeeRoy), he could do no better than second". Cale had a one second lead at the checkers.

The average speed for the 500 miles was held down to 143.251 due to all the laps run under caution.

Finishing order:

1. Cale Yarborough, Wood Brothers Mercury, winning $47,250.00

2. LeeRoy Yarbrough, Junior Johnson Mercury, winning $17,525.00 (1 sec back)

3. Bobby Allison, Bondy Long Ford, winning $10,150.00

4. Al Unser, Cotton Owens Dodge, winning $6,250.00

5. David Pearson, Holman-Moody Ford, winning $4,750.00 (1 lap down)

6. Paul Goldsmith

7. Darel Dieringer

8. Richard Petty

9. Tiny Lund

10. Andy Hampton

11. Buddy Arrington

12. A. J. Foyt

13. Bob Senneker

14. Clyde Lynn

15. Bill Seifert

16. Butch Hartman

17. Wendell Scott

18.Larry Manning

19. Henley Gray

20. Dave Marcis

21. Rod Eulenfield

22. Sam McQuagg

23. Charles Burnette

24. Frank Warren

25. Elmo Langley

26. Jabe Thomas

27. Jim Hurtubise

28. Don Biederman

29. Mario Andretti

30. Buddy Baker

31. John Sears

32. Charlie Glotzbach

33. Earl Brooks

34. Bill Champion

35. Dick Johnson

36. Bobby Isaac

37. Bobby Johns

38. Sonny Hutchins

39. Bob Cooper

40. Donnie Allison

41. Stan Meserve

42. Jerry Grant

43. Red Farmer

44. James Hylton

45. Dr. Don Tarr

46. PAUL LEWIS

47. Roy Tyner

48. Lil Bud Moore

49. H. B. Bailey

50. Dub Simpson

PERSONAL MEMORIES: The U. S. Navy had caused me to miss the 1967 Daytona 500 (Yesterday's History Minute) when I got snowed in and couldn't fly out of Norfolk, Virginia to Daytona. For the 1968 Daytona 500, the Navy had decided to allow me a winter time vacation in the Carribean. In fact, in late October, 1967, our ship, The U.S.S. Opportune (ARS-41), known as "Oppy" by the crew, was transferred from Little Creek in Virginia to San Juan, Puerto Rico for six months. When the 1968 Daytona 500 was being run, we were somewhere in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, headed for Colombia, South America. If there was an Armed Forces Radio Network available to hear the race, I certainly couldn't find it.

When we got to South America, I was tempted to call home and find out who won, but as our family had always considered a long distance call, even within the state of South Carolina, as an extravagance, there was no way I was going to call from South America. I checked out a South American Newspaper but first of all it was written in Spanish which I did not at that time read, nor even now do I read of speak Spanish. I tried to talk the radioman on the ship into checking stateside with someone on another ship to get the results but he was not up for violation of regulations for such a thing.

We were in Colombia for a week and mail finally caught up with us. In the main I received was a big brown envelope from my Mama so I knew it was stuffed with newspaper clipping. It was then I read of Cale's victory and saw the pictures of Richard trying to fix the vinyl roof. I had no idea why there was a vinyl roof on the car and nothing in the article explained it.

Oh well, that is all water under the bridge, as they say, or more accurately I suppose, water in the Gulf of Mexico. I served my time in the Navy and although it was nothing very special to me then, it has become a huge honor to be a Veteran, especially when my grandsons have need a "Veteran" for their school Veterans' Day Programs. My youngest grandson, Michael, really brags about his Pop, The Legend, but he never fails to go on to say "Pop's a Veteran". So, I guess, it was worth giving up the 1968 Daytona 500 to be so honored by the grandsons each November 11th.

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


updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
6 years ago
4,029 posts

Tim - As I've mentioned to you in the past, one of my uncles also intro'd me to racing. Matter of fact, his last name is coincidentally spelled only one letter different than yours: Ronald LEMING. He too is a navy vet - served in the 1950s. Interesting your mention about the envelope of clippings. Uncle Ronald has worked construction for as long as I've known him. From the mid 1970s through the late 1980s, he had the opportunity to work overseas on jobs in Tanzania Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. As you might expect, NASCAR news wasn't all that plentiful. In my senior year of HS and in college, I maintained 2 subscriptions to Southern MotoRacing. One was for me to read and clip. The other I packaged along with some news clippings from The Tennessean - AP stories or Larry Woody columns - and sent to Ronald every few weeks. Every so often even today, he'll mention how he was glad to get those papers to keep up with racing.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
6 years ago
4,029 posts

Race program

Looks like the cars were indeed lined up and ready to roll for the first qualifying twin - before the rains began to fall. from Ray Lamm

Not sure if this is practice or qualifying - but this picture from Dennis Andrews sure looks as if dark skies were present and rain was looming.

When race day arrived, however, the rain was gone and the green flag waved. Front row was Cale on the pole with King Richard alongside him. - from Ray Lamm

All sorts of USAC open wheel & stock car regulars made a start in the 500 including...

A.J. Foyt - Dennis Andrews

Defending 500 winner Mario Andretti - back with Holman & Moody but with completely different look - Ray Lamm

Butch Hartman - Robbie Solesbee

Jim Hurtubise - Dennis Andrews

And Al Unser Sr - Dennis Andrews

A really neat image in the RacersReunion photo collection is a personal letter from the VP of Sales & Marketing of Permatex to Billy Scott inviting him to participate in the Permatex 300 sportsman race. - Billy and Barbara Scott




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

I did forget to mention the fact that there were so many caution laps that THREE pace cars were used. The first two overheated and had to be parked. All three pace cars were, as the photo shows, Camaros. Just an interesting side note to the historic significance of what we do here.

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

That is a great post Chase. Tell you uncle Ronald that, in fact, our family name has many spellings from the same British roots. Even my family tree has Leeming, Leming, and Leaming. So I wonder what the chances are? Did any of his family come from Canada at any point?

And as for what you were doing by sending him those papers, let me assure you, as the recipient of news clippings all through my Navy service, they are appreciated more than he, or I, can ever adequately express. Tell your Uncle and a fellow "swabbie" I said hello.

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
6 years ago
4,029 posts

I don't know of any Canadians in our family tree. My great-grandfather "Papa Leming" was a railroad man. As far as I know, he was a life long Tennessean. Don't know much about the Leming side before him. Maybe we need to lobby Gilder to start a LemingReunion.com site!




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
6 years ago
4,029 posts

Alabama's Alton Jones finished 29th in the Permatex 300 Sportsman race.

Though from Alabama, I remember him racing at Nashville's fairgrounds speedway. He was the 1976 track late model champion - the year we started going regularly on Saturday nights. Sterling Marlin was a rookie, and Mike Alexander was only in his 2nd year of racing. - from my collection

Bunkie Blackburn won the Permatex race driving for Ray Fox.

Cale's win and FoMoCo's sweep of top two spots was the logical choice for the headline of National Speed Sport News - from Russ Thompson

And though Cale's win was featured in the June 1968 issue of Stock Car Racing, it took a back seat for the cover to the Petty team's struggle with the experimental roof.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Charles Ray Stocks
@charles-ray-stocks
6 years ago
222 posts

was blackie bunkburn from fayettevile nc

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
6 years ago
4,029 posts

Spartanburg Herald Journal report about the rained-out twins. Interesting - and funny - to read the various strategies about racing the twins on a wet track including:

  • Conservative approach - don't wreck car we plan to use on Sunday
  • A true racer - we came here to race. Drop the flag, and we'll go.
  • A Snidely Whiplash devious strategy - start the first twin and eliminate half our competition for Sunday!

All became a moot point once the races were cancelled.

A lost trade and art - hand numbering and lettering a car.

Future NASCAR GN / Cup regular and champion Benny Parsons won the pole for the ARCA 300 race with ARCA regular Iggy Katona qualifying 2nd. Andy Hampton won the race. From DBMJ .

In the ARCA 300, Bobby Mausgrover and Gerry Wollard tangled together for a spectacular accident. Fortunately both turned out to be OK. From DBMJ . ARCA's official website has a [ feature article ] about the accident.

From Stacy Todd

In the 500, a couple of the USAC regulars - Hurtubise and Hartman - had a tough go of it. Herk was done though Butch soldiered on to a top 20 finish.

And why did Chris Economaki climb on the hood of Cale's winning 21 Wood Brothers Ford? Because that's where the news was!




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
6 years ago
4,029 posts

Three color images of the Mausgrover - Wolland wreck from the Daytona paper .




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
6 years ago
9,132 posts


NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive


Contributed by Mike Smolinski

USS Opportune (ARS-41)




Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons


Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row - Navy Unit Commendation
Second Row - Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation (5) - Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation - Navy Battle "E" Ribbon (2)
Third Row - American Campaign Medal - World War II Victory Medal - National Defense Service Medal (3)
Fourth Row - Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Cuba) - Vietnam Service Medal (1) - Southwest Asia Service Medal


Bolster Class Rescue and Salvage Ship :

  • Laid down, 13 September 1944, at Basalt Rock Co., Napa, CA.

USS Opportune earned one campaign star for Vietnam War service


Specifications :
Displacement 1,497t.(lt) 2,048 t.(fl)
Length 213' 6"
Beam 43'
Draft 14' 8"
Speed 16 kts. Complement Officers 7Enlisted 113 Largest Boom Capacity 10 t. Armament two twin 40mm AA gun mounts Fuel Capacities Diesel 2,150 BblsGasoline 2,560 Gals Propulsion four Cooper Bessemer (GSB-8) Diesel-electric drive enginessingle Fairbanks Morse Main Reduction Gears
Ship's Service Generators
two Diesel-drive 200Kw 120V D.C.
one Diesel-drive 50Kw 120V D.C. twin propellers, 3,000shp

  • Launched, 31 March 1945
  • Commissioned USS Opportune (ARS-41) , 5 October 1945
  • During the Vietnam War USS Opportune participated in the following campaign:
    Vietnam Campaign Medal Campaign
    Campaign and Dates
    Vietnam Counteroffensive Campaign
    19 January to 26 February 1966
  • Decommissioned and struck from the Naval Register, 30 April 1993
  • Title transfer to the Maritime Administration (MARAD), 1 February, 1999
  • Laid up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, James River, Lee Hall, VA.
  • Final Disposition, contract for scrapping awarded to Bay Bridge Enterprises, Chesapeake, VA., towed from the National Defense Reserve Fleet, James River to Bay Bridge Enterprises, Chesapeake, VA., 5 December 2003



--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
6 years ago
3,119 posts

For the record, Chase, the Leeming part of my family in Canada, in the 1800s, was a huge part of the railroad development in Canada. Part of that family tree began to spell their name Leaming about 1850. Much of what Canada has in railroad expansion to the west came from that part of the family. There is even a town there at a railhead named Leamington. Wow, this is getting interesting.

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

That would be the famous "Oppy". Just before I reported aboard, it completed a trip around the world. Many good friends from that era of my life but only a few remain in contact. Thanks for posting the picture Dave. Now if you could only focus on that bunk in the bottom of the ship where I slept next to the rip in the bulkhead where the asbestos was, I could file a claim for damages!

Jack Walker
@jack-walker
6 years ago
162 posts

Bunkie Blackburn was from Fayetteville.

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
6 years ago
9,132 posts

The 2006 Associated Press wire report of Bunkie Blackburn's death in Columbia, Tennessee:

Posted 3/3/2006 4:22 AM
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Former NASCAR driver 'Bunkie' Blackburn dies at 69
COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) James Ronald "Bunkie" Blackburn, a former NASCAR driver who once won a race at Daytona International Speedway, died Tuesday. He was 69.

Blackburn died at his home, according to an announcement from Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia, Tenn. His cause of death was not available Thursday night.

Blackburn drove in the Grand National and NASCAR circuits from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, driving for teams run by Smokey Yunick and Petty Enterprises.

He had four top-fives and 14 top-10s in the Grand National series, The Daily Herald in Columbia reported. Blackburn ran 71 races at 26 different tracks in his career.

His top finish was in 1968, when he won from the pole in the Permatex 300 for Late Model Sportsman, a fore-runner to the Busch Series. He also won poles at Talladega and Bristol and was inducted into the Pure Darlington Record Club in 1964 after posting a record qualifying time. He finished in the top 10 twice in the Daytona Firecracker 400.

Blackburn grew up surrounded by racing his father owned and operated a dirt track in his hometown of Fayetteville, N.C.

Blackburn also competed throughout the Middle Tennessee area on dirt tracks and at Nashville Speedway against drivers like Darrell Waltrip , who lives in Franklin, Tenn., and Coo Coo Marlin, the late father of current Nextel Cup driver Sterling Marlin , also of Columbia, Tenn.

He retired from racing after an injury and went to work for General Electric in Columbia for 20 years before retiring.

He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Nancy Hedrick Blackburn, three daughters, a son and 12 grandchildren. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Charles Ray Stocks
@charles-ray-stocks
6 years ago
222 posts

thanks jack i thought he was but i wasnt sure

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
6 years ago
4,029 posts

9 minute video of race highlights




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Scott Koscik
@scott-koscik
4 years ago
2 posts

I know this thread and your post is a couple of years old but I am interested in the picture that you refer to when you said, ""all three pace cars were, as the photo shows, Camaros." I am interested in pace cars, especially Camaro pace cars and have never seen a picture showing all three NASCAR Daytona pace cars together in one shot. I don't see this particular picture in this thread, so I am not sure what you were referring to. Does anyone have this particular picture and if so can you re-post it. In addition, where did you find the information that states two of the cars overheated requiring a third. I had never heard this before. Thanks.

Robert Gregory Hendrix
@robert-gregory-hendrix
4 years ago
83 posts

Greg Fielden's book "40 Years of Stock Car Racing Volume 3" says on page 169 that the frequent caution flags caused 2 pace cars, both Chevrolet Camaro's, to overheat, and a 3rd pace car had to be brought in. It makes no mention of what kind of car the 3rd car was, and also does not contain any pictures of any of the 3.

Bobby Williamson
@bobby-williamson
4 years ago
907 posts

What I'll always remember of the '68 "500"was the Petty's vinyl top.........AND Richard climbing out of the cockpit to "work" on it! Don't see that much anymore.

Scott Koscik
@scott-koscik
4 years ago
2 posts

Thanks for the info.