Racing History Minute - March 13, 1966

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

The one-mile moderately banked race track in Rockingham had hosted its first race on October 31, 1965, won by Curtis Turner, a very popular win. The second event to be hosted for the Grand National cars would happen on March 13, 1966. The race had the title of "Peach Blossom 500" which meant the drivers would once more race 500 laps.

Paul Goldsmith qualified at a speed of 116.685 mph to put his Nichels Engineering Plymouth on the pole. David Pearson qualified his Cotton Owens Dodge second. Curtis Turner was back to defend his October win and put the Wood Brothers Ford in third starting position. Bobby Isaac in the Junior Johnson Ford would start fourth, and Dick Hutcherson in the Holman-Moody Ford entry would start fifth.

Notably absent from the starting field was Richard Petty. Two weeks earlier Petty had won his second Daytona 500 but in the interim had surgery on the ring finger of his left hand which had been injured in a pickup football game at the Petty Engineering compound. The doctor had told Richard he needed the surgery or he would forever have an unusable finger. Richard was in the pits to oversee the race for his relief driver, Darel Dieringer. It was an early trip home for Petty after Dieringer crashed out on lap 52 of the race.

Goldsmith led the first 24 laps of the race before yielding to Bobby Isaac. Isaac was opening a substantial lead over second place for ten laps before he encountered a spinning Bub Strickler as he came up to lap Strickler. Isaac had no opening to escape the spinning car and crashed hard into Strickler, ending his day. Goldsmith went back out front at that point.

The crowd roared its approval on lap 36 when Curtis "Pops" Turner took over the lead and held it for five laps. LeeRoy Yarbrough moved past "Pops" to lead 16 laps in his Jon Thorne Dodge. The lead became a battle between Cale Yarborough, Sam McQuagg, Jim Paschal, David Pearson, Fred Lorenzen, Curtis Turner and Goldsmith.

Yarbrough was eventually sidelined with ignition problems on lap 89. McQuagg parked it on lap 131 with engine failure. Curtis crashed out on lap 376. Jim Paschal's Plymouth lost an engine on lap 276.

Cale Yarborough, who had been involved in an earlier altercation on the track, was driving his crunched up Banjo Matthews Ford as fast as it would run and would lead a total of 177 laps. Paul Goldsmith was his remaining competition but Goldsmith was not without problems of his own. Around lap 80, and encounter with another car knocked the gas cap off Goldsmith's Plymouth and he had to make an unscheduled pit stop, putting him far behind the leader. Goldsmith, the Midwestern driver from Indiana, was absolutely dirt tracking that Plymouth lap after lap to make up time. Problem was, the faster he ran and the more he closed on leader Yarborough, the quicker the tires were worn out. Before the race was over, Goldsmith would make 10 pit stops, most of those for required tire replacement.

It was on lap 452 of the 500 that Paul literally slid his Plymouth beneath Yarborough's Ford and Paul would lead the remaining 48 laps to take the checkered flag 3.82 seconds ahead of Yarborough. A crowd of some 40,000 fans watched Goldsmith average 100.027 mph for the 500 miles in spit of the 10 pit stops and 10 caution flags for 70 laps.

Finishing order:

1. Paul Goldsmith, Nichels Engineering Plymouth, $14,340.00

2. Cale Yarborough, Banjo Matthews Ford, $7,875.00 (3.82 seconds back)

3. Bobby Allison, Betty Lilly Ford, $4,250.00 (12 laps down)

4. Harold Smith, Lyle Stelter Ford, $2,675.00 (20 laps down)

5. John Sears, L.G. DeWitt Ford, $1,750.00 (22 laps down)

6. Roy Mayne

7. Elmo Langley

8. David Pearson

9. Henley Gray

10. Worth McMillion

11. J. T. Putney

12. Neil Castles

13. Buddy Baker

14. Clyde Lynn

15.Doug Cooper

16. J. D. McDuffie

17.Marvin Panch

18. Curtis Turner

19. James Hylton

20. Jim Paschal

21. PAUL LEWIS

22. Tiny Lund

23. Gene Black

24. Wayne Smith

25. Buddy Arrington

26. Fred Lorenzen

27.Bub Strickler

28. Gene Cline

29. Dick Hutcherson

30. Sam McQuagg

31. Roy Tyner

32. LeeRoy Yarborough

33. Wendell Scott

34. Bunkie Blackburn

35. Darel Dieringer

36. Ned Jarrett

37.Bobby Isaac

38. Larry Bolton

39. Joel David

40. Harold Dunaway

41. Tom Pistone

42. Tex McCullough

43. Bobby Johns

44. G. C. Spencer

PERSONAL MEMORIES: Our little band of brothers (race fan brothers) had traveled to this race in my bright yellow Plymouth Satellite. We parked up next to the fence in turn two and camped for the night. That was about the only place next to the fence that remained by the time we got there on Saturday afternoon. The view, as I recall, was most of turn one, all of turn two (duh) and down the back straight until almost turn two. For some reason I have memories of cars pitting on the back straight but I'm not sure about that.

Without Richard in the race, we were all pulling for whichever Mopar would be leading, but we were stronger for Pearson in the Dodge and Goldsmith in the Plymouth. "Goldie" already had one win for the season and seemed to be a good guy.

My "Goldsmith story" is that I tried to meet him and get his autograph all through the 1964 season but could never catch up with him. Because of the Mopar boycott in 1965, I didn't go to races. I was determined to add his autograph in 1966 but never got face to face. Funny thing is my brother was able to catch him at some point and had him autographmy autograph book.

Then, at the very first RacersReunion Hall of Fame Induction breakfast in Mooresville in, 2010, I think, I was standing outside the restaurant waiting for friends to arrive when someone tapped me on the shoulder to ask if this is where the breakfast for the Hall of Fame was to be. I turned to answer and was looking right into the eyes of Paul Goldsmith. I told him the story as we talked for about 10 minutes while I waited for friends and we both got a good laugh out of all. Now, for the REAL LAUGH. Even spending all that time with Paul that Sunday, I never once thought to ask him for his autograph. But, I had met the man of both NASCAR and Indy fame and was very impressed with his friendliness and the fact that he hardly looked much older than that day he won the race at Rockingham in 1966.

My most vivid memory of the day at "The Rock" was seeing and talking with Richard and seeing that finger in the bandages. I simply did not see how that would keep him from driving but the doctors had said "no" so Richard was doing what he needed to do and far be it from me to try to out guess the doctors. But, oh how times have changed! Now I question everything my doctor tells me!!!!

Rockingham was always one of my favorite tracks. It had an atmosphere seemingly far different than other tracks. The Darlington infield was a place where so many of my racing memories were made, having camped there every race weekend from 1957's spring race until the 1993 Southern 500. I started watching races from either the grandstands or the hospitality suite of a major sponsor. No other infield had the mystique of the Darlington acreage, but Rockingham had a mystique of its own. After we started going in the parent's motor home, the infield at The Rock was even more of an adventure as we camped with several other groups from around the southeast and although we camped with the same folks at the other major tracks, it was Rockingham and Darlington that held the magic for us. I miss those days and I miss Rockingham

Oh, and Paul, if you happen to read this, would you please send me your autograph? After all these years I think I should add it to my collection. Thanks.

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


updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,092 posts

I hope you will indulge me, but this particular race is one of my all-time favorites. Three years ago I posted about my experiences at this event and it still seems like just yesterday!

Pouring Rain - Must be Rockingham Time!

Posted by Dave Fulton on March 6, 2011 at 1:03pm in - CURRENT NASCAR

I awoke this Sunday March morning in Charlotte, NC to massive rainfall. I immediately thought... "Must be Rockingham spring NASCAR race weekend!"

For some years, back in the day, the NASCAR calendar year schedule took us to Riverside, California in January for the year's opening event, followed by Daytona Speedweeks in February, then Richmond and on to Rockingham in late February or early March.

Rockingham's spring race was often cursed with inclement weather, but I sure do miss that ole gal on the Cup/Grand National schedule and the wonderful racing there over the years. The place opened inFall 1965 with a stunning win by Curtis Turner in the Wood Brothers ride (his ban from NASCAR having been lifted by Big Bill France due to crummy track attendance in the wake of the 1965 Chrysler boycott).

I was fortunate to head with my buddy, Frank to Rockingham from Richmond, VA in March 1966 (it was actually March 13) for the inaugural, first, last andONLYPeach Blossom 500.

Frank and I were high school seniors at Richmond's Thomas Jefferson High School. However, we didn't drive to Rockingham. Instead, we headed on the ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME - boarding a special RACE TRAIN, running from Washington, DC and unloading on a siding directly across from the beautiful new speedway, billed by the track's PR department as the"Super Scenic Superspeedway Where the Fan is Always First!"

The race train was actually a collection of rail cars for race fans only, hitched to the back of a regularly scheduled Seaboard Airline Railroad (square wheeled special) train running the route to Florida made famous by the Orange Blossom Special. When we arrived at Richmond's Broad Street Station well before dawn on that March Sunday morning in 1966, the place was overflowing with race fans from Richmond, Hampton Roads and Norfolk/Chesapeake, as well as folks from western Virginia waiting to board the soldout race train to Rockingham. In those days, Virginia license plates outnumbered all others at most NASCAR races. Charlotte's Humpy Wheeler once said they'd have to close Charlotte Motor Speedway if the Virginia / North Carolina border were ever closed.

My buddy, Frank and I struck up a conversation with the three most interesting guys waiting to board with us. They turned out to be three NASA engineers assigned to the Wallop's Island, Virginia rocket launching station and were scheduled to assist with a rocket launch the very next morning! We noticed they had been partaking pretty heavily of liquid refreshment.

The race train included our train fare, race ticket and I believe also a box lunch. Originating in Washington, DC, the train picked up fans in Richmond, Petersburg and Raleigh. Before we got to the track, one of the NASA rocket engineers (a fellow named Otis) had retired to the overhead luggage bin. I'll never forget walking into the Rockingham track for the first time on that beautiful Sunday morning and seeing thestill new concrete grandstands glistening white in the bright sun (one of the few spring Sundays at Rockingham the sun would shine). It was quite a contrast to the rickety wooden bleachers we were used to at Richmond. The grass between pit road and the dogleg frontstretch was the greenest I have ever seen at any racetrack, as proved through the years on the 8 mm Kodak movie film I shot that day.

The prerace"Parade of Visiting Pace Cars"was spectacular - remember - no Winston or other sponsor "showcars" in those heady Grand National days. Every Grand National track, as well as every weekly track in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia had a pace car in that parade that was staged in Turn 4, overlooked by a huge Falstaff beer billboard (like the one at Darlington) that read, "Falstaff - The Winner". Man, this was the same Falstaff pitched by Dizzy Dean on the CBS Baseball Game of the Week. It didn't get any more real than that. Behind the parade of visiting pace cars came the most spectacular sight I ever witnessed at any racetrack.

It was the sight of the dropdead gorgeous Winky Louise -Miss Firebird- in her skintight, red spangled showgirl suit straddling a saddle on the the huge red Pure Oil Racing Gasoline Firebird float, her honeydew legs (forgive me, Tom Wolfe) stretched from the saddle to the Firebird's extended wings as she waved to the full house of good ole boys, including we two 17 year olds! We paid a visit to the restroom before Ray Melton's "Command" to start engines and saw Otis the NASA rocket engineer lying on the restroom floor in a particularly precarious area.

The race itself was the kind NASCAR could use today. Cale ran side by side for lap after lap in his red #27 Banjo Matthews Ford with Jim Paschal's maroon #14 Friedkin Enterprises Plymouth. In the end, however, it was old motorcycle champ Paul Goldsmith who wheeled his Ray Nichels hemi powered #99 Plymouth to victory. One of my greatest movie"shots"was at this race's conclusion when I somehow snuck under the flagstand and captured for eternity the sight of Tiny Lund's orange # 55 Ford passing just as the checkers were unfurled for Goldsmith. Waiting at the flagstand gate to cross to victory lane, almost rubbing against me, was Miss Firebird! What a wonderful end to a great day. That first Spring Rockingham race on the original low banked track configuration at the original 500 mile distance took 5 hours to run at an average speed of 100 mph. Qualifying speed, if I remember correctly, was in the 112-115 mph range.

Frank and I boarded the Seabord train at the siding just as darkness fell in the Sandhills for the ride back to Richmond. The NASA rocket engineers couldn't stand up and we couldn't imagine them driving back from Richmond to Wallop's Island for the rocket launching. We watched the news and scanned the papers to see if that rocket blew up on the pad, but never found out. That first trip to Rockingham was one of many wonderful ones to both spring and fall events. The following spring, in 1967, we again took the race train from Richmond to Rockingham. It was raining cats and dogs when we got there and they called the event at 9:00 am, due to the track's aprehension over potential low ticket sales.

There was no rain contingency plan, so the race train folks got the owner of the movie theater in Hamlet, NC to open it for the race fans on the train, since we couldn't return until that evening when the northbound Seabord train returned from Florida heading to New York. Of all things, the movie was an old Haley Mills flick! Imagine a bunch of imbibing good ole boys wanting to see a stock car race turned loose in a Haley Mills movie.

Frank and I drove back in June for the rain date makeup. Anyway, I loved all my trips to Rockingham - sunny and rainy, hot and cold. I had many memorable experiences there. I was one of only a few thousand who can say they saw the late, great Jim Clark of Scotland (Formula One World Champion and Indy 500 winner) make his only stock car start at Rockingham in the Holman-Moody #66 Ford. Arguably the greatest driver in the world, Clark accomplished his start in the days before guaranteed starting positions, in the days when you had to race your way in to the field. Quite a contrast to the good ole boys, but a heckuva racecar driver.

In 1973 a group of us from Wilson, NC took a pop-up camper to the spring Rockingham race and about froze. I have been rained on, snowed on and iced on at that spring Rockingham race. Sometime in the 70's my buddy, Frank became the sports guy on the Siler City, NC newspaper and starting getting us Rockingham pit passes. When I started managing the Wrangler Jeans NASCAR program with Dale Earnhardt driving, I always spent my time at Rockingham inside the track. Those were interesting years. One of my fondest memories of Rockingham is the food. The infield cafeteria there had the greatet food on the Grand National / Cup circuit. Everybody ate there. Earnhardt hated practice and one year at the Fall race intentionally crashed Bud Moore's #15 Ford in practice so he could go deer hunting. I thought Bud would kill him.

We usually stayed at the Sheraton on U.S. Route #1 around Southern Pines. I was driving the Wrangler Racing van back there from the track one afternoon when I was slammed into from behind and about wrecked, just as I was passed by a grinning, wavingEarnhardt behind the wheel of a Lincoln Towncar rental. Another thing I always liked about Rockingham was going over to Pinehurst at night to the Silver Bucket Oyster Bar. It was run by former Grand National driver, Raymond Williams - CAPTAIN AMERICA - and had the coldest beer on the circuit.

One strange occurrence I remember happening at Rockingham was Ned Jarrett setting off the fire extinguisher in his #11 Richmond Motor Company Ford and bringing out the caution flag in his final race.We had good times there and the racing at Rockingham was greaton both track configurations. Anyhow, please forgive one of the dinosaurs for rambling memories of Peach Blossoms in Rockingham, Labor Day Weekend parades in Darlington and Brushy Mountain Apple Festivals in Wilkesboro as I get ready to watch racing at another cookie cutter 1 1/2 - mile NASCAR venue -this time Las Vegas- yawn.....

Reply by Dave Fulton on March 7, 2011 at 10:50am

My buddy, Frank reminded me that he and I both appear in a race coverage photo of the second-ever issue of Stock Car Racing Magazine huddled under the flagstand as Goldsmith takes the '66 Rockingham Spring checkers! He has also challenged me to someday recount our Labor Day weekend Greyhound Bus trip from Richmond to the 1966 Southern 500 - our first trip to Darlington.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,092 posts

Link below to a good TMC-Chase post about "The King" missing the 1966 Peach Blossom 500:

http://racersreunion.com/community/forum/stock-car-racing-history/20761/1966-peach-blossom-500




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,092 posts

The Seaboard "Race Train" from Virginia to Rockingham's 1966 spring Peach Blossom 500 was so successful that a promotion was quicky put in place for a return train to the October 1966 American 500 as seen in the April 1966 piece below from the Spartanburg paper:

Here's the building below on West Broad Street in Richmond where we bought our Seaboard "Race Train" tickets for the 1966 Peach Blossom 500, as featured just this past week in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The first floor of that building had a Hot Shoppes Cafeteria where my family often ate.




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

Awesome report Dave! I should have just asked you to do the History Minute if I had remembered your post. But I am old and forgetful so please forgive me. And to think, we could have been friends for all these years and YOU blew it by becoming a racing bigshot!!!!!

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,092 posts




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,092 posts

Wonder how many times we passed by each other over the years? Bunches, I bet!




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,092 posts

You can see the sign for the Hot Shoppes Cafeteria where my family used to eat next door to the ticket office in Richmond's Seaboard Railroad Building where friend, Frank and bought our race train tickets to the March 13, 1966 Peach Blossom 500 at Rockingham.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,092 posts

ebay posting:




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,092 posts

I snapped this shot of Peach Blossom 500 winner, Paul Goldsmith's #99 Plymouth a year later in the Bristol infield after the March 1967 Southeastern 500:




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
last year
3,912 posts




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
8 months ago
3,912 posts

Bump




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.