Our History Minute today takes us to a high-banked half mile paved track known as Augusta Speedway. This jewel of racing was located just outside of Augusta, Georgia and had a record of holding some really great races. As the 25 cars checked in to compete for 200 laps/100 miles in the "Cracker 200" (a reference to "Georgia Crackers",not crumbly eatables), fans were anticipating another great show.
Richard Petty showed up at the track wearing a patch over one eye as though he should be sailing the "bounding main" rather than ready to race for 200 laps. He had injured his eye in an accident at the Petty shop and was told by the doctors it was necessary to keep the eye covered for a period of time. Even with all the passage of time it has never been even hinted at that the eye injury was the result of Petty switching to Ford for the '69 season and was assaulted by a Ford hating Petty fan!
Bobby Isaac won the pole for the event in the K&K Insurance Dodge at a speed of 86.901 mph. "One-eyed" Petty would start second in his Petty Ford, David Pearson third in the Holman-Moody Ford, Dave Marcis fourth in the Milt Lunda Dodge, and James Hylton in his own Dodge started fifth.
There were only two leaders in the race, with Bobby Isaac leading the first 119 circuits before Pearson took over on pit stops and led the remaining 81 laps.Isaac had a rough pit stop, taking 28 seconds to change 2 outside tires as the crew had difficulty with the change. As soon as Bobby returned to the track, NASCAR showed him the black flag because his gas cap was loose. By the time the pitting disaster was concluded, Bobby was almost two laps behind. Bobby went on the rampage with the rapid redDodge and made up the time to get back on the lead lap before the event was over but he could not catch Pearson and Petty.
There was only one caution flag, but it consumed 10 laps of the race. There were 5,100 fans in attendance, a disappointing crowd for the usually competitive racing at the track. Pearson averaged 77.586 mph for the win.
1. David Pearson, Holman-Moody Ford, $1,200.00
2. Richard Petty, Petty Enterprises Ford, $600.00
3. Bobby Isaac, K&K Insurance Dodge, $400.00
4. James Hylton, Hylton Dodge, $350.00 (4 laps down)
5. John Sears, L.G. DeWitt Ford, $325.00 (5 laps down)
6. Neil Castles
7. Dick Johnson
8. Don Biederman
9. Ed Negre
10. Bill Seifert
11.E. J. Trivette
12. Henley Gray
13. Ben Arnold
14. Wendell Scott
15. Pete Hazelwood
16. Dick Poling
17. Earl Brooks
18. Cecil Gordon
19. Jabe Thomas
20. Walson Gardner
21. Bill Champion
22. J. D. McDuffie
23. Dave Marcis
24. Roy Tyner
25. Elmo Langley
PERSONAL NOTE: Back in those days, most race fans were as adamant about the kind of car they supported as they were about the driver. I was that way about my Mopars. My Uncle Bobby, the man who got me into racing at a young age, had brought me up to believe the only the lowest form of life on the planet drove Fords. He used to say the only reason snakes didn't drive Fords was because they didn't have hands or paws to hold the steering wheel. On November 26, 1968, when Petty announced he would be in a Ford for the 1969 season, I would have lowered my flag to half-staff if I had had a flag pole outside my home then. It was a black day for me and so many of Richard's fans. I didn't turn against Richard, per se, but I thought he had defected to the dark side. He obviously saw the light and returned to the Mopar camp the next year.
For those reasons, I did not attend the race in Augusta. In fact, the ONLY two Grand National races I attended in 1969 were the two at Columbia Speedway. It is sort of written in the South Carolina Code of Laws that a race was not allowed to start at Columbia Speedway until I was in the infield.
Fortunately, for me, I learned over the years that I could accept Richard driving whatever was competitive because it was more important to me for HIM to be winning races than any specific brand of car. I'm pleased I learned that lesson because I was able to continue pulling for Richard until he retired. Now that his team is a Ford team is not an issue. After all, the Mopars aren't racing these days and the cars are all mandated by NASCAR to be the same so what's the big deal?
Later in the year of 1969, I would start racing myself, first at Columbia Speedway on a Thursday evening in August and then my second race was at the same Augusta track where this History Minute race took place. My race was on a Saturday night, just two days after my first start. I started in fourth place for the feature, slipped by the first and second place cars coming off turn two on the first lap and led seven laps of my second feature race. Finished third that night as I recall.
The Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society holds an event at the site of the old Augusta tracks (including the road course where Fireball won his last race in November, 1963), usually in late August or early September. It is always an event filled with memories as the Friday night induction into their Hall of Fame brings some well remembered names to enjoy an evening together. The Saturday event is filled with race cars, heroes of the past, and more bench racing that most fans can handle. Always a great time.
Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future
updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM