July 31, 1977: Benny Parsons Gets Serious at Pocono

TMC Chase
4 years ago
3,985 posts

In February 1975, the Winston Cup Series 1973 Champion Benny Parsons claimed a popular if unexpected victory in the Daytona 500. He and his L.G. DeWitt had to be excited about the prospects of a successful season. Instead, the team didnt win again the rest of the year. In 1976, the 72 team claimed victory only twice once each at Nashville and Dover. And through the seventh month of 1977, Parsons and Company had only another Nashville trophy to show for the season.

Meanwhile, King Richard had a head of steam. In mid July, Petty finished third in the Nashville 420. The race before Nashville, he won the Firecracker 400 at Daytona the third win in his last four starts and fifth overall in 1977. After a so-so 1976, the 43 team looked like it was ready to tangle with anyone for another championship quite the opposite of Parsons season.

The Cup teams headed for Pocono for the Coca-Cola 500 on July 31, 1977. The up-and-comer hot shoe and loud mouth driver of the DiGard Gatorade, Darrell Waltrip, won the pole.

Waltrips perennial nemesis from the southern short tracks and later for Cup championships, Bobby Allison, qualified second in his self-owned, Coca-Cola AMC Matador. David Pearson timed 3rd in the legendary Wood Brothers Mercury. Parsons and Petty started 4th and 5th, respectively.

Source:RIS Photography

The race was an atypical Pocono event with lots of lead changes. Throughout the race, drivers generally led a single-digit number of laps before surrending it to someone else. The one notable exception to that generalization was Parsons. On a couple of occasions, he was able to lead stretches of 17 and 25 laps. Plus, when other drivers surrendered their short-lived leads, it was often to Benny.

Though Parsons team was able to keep him near the front, an element of doubt had to be in their minds. A race earlier, the 72 was in a position to win again at Nashville. Instead, an embarassing pit miscue resulted in tires falling off the car because of missing lugnuts.

With about 30 laps to go, Parsons well executed pit stops during the day benefited him. He got the lead again and built a reasonably comfortable 2 second margin on the 43 of Petty. With the checkers in sight, Petty found another gear in his STP Dodge Charger and began narrowing the gap.

Finally as Benny saw the checkered flag through his windshield, he waved his hand out the window to celebrate a win even though the 43 was only a couple of car lengths behind him and still closing.

Janet Guthrie finished a respectable 11th matching her best finish at that point of her limited Cup career.

With the monkey off Parsons back, the team went on to win twice more in 1977. Few, however, could have predicted how the Kings remaining season would unfold. Despite winning five times in the first half of the season, a third and second at Nashville and Pocono in July, and a 2nd place finish in the points to Cale Yarborough the 43 would not win again the rest of the season. Nor would he win in 1978. In a pattern that loosely resembled Parsons drought, the 43 wouldnt find its way to victory lane again until February 1979 at Daytona.

Audio of MRNs coverage of the race is available on-line at MotorRacingNetwork.com here or through iTunes:


Race reports

Fin Driver Sponsor / Owner Car
1 Benny Parsons 1st National City Travelers Checks (L.G. DeWitt) Chevrolet
2 Richard Petty STP (Petty Enterprises) Dodge
3 Darrell Waltrip Gatorade (DiGard) Chevrolet
4 Bobby Allison 1st National City Travelers Checks (Bobby Allison) Matador
5 Dick Brooks Truxmore (Junie Donlavey) Ford
6 Cale Yarborough Holly Farms (Junior Johnson) Chevrolet
7 Ricky Rudd Al Rudd Auto Parts (Al Rudd) Chevrolet
8 Skip Manning 1st National City Travelers Checks (Billy Hagan) Chevrolet
9 Butch Hartman Hartman Autocar (Butch Hartman) Chevrolet
10 James Hylton Hylton Engineering (James Hylton) Chevrolet
11 Janet Guthrie Kelly Girl (Lynda Ferreri) Chevrolet
12 Kenny Brightbill Makar Enterprises (Jim Makar) Mercury
13 Tighe Scott Scotty's Fashions (Walter Ballard) Chevrolet
14 J.D. McDuffie J.D. McDuffie Chevrolet
15 Buddy Arrington Buddy Arrington Dodge
16 Ed Negre Ed Negre Dodge
17 Richard Childress Kansas Jack (Richard Childress) Chevrolet
18 Joe Mihalic Joe Mihalic Chevrolet
19 Frank Warren Native Tan (Frank Warren) Dodge
20 Jimmy Means Means Racing (Bill Gray) Chevrolet
21 Cecil Gordon Cecil Gordon Chevrolet
22 Baxter Price Baxter Price Chevrolet
23 Nestor Peles Steve Peles Chevrolet
24 Dick May McClure Motors (Alfred McClure) Ford
25 Tommy Gale Sunny King Ford & Honda (Elmo Langley) Ford
26 Jocko Maggiacomo Jocko's Racing (Jocko Maggiacomo) Matador
27 Buddy Baker Norris Industries (Bud Moore) Ford
28 David Pearson Purolator (Wood Brothers) Mercury
29 Greg Heller Heller Triangle Spring (Greg Heller) Ford
30 Gary Myers Hicks Pharmacy (Gary Myers) Chevrolet
31 Roland Wlodyka Rod Osterlund Chevrolet
32 Sam Sommers M.C. Anderson Chevrolet
33 Ronnie Thomas Don Robertson Chevrolet
34 D.K. Ulrich J.R. DeLotto Chevrolet
35 Earle Canavan Earle Canavan Dodge

Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
TMC Chase
4 months ago
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Benny Bump

Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.