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.
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:
|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