Racing History Minute - March 22, 1964

TMC Chase
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The Grand National teams rolled into the mountains of East Tennessee for the 4th annual Southeastern 500 at Bristol on March 22, 1964. The race was the 10th of the season - explainable by the fact the 1964 season started in November 1963, the teams still raced at Riverside in January, and the Daytona qualifying twins were official races in that era.

1964 Bristol SE500 ebay.jpg

1964 Bristol SE500 ticket.jpg

The season already had several storylines. Dan Gurney predictably won on Riverside's road course. The future King, Richard Petty, dropped jaws everywhere with his dominating performance at Daytona and newly unveiled racing Hemi. Wendell Scott became the first black driver to win a NASCAR GN - though that storyline was denied immediately following the race. And short track superstars David Pearson and Ned Jarrett each pocketed a win. 

One driver who had NOT created a storyline for himself - at least in a positive way - was Fred Lorenzen. After banking 6 wins and 21 Top 5s in 1963, Lorenzen was still winless heading into Bristol. He had, however, won the previous race at the track - the 1963 Volunteer 500.

Despite the Mopar team's dominance at Daytona and Pearson's Dodge win at Richmond, the Fords roared back in qualifying at Bristol. Marvin Panch won the pole in the Wood Brothers Ford. Lorenzen and Fireball Roberts (winner of the 1963 Southeastern 500) claimed the next 2 starting spots in team Holman Moody Fords. Petty broke up the blue oval qualifiers by timing 4th. The remaining 8 spots were filled in the first day of qualifying.

1964 Bristol SE500 qualifying 032164SHJ.png

The next round of 12 starters were set by a 2nd round of qualifying. The remainder of the field was set by the finishing order of a 20-lap qualifying race. Nothing over the 2 rounds of qualifying, however, changed the perception that the Ford was the brand to beat that weekend.

1964 Bristol SE500 preview 032264SHJ.png

1964 Bristol SE500 lineup 032264SHJ.png

In 2014, Bristol's website posted a blog entry to accompany this picture of the pre-race drivers' meeting.

Left to right you'll see Lee Roy Yarbrough in the white jacket looking away, Buddy Baker in the hoodie, and Johnny Allen next to Buddy. Darel Dieringer with sunglasses & a popped collar is next to Allen. Next to Dieringer and looking at the ground is Fireball Roberts. Fireball's head is blocking the view of David Pearson in white pants standing next to the trailer. Next to Pearson and behind the guy with the hat is the pole winner Panch. And next to Panch in the dark jacket and tugging at the neck of it is Paul Goldsmith. Quite the picture.

1964 Bristol SE500 drivers meeting BMSblog.png

Also in 2014, Marty Smith included this great photo of his dad at the race standing next to Lorenzen's pearl white 28 Ford. He found the photo as he sifted through a bunch of attic treasures that had belonged to his grandmother.

1964 Bristol SE500 Marty Smith dad.png

At the drop of the green, Panch led the first few laps. The first caution then fell when Richard Petty and Ned Jarrett tangled. Petty Enterprises 2nd team car driven by Buck Baker was nearly caught up in the spin as well as shown in this pic shared by RR member Michael Allman.

1964 Bristol SE500 Petty Ned Baker michaelallman.jpg

Both Petty and Jarrett were able to continue, and both ended the day with top 10 finishes.

Rather than type a recap of the remainder of the race, I'll include this excerpt from Michael Clements' book, The Crew Chief's Son: A Trackside Memoir of Early NASCAR.

1964 Bristol SE500 Clements.png

Lorenzen dominated the rest of the way after surrendering the first few early laps to Panch and captured his second consecutive Bristol win. He'd extend the winning streak to three when he nabbed that summer's Volunteer 500 when King Richard broke with just a couple of laps to go. Link to my blog post about that race:

Victory Lane pic from Getty Images

1964 Bristol SE500 Lorenzen Vaughn getty141709535.png

Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 03/22/17 10:14:31PM
TMC Chase
6 months ago
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Bristol bump

Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.