I think the 1982 Richmond 400 might be the strangest race weekend I recall.
Following the previous weekend's Daytona 500, Richmond would be the first short track test and plenty of drama unfolded before the cars took to the track.
Race day was Sunday, February 21, with qualifying scheduled for Friday, February 19 at Paul Sawyer's 1/2-mile asphalt Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway layout.
The day before the Richmond track opened, the race world was rocked by a drug scandal that saw a number of racers arrested in a Florida Federal drug sting. One of the arrested was Rahmoc Winston Cup driver, Gary Balough.
Balough made bail and was allowed to join his team to compete at Richmond.
However, Friday morning in Richmond dawned with heavy snow amid the usual frigid February temperatures. It was obvious there'd be no practice or qualifying on Friday.
Sitting on the Virginia State Fairgrounds, the Richmond track was surrounded by a number of large fair exhibition buildings. Arrangements were made to use several of these buildings as an indoor garage and inspection station for NASCAR to get everyone out of the snow.
Do you remember how the Blues Brothers were dressed in the movie of the same name? Well, all day on Friday, a number of guys in suits roamed the premises inside those two exhibit buildings where the cars were being worked on and inspected. The center of their universe seemed to be the Rahmoc car and its transporter.
Believe me, a bunch of guys in suits and sunglasses in the Richmond NASCAR compound on a snowy day in 1982 stood out like a sore thumb. We all kept whispering and waiting for something exciting to develop, but nothing did... at least, not on Friday. Somebody did sprinkle the contents of a Goodys Headache Powder wrapper on the hood of the Bob Rahilly & Butch Mock owned Pontiac.
The track crew worked furiously on Saturday morning to remove snow and ice and prepare the track for qualifying. When the qualifying round concluded, Darrell Waltrip had put his #11 Junior Johnson built Mountain Dew Buick on the pole with a lap at 93.256 mph.
Morgan Shepherd captured the outside front row position in the #98 Ron Benfield owned Levi Garrett Buick and Benny Parsons, winner of the last Richmond race, was third in Harry Ranier's #28 Pontiac.
A sellout crowd was on hand on a soon to turn nasty Sunday for the main event.
When the green flag dropped, it was roller skater Morgan Shepherd on the outside of the front row who beat DW back to the line to lead lap one and the following 29. It would be a competitive day with 11 lead changes up to lap 246 of the scheduled 400. That's when it began to rain.
All the lead lap cars immediately headed to the pits - except for one. Dave Marcis, driving for himself in his #71 independent Chevy stayed out and assumed the lead. Running under the yellow the rain soon became a frigid monsoon. The race was red flagged on lap 250 with Marcis in the lead and never restarted. The win would be the final trip to victory lane for the native of Wausau, Wisconsin.
Snow, drugs, ice, rain and the final Winston Cup win by one of NASCAR's most popular drivers. It was indeed a dramatic weekend on the NASCAR circuit.
From the pages of National Speed Sport News, here's a recap of the drug bust:
Black Thursday Saw Racers Arrested In Drug Ring
by Keith Waltz
Feb. 18, 1982, was identified as Black Thursday in the pages of National Speed Sport News as five prominent members of the South Florida auto-racing community, including NASCAR Winston Cup driver Gary Balough, were indicted on drug-trafficking charges.
The five were among 66 people charged in what FBI agents described as a multi-million dollar drug ring stretching from Florida to North Carolina. The indictments followed a long probe of alleged drug smuggling and other illegal activities among the Bahamas, several foreign countries and the Carolinas.
Other racing figures charged were Billie Harvey, Bruce Pee Wee Griffin, Herbert Tillman and Pete Pistone.
The FBI opened its investigation of Griffin in 1980 and agents identified Harvey and Griffin as the kingpins of the operation. FBI Agent Joe Corless said the drug ring had been making $300 million a year in profits since 1976.
The FBI confiscated approximately $6.5 million in property, including a 400-acre ranch in Floridas Broward County and a marina in Dania, Fla. Marijuana, rifles, pistols and shotguns were also seized.
FBI Special Agent Welton Merry said the ring consisted of four groups that imported and distributed at least a million pounds of marijuana a year. These people are the beginning of the octopus, Merry said.
According to the FBI, evidence showed that some of the suspects used their race cars to transport narcotics to other states.
Balough was released from a Miami jail on $100,000 bond and drove the No. 75 Rahmoc Racing Buick in that weekends Winston Cup race in Richmond, Va. Ironically; he was involved in an early accident and finished last in the 32-car field.
Id like to say a few things, but my lawyer says not to, Balough told reporters at the track. Maybe when its all over, Ill make some comments.
Others in the garage area said the publicity surrounding the arrests gave racing a black eye.
Chris Economakis column in the Feb. 24 issue of NSSN included: The unfortunate headlines of last week concerning a few racing insiders caught up in a drug investigation is another slap in the face for our sport. Unlike the moonshiners of the 30s and 40s who broke an unpopular law, drugs, particularly the hard ones, are a cancer on the American scene. Papers that wouldnt carry a race result if the mayor of their city won at Indy, bannered the racing connection of the drug story.
# # #
If you're interested in detailed information here is a pdf file link to the U.S. Attorney General's file on the matter:
1982 Richmond 400
NASCAR Winston Cup race number 2 of 30
|Fin||St||#||Driver||Sponsor / Owner||Car||Laps||Money||Status||Led||Points|
|1||6||71||Dave Marcis||J.D. Stacy ( Dave Marcis )||Chevrolet||250||19,145||running||5||180|
|2||15||43||Richard Petty||STP ( Petty Enterprises )||Pontiac||250||16,325||running||1||175|
|3||3||28||Benny Parsons||J.D. Stacy ( Harry Ranier )||Pontiac||250||15,475||running||120||175|
|4||8||15||Dale Earnhardt||Wrangler Jeans ( Bud Moore )||Ford||250||10,960||running||1||165|
|5||10||44||Terry Labonte||J.D. Stacy ( Billy Hagan )||Chevrolet||249||6,330||running||0||155|
|6||5||50||Joe Millikan||Performance Connection ( Cliff Stewart )||Pontiac||249||8,635||running||0||150|
|7||21||21||Neil Bonnett||National Engineering ( Wood Brothers )||Ford||249||2,970||running||0||146|
|8||13||88||Bobby Allison||Gatorade ( DiGard )||Chevrolet||249||6,910||running||0||142|
|9||9||47||Ron Bouchard||J.D. Stacy ( Jack Beebe )||Buick||249||7,710||running||0||138|
|10||2||98||Morgan Shepherd||Levi Garrett ( Ron Benfield )||Buick||248||2,010||running||31||139|
|11||17||12||Tommy Ellis||Industrial Boiler ( Tommy Ellis )||Chevrolet||248||1,610||running||0||130|
|12||20||9||Bill Elliott||Melling Tool ( Harry Melling )||Ford||247||1,590||running||0||127|
|13||18||90||Jody Ridley||J.D. Stacy ( Junie Donlavey )||Ford||246||7,570||running||0||124|
|14||23||67||Buddy Arrington||Buddy Arrington||Dodge||245||3,850||running||0||121|
|15||4||2||Joe Ruttman||J.D. Stacy ( Jim Stacy )||Buick||244||4,395||crash||78||123|
|16||24||97||Bob Schacht||Test Tube ( Bob Schacht )||Oldsmobile||244||1,285||running||0||115|
|17||26||48||Slick Johnson||Palatine Auto Parts ( James Hylton )||Pontiac||244||3,285||running||0||112|
|18||32||52||Jimmy Means||Broadway Motors ( Jimmy Means )||Chevrolet||244||3,080||running||0||109|
|19||22||17||Lake Speed||Kings Inn ( Roger Hamby )||Buick||244||2,975||running||0||106|
|20||16||42||Kyle Petty||STP ( Petty Enterprises )||Pontiac||243||2,890||running||0||103|
|21||31||64||Tommy Gale||Sunny King ( Elmo Langley )||Ford||242||2,645||running||0||100|
|22||14||3||Ricky Rudd||Piedmont Airlines ( Richard Childress )||Pontiac||242||2,450||running||0||97|
|23||27||70||J.D. McDuffie||Mack's Stores ( J.D. McDuffie )||Pontiac||241||2,095||running||0||94|
|24||30||24||Lennie Pond||Washington Freightliner ( Cecil Gordon )||Buick||239||2,060||running||0||91|
|25||29||40||Tommy Houston||Midlothian Texaco ( D.K. Ulrich )||Buick||238||875||running||0||88|
|26||12||02||Mark Martin||Apache Stove ( Bud Reeder )||Pontiac||210||1,340||running||0||85|
|27||1||11||Darrell Waltrip||Mountain Dew ( Junior Johnson )||Buick||206||10,905||running||14||87|
|28||28||92||Joe Fields||Richmond Printing ( Joe Fields )||Buick||190||770||running||0||79|
|29||19||6||D.K. Ulrich||D.K. Ulrich||Buick||169||1,235||engine||0||76|
|30||7||33||Harry Gant||7-Eleven / Skoal Bandit ( Hal Needham )||Buick||138||1,200||engine||0||73|
|31||25||37||Tom Sneva||Simoniz ( Bob Rogers )||Buick||94||1,225||rear end||0||70|
|32||11||75||Gary Balough||Sanyo ( RahMoc Enterprises )||Buick||42||1,200||crash||0||67|
* Race shortened to 250 laps due to rain.
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
updated by @dave-fulton: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM