Today is the anniversary of one of The King's most vicious wrecks. Richard Petty pounded the inside wall during the Rebel 400. I'm sure many in the stands and along pit road that day thought he was gone. Fortunately - and a bit miraculously perhaps - Petty only suffered a dislocated shoulder & some bumps and bruises.
I've often wondered if Papa Lee gave Richard a verbal lashing for wrecking 3 racecars in that one weekend - once he learned he was going to be OK of course. :-)
I was sitting on the trunk of my car against the fence in turn four that day, shorts, no shirt and barefoot. As usual, my eyes were always on the 43. When it happened, I started running in the direction the car was flipping. Got to where it stopped and jumped on the back of a guy's pickup where 6 or 7 guys watching the race. I could see the crew trying to get him out. Watched in shock. Then the guy who owned the truck told me to "get the hell off his truck, I was bleeding all over it". I looked down and blood was pooling everywhere. I had apparently run over glass running barefoot. I got off the truck and walked over to where I could see the infield hospital. I stood at that fence the entire time. When they bought him out on the gurney to take him to the hospital, I could see that he was "ok" or as ok as you could be after that. I walked back to the car and we used my t-shirt to stop the bleeding and washed my foot off with water from the ice chest. I limped for a couple weeks from that cut. Was a deep one. Long time ago but the memory of that day makes my foot hurt even now.
I was there , in the stands just behind the flagstand towards turn one with three neighbor Chrysler diehard fans. I saw the first bump in the wall in turn 3 several laps before & noticed the damage on the Roadrunner's right side. I also noticed Richard fell off the pace for a few laps after that , then I saw him hit old turn 4's outside wall a hard lick . The car never slowed down as it careened into the inside pit road wall , knocking down a good 3-6 feet of it before beginning what I counted as 4 catty cornered flips back out into the track. Richard's head & left arm were outside the window from the centrifical force of the gyrations of the car. When the car came to rest upside down my friends were screaming bloody murder @ the sight of the wet rag that came out of Richard's mouth & was laying beside the car on the pavement beside his limp body. I inspected the scene with a pair of binoculars & realized the rags weren't his "brains" as my buddies were screaming. The man in the purple shirt is Buck Brigance of the Glotzbach crew. I could tell from his face that it wasn't as bad as my friends thought. Later on I saw Lee leaving the care center directly across the way from where I was & he had a slight smile on his face. I knew then Petty was OK. Later still, Hutch held up a pit sign to Pearson , as he passed, saying "RP OK". Bobby Isaac led a goodly portion of the rest of the race until he lost a tire in turn 2 & hit the wall. Pearson, won & I took $30.00 off my friends in a friendly wager. Dick Brooks was 2nd & Benny finished close behind in the #4 DeWitt car , after several spins during the day. I went home relieved. A few weeks later I got a famous autograph from Richard on a poster of him with a Superbird with Wix Filters on it @ a Chrysler Plymouth Dealership on Albemarle Rd & Independence Blvd. He still had his arm in a sling but the man was delightful as ever . Tuff day that could have been a bad one. I lost the poster in a custody dispute with my now infamous ex 1st wife. She most likely sold it @ a later yard sale for loose change. I began a long & very profitable experience of giving anyone who wanted to wager with me the same deal I had offered my friends that day, by "taking David Pearson & giving them the field". I did very , very well in Darlington events thru 1980 with him & made a mint on CMS Pole days for 7 straight years. I never bet on Richard. I should have. Opportunities missed , oh well. !!!!!!!!!
I well remember ole Buck Brigance. He worked for Radiator Specialty on Wilkinson Boulevard in Charlotte and had raced motorcycles with Dick Beatty. One of the classic stories in all of racing is about the wreck Dick & Buck had near South Boston, Virginia driving back to Charlotte after racing motorcycles on the Richmond dirt half-mile.
Dick's nose was cut off and when Buck hollared from the weeds asking Dick if he could see his motorcycle anywhere, Dick hollared back asking Buck if he could see his nose anywhere. Two passing nurses from Rex Hospital in Raleigh helped in getting Dick's nose reattached.
Buck's daughter, Darlene worked in the Marketing Dept. at CMS. The late Buck usually wore one of those Dick Bergerenn-type "go-to-hell" caps. He was a funny guy who was as round as he was tall. He worked a little around the Bull Frog knits deal in the early 80s.
Of course the big deal to come out of that vicious wreck was the mandatory driver side window net in all cars.
The wreck also brought to light the fact, as you pointed out above, that Richard chewed and sucked on a shop rag while driving. Many observers thought he was bleeding from the mouth at the conclusion of the crash, but they were seeing the shop rag in his mouth.
Jim, I have to know. Did you ever get the RP Superbird poster replaced. I goggled it and there's several listed for sale from 1970 and 1971. With The King still around I sure hope you got it replaced with a signed replacement.
No Bill, I never did get it replaced. I kinda got in the habit later of not becoming attached to such stuff. When I used to, some folks went out of their way to relieve me of pocession of them for one reason or another. Hell, one of them on line for sale could be the one I lost. I'm a little long in the tooth to even think about those things now. LOL !!!!!!!!!!
That's pretty funny Jim. I'm not much of a gambling man beyond driving in rush hour traffic. But one year at Talladega as the green was about to unfurl, one of my 2 buds elbowed me. I'd already put on my headphones & was getting my scanner set. He said "who ya got?" I asked what he meant. "Twenty bucks - who ya got? Top finish from the 3 of us gets the pot." Apparently I was the 3rd of the 3 of us to choose. I asked who they had.
While I don't remember their picks, I remember who had NOT been picked. So I shouted as the green waved "Seriously? You're gonna let me take Earnhardt vs. the field?" They nodded so I took the black 3. With a couple of laps to go, they had their hand out & smiles on their faces figuring one of them was about to lift a Jackson off me. But I pointed to the track & said "Not yet. Watch." Yep, this was the 2000 fall Dega race and Earnhardt's last win. I'm the one who took great delight in pocketing $40 from the two of them.
Jim... here's photos of Buck Brigance and Dick Beatty on their motorcycles at Richmond from the book The Racer's Book - photos and captions by Eddie Boomhower. I'm guessing the Jimmie Lewter in the photo with Buck Brigance is the famed James Lewter, NASCAR Copenhagen/Skoal All-Star machinist who recently passed??
Photos taken at Richmond half-mile dirt track at Strawberry Hill.
A PIECE OF MOTORCYCLE HISTORY THIS PICTURE IS REALLY A PIECE OF MOTORCYCLE HISTORY IN RICHMOND IN THE LATE FORTIES. LEFT TO RIGHT BUCK BRIGANCE, LEO ANTHONY, BILL HARLEY, JIMMIE CHANN, JIMMIE LEWTER, BILLY HUBER AND HANK SYVERTSEN (H-D RACING ENGINEER THAT PRECEDED DICK O’BRIEN) THESE WERE ALL FACTORY GUNS AT THE TIME. BUCK BRIGANCE WAS FROM CHARLOTTE NC, LEO ANTHONY FROM PORT HURON, MI, JIMMIE CHANN FROM NEW JERSEY, JIMMMIE LEWTER FROM CHARLOTTE, AN ACE RACE MECHANIC, AND LAST, HANK SYVERTSEN WHO CALLED ALLTHE SHOTS IN THE RACING DEPT OF HARLEY DAVIDSON. BILL HARLEY WAS THE SECOND GENERATION OF HARLEYS,AND HE WAS CHIEF ENGINEER FOR HARLEY DAVIDSON
DICK BEATTY AMA NATIONAL #46
DICK WAS FROM CHARLOTTE, N.C. HE WAS ONE OF THE TOUGHEST RACERS I EVER KNEW. HE WAS BRUTAL ON EQUIPMENT. HE WAS SO POWERFUL THAT IT WAS NOT UNCOMMON FOR HIM TO BREAK FRAMES THROWING THE BIKE IN A CORNER. DICK RODE FOR THE TRIUMPH CORPORATION IN TOWSON MARYLAND. HE DECIDED WITH THE HELP OF DOUG CREECH IN CHARLOTTE TO GIVE A KR A TRY. TRY AS HE COULD IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO RIDE IT. DICK EVEN WENT TO SUCH EXTREMES AS TO CHANGE THE FORK BACK TO A WR FRONT END AND STILL DIDN’T WORK AND HE GAVE UP RACING AND BECAME THE COMPETITION DIRECTOR FOR NASCAR. THE KR THAT I RODE WAS PURCHASED FROM DICK. ONE NIGHT WHEN DICK AND BUCK BRIGANCE WERE LEAVING RICHMOND THEY CENTER PUNCHED A LADY AT THE INTERSECTION OF RT.1 AND RT.58. THEY WERE IN A FORDWOODIE AND IT WOUND UP A PILE OF KINDLING WOOD. IT WAS PITCHBLACK AND BUCK YELLED “ DICK, HELP ME FIND MY WALLET” DICK SAID“TO HELL WITH YOU, HELP ME FIND MY NOSE”. THEY FOUND THE NOSE, PUT HIM IN AN AMBULANCE AND RUSHED HIM 80 MILES TO THE MEDICAL COLLEGE IN RICHMOND WHERE THEY REATTACHED THE NOSE AND TOLD HIM TO BE VERY CAREFUL TO NOT BRUISE IT. THE NEXT WEEKEND HE SHOWED UP AT THE TRACK WITH TWO STRAWS IN HIS NOSE AND RACED. REALLY A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW.
Lewter was a Holman Moody alum & last worked for Robert Yates , far as I know. He was friends with Buck Newsom , Rick's Dad & Lil' Joe back in the day with Dick & Buck Brigance & a man who became a Nascar inspector , taking the win away from the winner of the first Nascar event here in Charlotte in '49, for illeagal spring modification, Al Chrysler. Al went own to become a Piedmont Airlines Captian & owned the land with the metal building on it that became the home of Holman Moody in '66. These guys lives were so intertwined & connected that it would take a fair spell to undo them . You got them all mentioned now, aside from the late Lee Smith who ran old Carpenter's Airport on Hwy 160 & Westinghouse Blvd. He actually ran the old AMA , & started out on his road to being a multi - millionaire riding a "Motor" to service his first penny nickel gum ball machines . His empire grew to the point that he had all the vending rights to 12 , I believe it was, southeastern states for such buisness. He made his money a penny @ a time. He also contributed to children's charities in those states like giving a precent of the profits from each machine he had to that state's mental retardation foundations @ about a 30% clip. There are so many of these old guys, all gone now, who did so much for motorsports that it is almost unbelievable to me. What a time to live in & what a bunch to be around.
I am especially fond of the memory of Al Chrysler keeping a Honda "Cub 50" in my Dad's Maintenance shop beside Piedmont Operations in the old Charlotte Terminal. When he flew in to town @ the end of his flight tour, Al would always arrive on a late flight . He would come in Dad's & get his little Honda uncovered . Dad would lookout the door into the Terminal & give him the all clear. Al would crank the little motorcycle & ride out into the main lobby then out the automatic front doors & head the few miles home in Steeleberry Acres. Dick Beaty & Josh Birmingham would come screaming out of their upstairs offices & try to catch him. They never did. What a bunch . My memories are many. & just the best most fun anyone could have.
Thanks, Jim for the behind the scenes peek.
Jim, What some wonderful memories. Sure sounded like a great bunch of guys to be friends with and hang out with. Thanks for sharing.