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Early Sixties Match Race Attraction: NASCAR Drivers
Early Sixties Match Race Attraction: NASCAR Drivers.
In the early sixties, a big match race attraction in the Atlanta area was to pair up a NASCAR star in a Super Stock match race against one of Atlanta's top drag racers or occasionally against a second NASCAR star. According to Arnie Beswick, the strip promoters would arrange for a NASCAR star to drive a local car. These cars were provided by Phil Bonner, Dyno Don Nicholson, Hubert Platt, or Huston Platt. Following the NASCAR ban on the Chrylser Hemi in 1965, some NASCAR stars built their own drag machines.
The most famous of these was Richard Petty's 43 Jr. (also known as Outlawed) hemi Barracuda. Cotton Owens also build a Dodge Dart station wagon for drag racing.
Searching through the Atlanta newspapers yielded advertisements for seventeen such races in the period between May 5, 1963 and May 1, 1966 (Table 1). These races took place most often at Yellow River Dragstrip or Southeastern International Dragway in Dallas, but were also staged at Cumming and Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway. Typical of the era, there are advertisements for these races, but results were rarely printed in the Atlanta Newspapers. NASCAR stars involved include Fireball Roberts, Fred Lorenzen, Parnelli Jones, Wendell Scott, Richard Petty, Lee Roy Yarbrough, Cotton Owens, Curtis Turner, Jr. Johnson, and Darel Dierenger. These races were sometimes held on a Friday night, an unusual time for drag racing in the Atlanta tracks. Apparently this schedule allowed the NASCAR stars to race elsewhere on Saturday and/or Sunday.
Phil Bonner often provided a Ford 63 Galaxie or 64 Thunderbolt for these match races when a Ford NASCAR star was involved. Bonner actually had a second car used for these match races, sponsored by LaFayette Ford, although his own car was sometimes used. In a 1990 interview, Bonner stated that Fireball Roberts was the best of the roundy-round boys he worked with, as he was willing to listen and take instruction. Apparently, the Atlanta area drag racers had little to fear from the NASCAR stars when they raced. They virtually always beat the NASCAR racers. But then, we didn't see any drag racers jump into the Daytona 500 either.
I would love to find additional results of these races, and photos!
Date Track Match Results
5-5-63 YR Fireball Roberts appearance
YR = Yellow River; SEID = Southeastern International Dragway, Dallas; A.S.S.= Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway, Covington, GA.
Thanks to Joel Naprstek for help with results.
Marvin T. Smith