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Early Sixties Match Race Attraction: NASCAR Drivers

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Early Sixties Match Race Attraction: NASCAR Drivers.

by Marvin T. Smith

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!

Table 1. 

Date Track Match Results

5-5-63 YR Fireball Roberts appearance
6-2-63 YR Fireball Roberts vs. Dyno Don Nicholson; best 3 of 5
6-14-63 YR Lorenzen 63 Ford vs. Jr. Johnson 427 Chevy
7-7-63 Forsyth County Lorenzen vs, Jr. Johnson 2 of 3 for $1200. Jr. in Huston Platt's Z-11 Chevy beat Lorenzen in Phil Bonner's Galaxie two straight with a best of 12.52 114.68 (Drag News 7-20-63).
8-17-63 SEID Fireball Roberts appearance
8-18-63 YR Fireball Roberts vs. Dyno Don Nicholson Nicholson won.
4-3-64 YR Parnelli Jones vs. Phil Bonner
5-16-64 SEID Lorenzen vs. Arnie Beswick 2 of 3
6-5-64 YR Lorenzen (Fairlane) vs. Petty (64 Plymouth hemi)
9-12-64 YR Wendell Scott vs. Arnie Beswick (Blown GTO)
2-28-65 SEID Richard Petty vs. Arnie Beswick (Blown GTO) Petty crashed into the crowd, fatally injuring a spectator.
3-28-65 SEID Lee Roy Yarbrough (Dodge) vs. Dyno Don (Comet) Dyno won two straight; set track record at 10.51.
4-65 A.S.S. Cotton Owens Dart appeared.
5?-65 Cumming Petty vs. Curtis Turner (in Hubert Platt's Falcon) Petty won two straight; set low e.t. 10.73.
10-10-65 YR Nicholson vs. Petty vs. Beswick. Dyno won two straight over both Petty and Beswick; set track record at 9.68 145 . (Drag News vol. 11, no. 24).
11?-65 SEID Cotton Owens, Darel Dierenger (Comet), Fred Lorenzen (Fairlane) Owens wins when Lorenzen breaks an axle in the final run. Low e.t. Lorenzen 11.04
5-1-66 YR "Beat Petty; win a grand" Pete Seaton (66 Chevelle) beats Petty two straight.

YR = Yellow River; SEID = Southeastern International Dragway, Dallas; A.S.S.= Atlanta Speed Shop Dragway, Covington, GA.


Drag News
Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitition daily newspapers.
Interview with Phil Bonner (1990)
Interview with Arnie Beswick (2002)

Thanks to Joel Naprstek for help with results.

Marvin T. Smith
Sociology and Anthropology
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, GA 31698

(Also, see Photos by Marvin T. Smith in our Photo Gallery.)