OUTLAWED!-#7 In a Series of 12
Unlike British royalty that starts at birth, no one expected that tall lanky kid from Level Cross to become "King Richard" when you began racing. Least of all Popps Lee who had to find places out behind the shop to put all the ruined sheet metal ol' "Ski King" presented him with in the early days.
But there were flashes of brilliance in the beginning with good finishes here and there, a win or two and there was that Rookie of the Year thing. But it seemed that equipment kept holding him back. At first it was the hand-me-down cars that his championship winning Daddy made availible to him and later the underpowered Plymouths he struggled with after Daytona vitually put his Daddy out of the driver's seat and almost in the ground. But there was a storm brewing on the horizon that would rock racing and catapult the young North Carolinian to the throne.
The first rumblings of the coming storm was word from Goodyear's five mile test track in Texas about certain Plymouths and Dodges turning in speeds of around 180 MPH. Keep in mind that the pole for the '63 Daytona 500 was won by Fireball Roberts at 160.943 in Banjo Matthews Pontiac.
It didn't get any better when Petty, who had qualified at 154.785 the year before, qualified at 174.418 to start on the outside pole. When the dust had settled Petty had won his first Daytona 500 and was on the way to winning his first Championship.
While it may have been true that the increased speeds brought on by the hemi overtaxed the state of the art in tire and chassis design and lead indirectly to the tragic events of the '64 season, it must have still come as a shock to Petty that one way Nascar chose to level the playing field was to take the only really competitive engine he had ever had away. ANd while it racing would go on as usual in '65 it looked like the race wins and championships had been put on hold for a while at Petty Engineering.
Outlawed!-#7 In A Series Of 12
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