Richard Petty is about to lose one of his myriad NASCAR records. It didn’t have to be that way.
Petty started 27 straight Daytona 500s, a mark that should fall with Dave Marcis in excellent position to make the prestigious field for the 28th year in a row on Thursday.
“I missed a couple of starts to keep me from still having that record,” the King recalled. “In ‘61, we crashed the cars out. In ‘65, NASCAR and Chrysler were having a little problem, so we didn’t get to run. But we ran all the rest of them.”
Petty qualified for the 500 when the speedway first opened in 1959, and with those two exceptions didn’t miss another race until he retired after the ‘92 season. He is now a full-time car owner.
“It ain’t no big deal,” he said of losing the record to Marcis. “It just means he’s been here longer than I have. You see, the deal when it comes to records and stuff is that we must have done something down the line because all the records being broke are my records.”
Dale Earnhardt last year equaled Petty’s mark of seven Winston Cup championships. One Petty mark that seems certain to stand is his 200 race victories.
Petty said he admired the racer who is about to break his Daytona longevity standard. Marcis has been an independent competitor most of his career, getting by on a penny and a prayer.
“He’s got to be tough to be here that long under a lot of adverse conditions,” Petty said. “He’s never had any big sponsor. Half of them races he probably didn’t even have a sponsor, but then he’d do pretty good and pick up a sponsor to get him through the rest of the year. He was a gambler.”
Oh, Canada & Australia
Two foreigners will be trying to make the field for the Daytona 500 on Thursday.
Randy MacDonald of Canada and Terry Byers of Australia will be in the second of the Twin 125 qualifying races that set the 42-car field for Sunday’s race.
MacDonald managed a speed of 185.345 mph in time trials, well off the pace of pole-sitter Dale Jarrett (193.494) but good enough to earn a spot in the Twin 125. He’ll start from the 29th position, with Byers right eside him following a speed of 182.249 in qualifying.
Dream come true
A 6-year-old boy suffering from an incurable heart condition realized a lifelong dream when he met Tuesday with NASCAR Winston Cup star Rusty Wallace.
Dusty Henderson of Fargo, Ga., visited briefly with Wallace in the paddock at Daytona International Speedway and sat in his No. 2 Ford Thunderbird.
Workers at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Ga., where Dusty has been treated for much of his life, took up a collection to pay for the boy’s trip to Daytona.
Dusty’s mother, Inez Henderson, said her son is in constant pain but manages a smile when Wallace’s name is mentioned.
Hospital helps Allison, again
Bobby Allison recovered from a near-fatal crash at a hospital operated by HealthSouth Corp. Now the Alabama-based medical giant is giving his racing team a financial shot in the arm.
HealthSouth announced Tuesday it has signed on as an associate sponsor for Bobby Allison Motorsports, which fields a team in both Winston Cup and the Busch Grand National series.
“Bobby Allison represents what rehabilitation is all about,” HealthSouth chairman Richard Scrushy said in a statement. “Bobby is a symbol of hope to all who are newly disabled.”
Allison was critically injured in a 1988 crash at Pocono that ended his racing career. He spent part of his rehabilitation at Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., which is operated by HealthSouth.
Derrike Cope drives both cars for Allison’s team.
James Hylton figures he may be the oldest driver ever to race in Winston Cup - with an asterisk.
The 60-year-old from Inman, S.C., is a longshot for Sunday’s Daytona 500, needing to attain a speed of 175 mph in practice Wednesday just to get a shot to compete in the Twin 125 qualifying races the following day.
“If I win, I’ll be the oldest driver ever to win the Daytona 500,” Hylton quipped. “Heck, I may be the oldest ever to run it. Heck, I may be the oldest NASCAR driver, officially, since nobody, not even NASCAR, knows for sure how old Red Farmer is.”