NASCAR: The Evolution Of The Sport (1960-1964)

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NASCAR:  The Evolution Of The Sport  (1960-1964)

By the 1960 NASCAR Grand National season, work had already begun on new supertracks in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Hanford, Calif.

NASCAR had also found its way into the electronic media with CBS Sports ' live telecast of three preliminary races during the Daytona Speedweeks. With NASCAR races beginning to show up on the tube in American homes, the automobile industry realized the Automobile Manufacturers Association 1957 ban on participation was hindering their efforts in promotions, sales, and performance.

Factory representation in NASCAR was on a dramatic rise by 1960, although all members of the AMA said publicly that they were still adhering to the original guidelines of the 1957 resolution. Ford and General Motors even hired individuals to spy on each other.

In 1960, GM won 20 NASCAR Grand National events, including the Daytona 500, Charlotte's World 600, and the NASCAR Grand National championship. Ford won 15 times, while Chrysler's conservative effort with the Petty Engineering camp scored nine wins.

The kickoff of speed weeks for the opening of the 1960 season saw the biggest crash in NASCAR history, just after the start of the Daytona 250-mile Modified-Sportsman race.

Near the conclusion of the opening lap, Dick Foley slid sideways through the fourth turn. Foley was able to right his path and continue on, but the field stacked up behind him. Thirty-seven cars became involved and 24 were eliminated. A dozen cars flipped wildly and eight drivers went to the hospital, none injured seriously.

1960 also saw a couple more firsts, as Herman Beam becomes the first driver to be black-flagged in a NASCAR event at Daytona International Speedway. Race officials noticed that Beam forgot to put on his helmet before the Twin 100-mile qualifying race. NASCAR officials parked Beam for the remainder of the race.

Another first involved a young Richard Petty scoring the first win of his career in the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National event at the Charlotte Fairgrounds Speedway. The 22-year-old Petty collected $800 for his first win.

Junior Johnson passed a spinning Bobby Johns with nine laps remaining and hustled to victory in the second annual Daytona 500. Driving a 1959 Chevrolet Impala, Johnson beat a record 68-car field and won $19,600. Rex White scored six wins in 1960 and beat Richard Petty for the championship by almost 4,000 points.

In the 1961 NASCAR Grand National season, General Motors continued winning, taking 41 races in all. Pontiac won 30 and Chevrolet won 11, but Ford won only seven times. Chrysler managed to win four short-track events. Ned Jarrett won only one race during the 1961 season—a 100-miler at Birmingham in June—but it was good enough to walk away with the NASCAR Grand National championship.

Early in the 1962 NASCAR Grand National season, General Motors was racking up impressive numbers in the victory column. GM won 18 of the first 20 races, 12 by Pontiac. Plymouth scored twice and Ford had a big zero. In June 1962, Ford Motor Co. president Henry Ford II announced his company was stepping out of the 1957 Automobile Manufacturers Association ban on NASCAR participation and would actively—and publicly—be involved in NASCAR racing.

Joe Weatherly, in his second year driving Bud Moore's Pontiacs, won the 1962 NASCAR Grand National championship. Weatherly won nine races and posted 31 top-three finishes in 52 starts in his impressive drive to the title. Weatherly took the points lead following a runner-up finish in Charlotte's World 600 and sprinted to a 2,396-point margin over Richard Petty.

For the 1963 NASCAR Grand National season, NASCAR established a new set of rules to address the potential of unlimited engineering by the factories. For one, a 428 cubic inch limit on engine displacement was put into effect. By limiting the cid, NASCAR could keep the factories in check and keep the present components from becoming obsolete.

Regardless, Ford started the 1963 Grand National campaign with a bang, finishing 1-2-3-4-5 in the celebrated Daytona 500.

As the curtain lifted for the 1964 NASCAR Grand National season, Chrysler was loaded for bear. The Plymouths and Dodges were more streamlined aerodynamically and packed with a bundle of horsepower, but Chrysler dusted off an idea from the early 1950s and came up with a "new" engine—the 426 Hemi.

Cars could now travel up to 175 mph, but with the increased speeds came increased danger, and the unlimited horsepower race exacted a heavy toll.

Richard Petty won his first of seven NASCAR championships in 1964. Driving an electric blue Plymouth Belvedere, Petty won nine races in 61 starts and racked up nearly 5,000 more points than runner-up Ned Jarrett, who won 15 races that year.

Near the end of 1964, NASCAR announced new rules for 1965, including outlawing the Chrysler Hemi engine and the Belvedere model. Petty and most of the other Chrysler factory team cars withdrew in protest from the 1965 NASCAR Grand National tour. He would not defend his championship that year, and top contenders David Pearson, Paul Goldsmith, Bobby Isaac, Jim Paschal, and Lee Roy Yarbrough were on the sidelines.

It was a season marked by protest and controversy.

Veteran Ned Jarrett prevailed in a season-long struggle with rookie driver Dick Hutcherson to capture his second NASCAR Grand National championship. Jarrett and Hutcherson traded the points lead five times.

 

* Many thanks to wikipedia, about.com, and NASCAR.com for some of the data for this article .

 

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