What they were doing in NASCAR at the end of 1976

Discussion in 'NASCAR chat' started by gone, Feb 12, 2019 at 5:13 AM.

  1. gone

    gone Team Owner

    Made time to read another old Stock Car Racing magazine, this one dated March 1977. With publishing lead times back then, this issue mostly covered the end of the 1976 season. Here are some interesting points:

    • Rich Benyo reports that Humpy Wheeler noted that the Late Model Sportsman Division (now Xfinity) was a feeder / educator for the Grand National (now Monster Energy Cup) series, but that the Sportsman drivers and teams didn’t get much experience on the big tracks (that were mainstays for Grand National). So he suggests Sportsman races held in conjunction with Grand National races, and make those races 100 miles or longer. Which did begin happening more often in the 1980s.

    • Full page advertisement selling one square inch pieces of land, for $2 each, of the Petty family compound in Level Cross, NC, called “Petty Country”. It was to support The Chapel, Inc. and the racing ministry of Brother Bill Frazier. Frazier went on to found Motor Racing Outreach which brings church services to race tracks for racers and their families at Sunday NASCAR races.

    • Don O’Reilly reports that IROC races are basically run as a television show. “If somebody blows a tire or spins out, the competition comes to a more or less slow trot while that race car is fixed and running again.” Then the race resumes – the video is edited to be shown later on TV as one continuous race.

    • Dr. Dick Berggren reported about Bill Hite’s controversial 4-wheel drive Super Modified race car, which is worrying racers and promoters that it might obsolete the other cars. Competitor driver Steve Giola said he hates to say it, but “It’s not fair if a guy can come up with a better idea.”

    • After a dismal season for Richard Petty (by his own standards) there were strong rumors that he would leave Dodge. Although Petty did stay with Dodge for 1977, another dismal season caused him to switch to GM during the 1978 season. Strong running Dodge team Dave Marcis / Harry Hyde announced that they were going to switch to GM (Oldsmobile or Buick) due to scarcity of Chrysler racing parts. They had to resort to junkyard parts (particularly engine blocks), and those were scarce too. As it turned out, in 1977 Marcis drove mostly Chevrolets and occasionally a Mercury for Roger Penske / Travis Carter before finishing the season in the Rod Osterlund Chevrolet. Hyde ended up in an ill-fated deal for J.D. Stacy, with drivers Neil Bonnett and Ferril Harris.

    • Late Model Sportsman drivers complained about Grand National drivers invading their big money races. But there were differences back then – there were few high purse LMS races on tracks over a half mile, and the rules only allowed GN drivers who had competed in at least ten GN races so far in the season. Complaints centered on the GN teams having vastly more experience on big tracks. The top LMS teams were considered to have similar equipment to the GN teams participating.
     
  2. kyle18fan

    kyle18fan Team Owner Contributor

    Interesting stuff, thanks for posting it.
     
  3. Formerjackman

    Formerjackman Team Owner

    During this period, Chrysler had stop casting the Hi Performance 340 blocks that were used by NASCAR teams (particularly Petty) to make race engines. Chrysler started sending out young employees to cruise parking lots looking for Cudas and Challengers with HI PO 340 engines, making contact with the owners, and buying the cars. The HI PO motors were stripped out and sent to Randleman, and service replacement 340s were installed in their place and the cars resold. I don't know how long this went on, but it did at least for a short time. As the article stated, parts shortages, as much as anything caused Petty and Harry Hyde to move away from Mopar. Buddy Arrington and a couple others struggled on, using up all of the leftovers.
     
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  4. MRM

    MRM Team Owner

    IROC races were shown on Wide World of Sports weeks later just like a few of the Cup races were. I remember going to Atlanta in 75 and 77 and hoping to see myself on TV weeks later. I never got on TV.

    Dodge was losing its grip in 76 as Chevy and Ford/Mercury were stepped up their game. I remember the rumors of Petty going to Ford after the 77 season. He stuck with Dodge as they rolled out the crappy Magnum, the worst car ever built for NASCAR racing. He switched to GM into the 78 season and was with them until he retired.
     
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  5. gone

    gone Team Owner

    Yep, Chrysler HI PO parts got scarce and expensive. At the same time GM was making Chevy racing parts plentiful and cheap. Many teams noticed that the Cale Yarborough / Jr. Johnson Chevrolet team had quickly come from relatively modest means to winning a lot of races and a championship (the first of what would become three in a row). There were also rumors that GM was going to make Chevy engines available in its other brands, and that NASCAR would allow teams to use that to race Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs and Buicks with Chevy engines - those bodies were considered better aerodynamically on the big tracks. Racers would have to wait until the early 1980s for that, but then it became common for GM teams to race different bodies at different tracks.
     
  6. TexasRaceLady

    TexasRaceLady Plank Owner Contributor

    Interesting reading, gone. Thanks.
     
  7. Formerjackman

    Formerjackman Team Owner

    The change in NASCAR rules that allowed Chevy engines in Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs occurred in I believe in 1978, which is when the Olds 442's began showing up on the circuit, and later on some Buicks too. This change in rules coincided with GM's public and not so public admission that they were now using engines from various GM divisions in cars made by other GM divisions. The Olds came into demand when the eligibility of the shovel nosed Chevy Laguna S3 model ended, as the Monte Carlo of that time was not particularly a good car aerodynamically, although they did win a LOT of races. There was a limited attempt in the mid-70's to run a Pontiac powered Pontiac, but it was a complete failure. By the 1981 car downsizing, you had three Chevy models, (Monte Carlo, Malibu and Caprice) two Pontiacs (Grand Prix and Le mans), Olds (Cutlass), and Buick (Regal) competing at the same time , all with the same standard issue small block Chevy. The Buick Regal became the defacto car to have during the 1981 season, with the Grand Prix next in the pecking order. The Le mans was the hot ticket with it's sloped roof, but NASCAR erred and allowed the car to be legal for competition when they really didn't want it and tried to legislate it out of existence, but it hung on long enough for Benny Parsons to be the first Cup qualifier at over 200 MPH in 1982, and Cale Yarborough to to win the 83 Daytona 500 with perhaps the same car after wrecking his new Monte Carlo SS in his famous qualifying flip. Tim Richmond also won at Pocono with a Le mans, but 1983 was the last year the car was legal because it had gone out of production in 1981. The downsized Monte Carlo was a dud, although several teams did use it on the short tracks. The Malibu and Caprice were short lived experiments. I believe Dave Marcis's rain shortened win a Richmond in 1981 was in a Malibu. When the Monte Carlo SS debuted in 1983, it became the class of the field, but DiGard and Bobby Allison found favor with the tried and true Regal, and won Buick's third straight and last driver's title. The Olds Cutlass never got much love, but various drivers did use it, including AJ Foyt, Dave Marcis (ex-Foyt car) and Mark Martin in a car fielded by the fledgling Morgan McClure team. A few of the backmarkers also ran Olds. Interestingly enough, sometime during this period, Oldsmobile promoted a NASCAR race engine based off of it's heavy duty diesel passenger car block, even having display engines at various car events, but I'm not aware of one of these motors ever seeing a race track. The rise of the Chevy engines in NASCAR was driven by several factors, including the fact that especially in the small block, they made really good power, they were thoroughly developed with tons and tons of factory and aftermarket parts as well as knowledge behind them, they were cheap and plentiful. Also overlooked is that after years of officially and even unofficially ignoring NASCAR, GM relented and started to offer more in the way of backdoor engineering and tech support, as well as sheet metal and engine parts, although this all stayed pretty covert until the mid-80's. Many of the GM cars in the early 80's carried no brand label on them at all , as the factory had yet to step up for more than a select few. A Iot of people conclude that during the 1960's the Big Block Chevy was no match for the big Fords and Chrysler Hemi's, but GM, by official and unofficial decree, didn't even TRY to compete or offer technical support to anyone to attempt to run Chevy races during that period, so we don't really know how competitive they could have been. One things for sure though, once Chevy got back in the game, even unofficially in 1971, the made up ground quick.
     
  8. Ventisca

    Ventisca Crew Chief Contributor

  9. aunty dive

    aunty dive Team Owner

    Paragraph breaks encourage people to read posts.
     
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