(This is the first in a series of memorable moments in the 63-year history of Martinsville Speedway. This TUMS moment, as remembered by Dale Inman, focuses on the 1969 spring event won by Richard Petty).
RICHARD PETTY NEEDED RELIEF HELP, LATE-RACE RALLY FOR 1969 WIN
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 8, 2010) – Retired crew chief and 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee nominee Dale Inman says all of Richard Petty’s 15 Martinsville Speedway victories are memorable, but it’s the 1969 win on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ shortest track that stands out in his mind.
NOTE: TUMS is the sponsor of the TUMS Fast Relief 500, the sixth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 24.
Petty drove a Ford that year and in the April 27 race NASCAR’s winningest driver needed relief. In fact, Petty said he almost passed out once during the event. James Hylton stepped in and piloted the No. 43 from lap 399 until lap 447.
“James tore both front fenders off the car and got us behind,” Inman recalled. “We had to put Richard back in the car, and we won that race.”
Petty’s victory in the 1969 Virginia 500 was his first in nearly three months. He led four times for 65 laps, including the final 39, in the 500-lap race. David Pearson, with Cale Yarborough driving in relief, finished second, three seconds behind Petty.
“It was always big going up there because of the success we had and that grandfather clock they had as the trophy,” said Inman, who traveled to Martinsville with Lee Petty when the track was dirt. “You always wanted to win the clock.
“Martinsville was always tough. Back then, one of the big things was to protect your brakes and keep grease circulating in the rear ends. They’re not that big of an issue now because they’ve come so far. A lot of that stuff is about bullet proof now. Now, the big thing is to keep your nose clean and keep the fenders on the car.
“Richard won so many races there [the most of any NASCAR Sprint Cup driver] that people would always tell us they bet we would be glad to get back to Martinsville. However, it was always a challenge there because it was so tough on brakes, wheel bearings and the rear end.”
Inman noted the half-mile track was only about 50 miles from their Randleman, N.C., home, so the Martinsville race was always “like a family gathering”. In fact, before NASCAR began requiring the cars to remain in the garage after the teams arrived, Inman said they would practice on Friday, take the race car home, work on it that night, and then return to the track with it on Saturday.
“My wife Mary and our kids would come up on race day with Lynda and Richard in the station wagon,” Inman said. “They would have food in the trunk of the car and we’d eat out of the trunk. The last time I ate out of the trunk of a car was at Martinsville with Leonard Wood and his wife. I remember it was after a race and it was just me and the two of them. Always think of that when I go to Martinsville.”
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