And in this corner ...
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012
Given access to a time machine for the purpose of seeing NASCAR altercations of yore, I would choose the Greensboro Agricultural Fairgrounds race track on April 28, 1957.
Its the selection I made to a pal who brought up the idea Thursday as we and others sat before a cozy fireplace on a raw, rainy afternoon at Mallard Head Golf Club in Mooresville, during what amounts to a weekly bull session.
The discussion had turned quickly to famous NASCAR fights in the wake of the blowup among Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and their crews last Sunday at Phoenix.
Why this one of 55 years ago?
As far as I know, there is little or no video of the confrontation. In contrast, since about the mid-1970s, cameras catching all the action have been rolling at NASCAR events.
Although the Greensboro incident is among the most colorful and humorous in NASCAR history, it isnt widely known. Nowhere near as famous, for example, as the battle between Cale Yarborough and the Brothers Allison, Bobby and Donnie, at the conclusion of the 1979 Daytona 500.
The Petty versus Lund tale was related to me by the late Hall of Fame driver Tim Flock, who was a witness to it that day so long ago.
Prior to a 250-lap race on the .333-mile track at Greensboro, driver introductions were being made on the back of a flat-bed trailer. As they passed on the make-shift stage, NASCAR champion Lee Petty and rival driver Tiny Lund exchanged angry words.
Fists instantly started flying.
The nickname Tiny was a misnomer. Lund stood around 6-6 and weighed 275 pounds. The 6-2 Petty possibly scaled 170.
Not surprisingly, Lund was lacing Petty with a merciless whipping.
Lees teenage sons, Richard and Maurice, then members of their fathers crew, rushed to his rescue.
Tiny was beating the dickens out of all three of them, Flock recalled with a laugh. It looked like minnows bouncing off a battleship.
Now, Mrs. Petty came on stage to the aid of her husband and sons. Elizabeth Petty pelted Lunds head with her purse! Pump knots appeared on Tinys noggin and he scrambled to get away.
What made the purse such a weapon?
There was a .38 pistol inside! roared Flock.
I didnt dare write this story as part of a NASCAR feuds segment I was doing for The Charlotte Observer in the 1980s until confirming the details with Richard Petty.
Thats just how it happened, said Richard.
Will it embarrass your Momma if I include the part about the pistol? I asked.
King Richard, who followed his father as a driver to become the winner of seven Cup Series championships and 200 races, flashed his famous smile.
Embarrass her? Why, shes right proud of it!
The race went on that afternoon in 57 after things calmed down. Paul Goldsmith won, Lee Petty finished sixth and Tiny Lund was 13th.
However, the pre-race show was the hit that day.
What a treat it would be to somehow see it.