Richard Petty is one of the foremost racing legends ever. He dominated NASCAR from 1964-1986. He was a brilliant, uncompromising driver who set so many winning records in NASCAR during his brilliant career that nobody except Dale Earnhardt ever came close to matching him. When asked of what his most iconic car was, many people will immediately tell you his 1970 Plymouth Superbird or 1967 Plymouth Belvedere are his most iconic car. More people will tell you that his Superbird is the most iconic car to ever race NASCAR. I’m inclined to agree. All of Petty’s Plymouth’s were powered by the legendary, versatile 426 Hemi. What I am here to tell you about is Petty will be driving his 1967 Plymouth Belvedere.
Richard Petty’s big, Petty Blue 1967 Plymouth Belvedere will be an amazing sight to see at the 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed. It’s going to be a change from the wailing Le Mans and F1 cars that populate the Festival of Speed. It was the car that Richard Petty drove in his most dominant season ever, 1967. Just next month, Petty and his big, blue, burbling Plymouth will reunite.
Petty’s 1967 Belvedere was actually a 1966 model redone as a 1967 model (it can get expensive to supply a brand-new car that hasn’t hit the market yet for one person to race). Normally, it lives over at the Petty Museum in North Carolina, but it has also been displayed at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For the 1967 NASCAR season, Richard Petty was a force of nature. He was simply unstoppable. He won 27 out of 48 races entered, including a 10-race winning streak. That is a NASCAR record that stands to this day. It would be the second of his seven championships. His first championship was in 1964. Until 1967, Petty was referred to as “The Randleman Rocket.” After 1967, his new nickname was “The King.” I’m trying to resist the urge to make bad Hakuna Matata jokes…
While the full list of the 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed invitees hasn’t been finalized, we do know that Indy 500 legend Al Unser will be driving his 1978 Lola-Cosworth Team Penske Indy car. We also know that Formula 1 legends John Surtees and Emerson Fittipaldi will be driving a Ferrari 158 and a McLaren M23, respectively.
Some other highlights of this year’s Festival of Speed: Sebastian Loeb will be attempting to set a record in his Pikes Peak-winning Peugeot 208 T16, and a timed supercar run of a prototype Acura Honda NSX.
On a sad note, Richard Petty’s longtime wife, Lynda Gayle Owens Petty passed away on March 25, 2014. She was 72. It was unclear for a few weeks on whether Richard Petty would come to the Festival of Speed. A quiet announcement on Petty’s website a few weeks ago said that he will be going to Goodwood. I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the entire Petty family.