Martin Truex, Jr. drove to Victory Lane in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway two weeks ago, winning both preliminary stages and leading the final round by more than 15 seconds before surviving a final green-white-checkered flag restart to claim his third victory of the 2017 campaign.
Truex’s win – coupled with another three-stage sweep at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier this season and an even more-dominant performance in last year’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte – drew howls of derision from some corners of the NASCAR universe, as fans complained about a lack of competition at the front of the pack.
Oh, if they only knew…
In 1967, a decade or three before many current fans were even born, Richard Petty authored the most dominant season in NASCAR history. In 47 premier-series starts on 14 paved ovals, 34 dirt ovals and the Riverside (CA) road course, Petty won a whopping 27 times (57.4%). In all but nine of those wins, Petty lapped the entire field.
|Petty cruised to 27 wins...|
The maximum number of cars finishing on the lead lap in any event that season was three. In the Beltsville 200 at Maryland’s Beltsville Speedway on Friday night, May 19, only 16 cars took the green flag, with winner Jim Paschal, Petty and third-place finisher Bobby Allison finishing on the lead lap. Donnie Allison was two laps behind in fourth place, with Paul Lewis five laps back in fifth.
Imagine how today’s fans would react to a 16-car starting field, with just three lead-lap finishers. The din would be deafening.
Twice during that 1967 campaign, Petty went to Victory Lane after leading every lap from green flag to checkers, maintaining the top spot even during green-flag pit stops. His Petty Enterprises Plymouth was so dominant that for the season, the North Carolina native enjoyed an average victory margin of 1.5 laps.
|...including a record 10 in a row.|
From August 12 to October 1, Petty went undefeated, winning a record 10 consecutive races at Winston-Salem (NC), Columbia (SC), Savannah (GA), Darlington (SC), Hickory (NC), Beltsville (MD), Martinsville (VA) and North Wilkesboro (NC) Speedways.
Imagine the reaction if Truex, Kyle Larson or Jimmie Johnson copped even three checkered flags in a row this season.
In addition to being the biggest winner of 1967, Petty was also the only driver to run every event. He finished 6,028 points ahead of championship runner-up James Hylton, who competed in 45 of 47 races. Third-place finisher Dick Hutcherson made only 32 starts, finishing nearly 9,000 points behind Petty.
“King Richard” also led a total of 4,496 laps that season; an average of 166 circuits per race.
Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to grouse about a modern-day driver “dominating the field” with a 10-second lead.