Wednesday, March 20, 2024

1966 – Hutcherson Wins Southeastern 500 at Bristol

Dick Hutcherson

Bristol, Tenn. (March 20, 1966) – Dick Hutcherson had just won the Southeastern 500 stock car race and $5,325 in prize money but he said that didn't make any difference.

He still didn't plan to go gunning this year for the NASCAR Grand National championship.

"It takes too much out of you," he said. "When you try to hit every little race to build up points, your car is never ready for the big races where the money is. Sometimes you're doing good just to get there.

"This year we're just going to try to go to the major tracks, win the races and make the money."

The statement was further proof that the 30-year-old former lowan now living in Charlotte, N. C., has undergone a change of racing philosophy in 1966.

Last year in his first NASCAR season, Hutcherson scrambled for points. He didn't win many races, but he finished runner-up for the championship. And in the process, he became known as a charging driver who would fight for the lead of every race from the very first lap.

Sunday was different. When he wheeled his black and gold 1966 Ford onto the high-banked half-mile oval at Bristol International Speedway, Hutcherson was in the sixth starting spot, and he planned to stay there for a while.

"I thought I would just stay kind of toward the front and wait. I figured somebody had to last the 500 laps, and it might as well be me," he said.

For the first 320 laps, the race belonged to David Pearson of Spartanburg, S. C., who’s 1965 Dodge started from the pole position, kept the lead, and was clearly the fastest car on the track.

The Fords that blew engines chasing him steadily filled the pit lanes: Bobby Allison after 49 laps, Cale Yarbrough after 179, Fred Lorenzen after 250 and Marvin Panch after 328.

Even the Plymouth drivers, Jim Paschal and Paul Goldsmith, who had dueled Pearson for the lead early in the race, went out with engine problems.

Finally, Hutcherson decided the waiting had gone far enough.

When Pearson pitted on lap 332, he took the lead only to give it back six laps later.

"As long as Dave was running well," Hutcherson said, "I couldn't catch him."

But Pearson stopped running good on lap 382, due to a broken timing chain. The Dodge pitted for good, leaving Hutcherson with a seven-lap lead over Paul Lewis of Johnson City, Tenn., in a 1965 Plymouth.

After that, it was just a matter of coasting home.

The conservative strategy known as stroking paid off for others, too, for only 11 of the 30 starting cars finished the race.

Results –

1. Dick Hutcherson, Charlotte, N.C.
2. Paul Lewis, Lewisburg, Tenn.
3. James Hylton, Inman, S.C.
4. Elmo Langley, Landover, Md.
5. Sam McQuagg, Columbus, Ga.
6. Gene Black, Arden, N.C.
7. Bill Seifert, Skyland, N.C.
8. Wendell Scott, Danville, Va.
9. Henley Gray, Rome, Ga.
10.G.C. Spencer, Owensboro, Ky.

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