Doubleheaders Were Once A Way Of Life

Richard Petty (43) edges Benny Parsons (72) to win the April 1971 NASCAR Grand National race at South Carolina’s Columbia Speedway. (Chris Economaki photo)
Richard Petty (43) edges Benny Parsons (72) to win the April 1971 NASCAR Grand National race at South Carolina’s Columbia Speedway. (Chris Economaki photo)

During the early days of NASCAR racing, doubleheader weekends were quite common.

One of the last of these came April 8-10, 1971 at South Carolina’s Columbia Speedway and Greenville-Pickens Speedway.

Sell-out crowds were on hand for both races, beginning on a Thursday night at Columbia Speedway’s half-mile track, which had recently been paved for the first time.

Richard Petty and Benny Parsons, who was seeking his first NASCAR victory, waged a thrilling duel through most of the race, with the pair taking the white flag side by side.

On the final lap, the pair entered the third turn door handle to door handle and the pair collided with Parsons pausing to regain control while Petty motored to the checkered flag for what was his 124th career NASCAR victory and his fifth in 11 races in 1971. The victory put Petty over the $100,000 mark in earnings for the season.

Parsons led 81 laps and Petty 79 during the 200-lap event. Dick Brooks, polesitter James Hylton and Elmo Langley completed the top five.

Petty averaged 76.514 miles per hour, eclipsing his record of 65 mph, which was set in 1967 when the track was dirt.

After a day off, the Grand National boys played to a record crowd estimated at 15,000 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway’s half-mile asphalt oval on Saturday afternoon.

The race began at 5 p.m., to accommodate a live ABC Wide World of Sports telecast.

Bobby Isaac, who had raced sparingly during the 1971 season because his car owner, Nord Krauskopf, who had been bickering with NASCAR over rules changes, wasn’t planning to race at Greenville-Pickens.

However, he received a call from Krauskof on race morning saying the team would compete that afternoon.

Isaac took the lead when Dave Marcis pitted for fuel on lap 133 and led the remainder of the distance, beating polesitter David Pearson to the checkered flag by more than two laps. While Isaac drove a Dodge to victory, he did not receive any points because his team was not pre-entered.

Pearson finished second, ahead of Brooks, Marcis and Parsons.

Only one yellow flag, on lap eight, slowed the 100-mile race with Isaac averaging 78.158 mph.

Petty finished seventh in what was his worst effort in the 12 races so far that season. Sixty-two cars entered the race with 47 making qualifying runs in an attempt to make the 26-car starting field.


Previous articleBlonde Sets Speed Record
Next articleHermie To Wheel No. 71 At Martinsville
Mike Kerchner
Mike Kerchner is a veteran racing journalist and has been a member of the SPEED SPORT family since joining Chris Economaki at National Speed Sport News in 1991. He is now the Editor-in-Chief of SPEED SPORT Magazine.