A simple two-paragraph story on page two of the Nov. 3, 1965, issue of National Speed Sport News signaled a milestone moment in the fledgling relationship between corporate America and the sport of auto racing.
Headlined “It’s A Big First for Permatex Co.,” the story announced that officials of Permatex had signed to sponsor the 300-mile modified-sportsman championship race on Feb. 26, 1966, at Daytona Int’l Speedway. The event was to be known as the Daytona Permatex 300.
The story included a quote from Bill France, the president of both NASCAR and the Daytona track. “The Permatex Company was invited to sponsor this race because of their intense interest in the professional mechanic,” France said.
While not the first major NASCAR race to have title sponsorship — that honor belongs to the 1964 Motor Trend 500 at Riverside (Calif.) Int’l Raceway — the Daytona Permatex 300 became the first marquee auto race to carry the name of a prominent consumer product company.
Founded in 1909, Permatex’s involvement in racing started in 1915 when company founder Constant Benoit attended a 24-hour event at the Sheepshead Bay board track near his laboratory in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The mechanic for driver Ralph DePalma sought Benoit’s help after DePalma’s car blew its head gasket for the fourth time. Benoit applied some of his experimental gasket cement and the car ran the rest of the race without further problems.
Controversial Curtis Turner won the inaugural Daytona Permatex 300 in 1966. It was Turner’s 355th career victory and the 42-year-old veteran savored none before as sweetly.
Suspended and exiled to NASCAR’s “Siberia” in 1961 for attempting to unionize race drivers under Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters, Turner had been reinstated just six months earlier.
Driving a 1963 sportsman Ford powered by a 1966 engine, Turner averaged 144.520 mph even though 15 of the 120 laps were run under the caution flag.
The lead changed 17 times among eight drivers as Turner led 68 laps, including the last 37. He also posted the fastest lap of the day — the 24th — when he circled the 2.5-mile track at an average speed of 168.244 mph.
Marvin Panch finished second and Bobby Allison was third as 22 of the 50 starters were running at the end of the 300 miles.
In 1968, the Daytona Permatex 300 shifted to the newly organized NASCAR Late Model Sportsman division and Permatex continued to sponsor it through 1977. Now a NASCAR Nationwide Series event, the race was known as the DRIVE4COPD 300 in February.