DAYTONA BEACH , Fla. – This is another release in a series focusing on memories from key figures who witnessed Richard Petty’s historic 200th and final NASCAR win on July 4, 1984 at Daytona International Speedway.
This year’s Coke Zero 400 Weekend Powered By Coca-Cola on July 2-4 will mark the 25th anniversary of Richard Petty’s 200th NASCAR win in the Independence Day holiday classic with President Ronald Reagan in attendance.
Daytona International Speedway is celebrating the 25th anniversary of win No. 200 with a number of special activities including having Petty pace the 43-car field of the Coke Zero 400, appearances throughout the weekend by Petty, displays of race-winning Petty cars and a special $43 ticket.
Ned Jarrett served as a broadcaster for MRN Radio for Petty’s 200th win and had the honor of interviewing President Reagan on the air. He looks back on that day from his vantage point from the broadcast booth:
On the meeting President Reagan and interviewing him on the MRN Radio broadcast
“You would normally be very nervous sitting next to and talking with the President of the United States. When he walked in, he made you feel so comfortable as if he had known you. He apparently had been briefed on who I was. Dale (Ned Jarrett’s son) was running in that race and he was aware of that because he made mention of it during our little stint when we were on the air actually calling the race. He was well informed. He made you feel so comfortable and I appreciated it so much because it certainly took away the anxiety and nervous feeling I had going in. It was fun.
“He was an aware that I was a former champion. I led him into, as I had been asked by MRN, ‘Well you’re a former sportscaster, you want to call a few laps?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t know but we can give it a try.’ We did and he said, ‘That blue and white car is looking like it’s beginning to make a move.’ He was paying attention to what was going on but he didn’t know the personalities or the cars like I do by number. He used his past experience as a sportscaster. It was fun for a few minutes.
“It was a special day. It was certainly the highlight of my radio broadcasting career and one of the top five highlights of my career period. It was very special.”
Could you feel the excitement throughout the Speedway about President Reagan’s visit?
“The whole time that we were there it was the story. Everybody was excited about it and all the things that they did to try to make the President as safe as possible. It was neat to see all of that. I think people were fascinated, as I was, as much as anything with the care that was taken and the things that they did. It was a thorough preparation."
From your vantage point, describe the finish between Petty and Cale Yarborough
“They were racing for the lead and they were coming up on a lap car. I don’t remember who that was. Richard got a little bit of a draft off of that car and passed Cale as they got to the start/finish line and then the caution came out. Cale, of course, came in the pits the next lap. He thought the race was over. I don’t know how many positions that cost him. He knew he had lost the race and thought the race was over. That made it even more dramatic to have them come across the start/finish side by side and it be Richard’s 200th win in front of the President was very special.”
On the impact of July 4, 1984 on NASCAR
“I think it was very big. The sport has been blessed over the years for something to happen, it seems like at opportune times, to take the sport to another level. It’s not by planning that it happens that way. It just happens. Certainly that’s one of the times that ranks very high as far as what it did for the sport and the notoriety that it brought to the sport and creditability. I would say that it ranks in the top five, maybe even at the top. There’s a number of things, when Winston came in that was very, very big. The 1979 Daytona 500 was very, very big. The 1992 race at Atlanta when Jeff Gordon ran his first race and Richard ran his last race and the championship was decided by who led the most laps. That was a big day for the sport. Certainly when the President was there and Richard won his 200th, that ranks very high.”
Tickets for the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola on Saturday night, July 4 start at $40. Tickets are available on your web-enabled phone at mobile.daytonainternationalspeedway.com, online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.