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 Suite with Richard Petty ticket package.
Bobby Allison was driving the No. 22 Miller High Life Buick for DiGard Racing and finished fourth to Richard Petty in the 1984 mid-summer classic. He also spent some significant time with President Reagan following the race. He looks back on that day from his vantage point:
Does it seem like it has been 25 years since Richard Petty’s 200th win?
“Sometimes it seems like it was yesterday and sometimes it seems like it was a long time ago but it was a really special day for racing. I was an admirer of Ronald Reagan anyway. I had admired him before he ever came to our race. When he came, that was a special treat for me. Of course, I tried to win the race too so I could be the one honored with him during the post-race activities. But I got to go anyway and really enjoyed that. Richard got that 200th win. That was a great event and to have President Reagan there . . . all of it was really just a big deal to me.”
You were in several pictures with President Reagan and Richard Petty, did you chat with President Reagan?
“When I won the championship the year before, I made a comment that I really appreciated winning the championship and I love Ronald Reagan. He was under fire for some of the things that he was trying to get done at the time and a lot of people were supporting him but there were a few members, I guess even from the press, that were giving him a hard time or at least not giving him the full respect that I felt that they should have. So I had the TVs captured right there when they were saying that I had won the championship and I said ‘I love Ronald Reagan’ and he was made aware of that. The Vice President at the time – the first George Bush – came to the awards banquet at the Waldorf (in New York) and (Reagan) called while the banquet was going on and congratulated me on winning the championship. And so I felt like there was a special link between us and to be included with that even though Richard did win the race and I didn’t, it was still a great event for me.”
How important was the 1984 mid-summer classic race to the growth of NASCAR?
“I really feel that it helped the sport. It was a great pat on the back to help move our sport into the mainstream of professional entertainment. I think it really was a big boost for the sport and it was a great day for us.
On the accomplishment of winning 200 races
“The guy went good on short tracks, long tracks, paved tracks, dirt tracks, road courses. He just really did a good job driving the car. They had good equipment and they worked together as a family. Richard and his dad Lee running the thing, or at least directing it after he was injured, and Maurice, Richard’s brother, was a key part of the operation and became one of the renowned engine builders of NASCAR. Dale Inman, their cousin, was also a full time and strong member of the team, strong operator of the team. It (200 wins) was a great achievement and something that you got to look at and say wow.”
How hard were you trying to stop Richard Petty from winning his 200th victory that day?
“199 would be easier to catch than 200.”
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.