As the curtain lifted for the 1964 NASCAR Grand National season, Chrysler was loaded for bear. The Plymouths and Dodges were more streamlined aerodynamically and packed with a bundle of horsepower, but Chrysler dusted off an idea from the early 1950s and came up with a "new" engine -- the 426 Hemi. Cars could now travel up to 175 mph, but with the increased speeds came increased danger, and the unlimited horsepower race exacted a heavy toll. You can read about all the thrilling events -- and tragedies -- in the following article, including season highlights and the year's final standings.
December 1, 1963
Following a check of scorecards, Wendell Scott is declared the winner of the 100-mile NASCAR Grand National race at Jacksonville Raceway Park. Scott takes the lead with 25 laps remaining and beats runner-up Buck Baker by two laps. Although staged in December 1963, the race goes into the record books as the fourth event of the 1964 season.
January 19, 1964: Riverside 500
Dan Gurney laps the field and easily wins the Riverside 500. Joe Weatherly,
two-time defending NASCAR Grand National champion, loses his life when he
crashes into a concrete wall in the late stages.
Number 54 Jimmy Pardue and #26 Bobby Isaac joined the factory-backed Chrysler team in 1964. With the new Hemi engine, the Plymouths and Dodges had a clear advantage at Daytona over their Ford rivals. Pardue and Isaac were involved in a photo finish with Richard Petty at the conclusion of their Twin 100-miler. The photo-finish camera malfunctioned, and it took a couple of hours to determine that Isaac had won in the Ray Nichels Dodge. See more pictures of NASCAR.
Junior Johnson and Bobby Isaac win the Twin 100-mile Daytona qualifying races to kick off Speedweeks. Johnson's win is his first start in a Ray Fox Dodge. Isaac's victory in a three-abreast photo finish is his first NASCAR Grand National win.
February 23, 1964: Daytona 500
Driving a potent Plymouth with the new Hemi engine, Richard Petty leads 184 of the 200 laps to win the Daytona 500 going away. Plymouths run 1-2-3 at the finish. The triumph is Petty's first on a superspeedway.
March 28, 1964
David Pearson wheels his Cotton Owens Dodge to victory in the 100-mile race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. Dick Hutcherson, making his first NASCAR Grand National start, wins the pole. Hutcherson leads the first 60 laps, but his day is foiled by a wheel problem.
Number 25 Paul Goldsmith, #43 Richard Petty, and #26 Bobby Isaac battle for the lead in the early laps of the Feb. 23 Daytona 500. Goldsmith won the pole with a record speed of 174.910 mph. Petty qualified nearly 20 mph faster than he did in 1963 when his Plymouth was equipped with a conventional Chrysler engine. Petty drove to a lopsided victory in the 500, leading 184 of the 200 laps. Goldsmith finished third, while Isaacwas credited with a 15th-place finish.
May 1, 1964
Hard-charging LeeRoy Yarbrough snares his first NASCAR Grand National win in the 100-mile race at Savannah Speedway. Marvin Panch finishes second as only 12 cars start the race.
May 9, 1964: Rebel 300
Fred Lorenzen wins his fifth consecutive NASCAR Grand National start in Darlington Raceway's Rebel 300. Lorenzen outruns Holman-Moody teammate Fireball Roberts as Fords finish 1-2-3-4.
May 24, 1964: World 600
Jim Paschal wins Charlotte's World 600 to post his first career superspeedway victory. The event is tragic, however, as NASCAR great Fireball Roberts is near death after a fiery pile-up on the eighth lap.
Larry Thomas' Dodge lies upside-down after a hard crash in the Jacksonville NASCAR Grand National event. Thomas escaped injury, but the Wade Younts-owned Dodge suffered heavy damage. Total payoffs for short-track races in the 1960s were in the $4,000 range. Thomas received only $60 in the Jacksonville race, barely enough to pay for a new tire.
July 2, 1964
Fireball Roberts succumbs to burns suffered at Charlotte. It is the same day that qualifying begins for the Daytona Firecracker 400, a race that Roberts won on three occasions.
July 4, 1964: Firecracker 400
A.J. Foyt nips Bobby Isaac at the finish of Daytona's Firecracker 400. Foyt and Isaac are in Dodges prepared by Ray Nichels. Foyt and Isaac swap the lead 16 times in the final 56 laps.
July 19, 1964
Billy Wade wheels his Mercury to his fourth straight win in the 150-miler at Watkins Glen. Wade, the 1963 Rookie of the Year, is the first driver to win four consecutive NASCAR Grand National races. Fred Lorenzen won five straight starts earlier in the year, but not in consecutive races.
Sophomore driver Billy Wade, driving Bud Moore's #1 Mercury, runs just ahead of #25 Paul Goldsmith and #43 Richard Petty in the March 22 Southeastern 500 at Bristol International Speedway. While the Fords were spanked on the wind-whipped banks of Daytona, they rebounded nicely on the short 1/2-mile tracks. Fred Lorenzen won in a Ford, as Ford products took six of the top 10 places. Wade finished 10th, Goldsmith came in third, and Petty was eighth.
July 26, 1964: Volunteer 500
Fred Lorenzen, down by three laps with four laps to go, takes advantage of Richard Petty's engine failure to win the Volunteer 500 at Bristol International Speedway. Petty's car creeps to a halt on the final lap, giving Lorenzen his sixth win of the year.
September 14, 1964: Capital City 300
Team owner Cotton Owens ends his retirement as a driver and wins the Capital City 300 at Richmond, beating his hired driver David Pearson by a full lap.
September 20, 1964
Jimmy Pardue, who ranks fourth in the points race, dies in a tire-test crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Pardue is the third NASCAR driver to lose his life during the 1964 season.
Richard Petty won his first of seven NASCAR championships in 1964. Driving the electric blue Plymouth Belvedere, Petty won nine races in 61 starts and racked up nearly 5,000 more points than runner-up Ned Jarret. Near the end of 1964, NASCAR announced new rules for 1965, including outlawing the Chrysler Hemi engine and the Belvedere model. Petty and most of the other Chrysler factory team cars withdrew in protest from the 1965 NASCAR Grand National tour.
November 8, 1964
Ned Jarrett wins the season finale at Jacksonville, N.C. It is Jarrett's 15th win of the season. Richard Petty wraps up his first NASCAR Grand National championship. The Jacksonville event is the 62nd race of the campaign, the most races ever staged during a single NASCAR season.
To learn the full results of the 1964 NASCAR Grand National season, see the next page.For more information on all things NASCAR, see: