This Week in Ford Racing:
January 25, 2011
Ford Racing enters the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season needing only one victory to reach 600. Over the next three weeks, leading up to the Daytona 500, Ford Racing will present a weekly recap of the milestone wins and other tidbits that have helped shape the manufacturer's history in the sport. This week, Ford Racing looks back at its 300th win, which came courtesy of Benny Parsons in 1981 when he captured the final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas World Speedway.
Bud Moore had just completed a highly successful three-year run with driver Bobby Allison behind the wheel of his No. 15 Ford, and he was in need of a new driver.
"Bobby Allison drove for me in '78, '79 and '80 and we needed somebody to come along in 1981 because Bobby was moving on," recalled Moore, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte this May. "Melling Tool was going to sponsor us and help us out if we'd take on Benny because Benny was a traveling salesman for them. We did and that's how we got started together."
Trying to match what Allison had done would be a difficult task, considering he won 14 races, including the 1978 Daytona 500, and had point finishes of second, third and sixth. But with Parsons being a former series champion with 17 career wins under his belt, Moore felt good about continuing his solid momentum.
The season got off to a good start with Parsons posting four fifth- place finishes in the first eight races. He made it to victory lane for the first time at Nashville in May when he beat Darrell Waltrip and Allison to the checkered flag. The next two weeks, however, weren't quite as kind as an accident at Dover and engine failure at Charlotte resulted in finishes of 32nd and 37th, respectively.
So when the series headed to Texas World Speedway on June 7 for the Budweiser 400, Parsons and Moore were in need of a turnaround but they weren't the only ones. Promoters for the speedway struggled to sell tickets for the event and a crowd of approximately 18,000 was on hand for what proved to be the final NASCAR race at the two-mile facility.
"The track was real rough and as far as spectators were concerned, I ran several races there and they never drew any spectators for some reason," said Moore. "I think it was because the track was so far out between Dallas and Houston, but I don't really know why they couldn't draw fans. I know Winston was paying the purse to even get us to go down there and run."
The fans who did show up, however, saw a memorable finish between Parsons and Dale Earnhardt, who was driving the No. 2 Wrangler Pontiac of Rod Osterlund.
"We really had a good car that day, but we were very, very fortunate that we finished because the oil tank broke loose in the car," said Moore. "There were several things that happened that day that were really bad and we often wondered how we even finished, but Benny drove a heck of a race that day to outrun Earnhardt and win. It was a great day for all of us."
Earnhardt led the most laps that day with 96 and was ahead with four laps to go, but Parsons was able to get up alongside and run door-to-door to the finish. Parsons ended up edging Earnhardt by a half-second at the finish line to win the race and give Ford Racing it's 300th series victory.
One more victory followed late in the year at Richmond, but Parsons endured a series of mechanical failures over the final two months of the season. He finished 24th or worse in six of the last seven races to end up 10th in the final point standings.
"It was a good relationship all the way around with Melling and Benny, and I just hated we didn't get to go another year or so with them, but it didn't happen," said Moore, who ended the relationship at season's end. "Benny was a great race driver, but the biggest thing was when Wrangler came along and hired me. With all of the stuff that was happening with that sponsorship, I had to take on Dale Earnhardt. I had to go with them because of the situation, but I really hated having to leave Benny. I felt if we could have run two or three years together, that we would have won a lot more races than what we did."
Parsons, who was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, went on to become the first NASCAR driver to qualify a stock car at more than 200 miles an hour when he ran 200.176 mph at Talladega Superspeedway in 1982 for the Winston 500. He won only one more race after leaving Moore, with that coming at Atlanta in 1984, before retiring after the 1988 season. He went on to have a successful career as a broadcaster while Moore went on to compete in the series until selling his operation in 1999.
FORD FUN FACT:
Bud Moore had an impressive roster of drivers during his 37-year career in NASCAR, including 16 drivers who were named to NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers list in 1998.
-source: ford racing