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The Year Petty Went Drag Racing


Petty's Drag Racing Experiment in 1965 was in a HEMI-powered Barracuda. Image: Jalopy Journal

It may seem hard to fathom, but there was a time in NASCAR history, albeit a brief one, when the Petty’s weren’t involved. At the tail end of 1964 NASCAR Chairman Bill France had had enough with manufacturers bringing purpose-built racing engines into the sport, so in a single move intended to keep stock cars racing “stock” engines, or at least factory available ones, he banned NASCAR’s HEMI from participation in the sport. He also did the same to Ford with their SOHC 427.

The Petty family would have none of the decision and boycotted it; leaving NASCAR in the process. Many other Chrysler teams joined in the boycott and ran USAC instead, but Petty decided to go a different route completely; drag racing!



For 1965 Petty Enterprises built a ’64 Plymouth Barracuda super stock drag car called “Outlawed” and it wore the number “43 Jr.”  It featured a 426 HEMI with a 4-speed, and Petty made appearances with it racing all over the South to standing room only crowds.

Unfortunately, during a race at the Southeaster Dragway in Dallas, GA. something broke in the front suspension just as Petty was launching for a run. The car got out of control quickly and ended up breaking through the fence into a crowd, injuring several and killing an 8-year-old boy.



After the accident, the Outlawed Barracuda was retired from racing, never to see the track again. Petty Enterprises did build a second car to continue with, but this time it was not called “Outlawed.”

By June of 1965 Bill France had another problem on his hands; dwindling crowds and waning interest. He reversed his ruling and allowed the HEMI back into NASCAR competition, but with a twist; the HEMI could run on Superspeedway tracks in the Dodge Polara and Plymouth Fury, and on the short tracks in the Coronet and Belvedere. Petty immediately returned back to NASCAR and won four races in the remainder of the season.


I cannot think to leave you now . For that alone I still fight on .

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