WHEN RANDY TRAVIS SANG THIS SONG, HE SAID HE WAS EXHUMING THINGS BETTER LEFT ALONE. When Craig Sullivan was looking to brand his ’69 Dodge Charger Pro Mod, the boneyard of racers past proved to be a great source of inspiration.
Chris Davis of Kryptonite Kustomz developed the artwork depicting what appears to be a rusted, weed-covered ex-Richard Petty Dodge Daytona that’s risen from the dead to become a blown Pro Modified. Like a hungry zombie provoking shock and awe, this creation draws a crowd even when stationary.
Sullivan’s ride sparks yet another reaction from some gray-haired drag racing faithful as they remember when Richard Petty forsook stock cars to go drag racing.
In 1965, Petty, coming off his first stock car racing championship, boycotted NASCAR when it banned the 426 Hemi from competition. While other Mopar teams opted to race in the USAC series, Petty went drag racing.
Petty Enterprises found drag racing to be rather lucrative on the match-race circuit with his “outlawed” Plymouth Barracuda, but tragedy struck early in the 1965 season. While competing with Arnie Beswick and Huston Platt, Petty’s car veered into the crowd killing an 8-year-old boy and hospitalizing six other people. Legend has it that a distraught Petty returned home, cut the car up and buried it where it remains to this day.
Faced with the obligation of honoring contracted match-race dates, Petty Enterprises built a second car dubbed “43/Jr.” He would go on to win class at the 1965 NHRA Springnationals before returning to NASCAR competition later that year. The ’Cuda was later found and restored at Petty Enterprises before passing into private hands. It’s still shown occasionally.
Upon his return to stock car racing, Petty remained there, even though NASCAR had a drag racing series. In 1967, he won his second NASCAR championship in a Plymouth. Although he never campaigned a ’69 Dodge Charger Daytona, in 1970, Petty won eight races in a Plymouth Superbird, which can be seen in the Richard Petty Museum. That car remains one of the most popular race cars Petty ever drove.
Sullivan’s Vanishing Point Race Cars-built Dodge continues in that theme beyond the “43” that adorns the side. The Hemi-based power plant and bad boy outlaw image still reverberates as seen by the rise of NHRA Pro Mod, ADRL and PDRA.
Sullivan isn’t just running on old coattails. He made the jump from a successful Top Dragster career into Pro Mod, carding a best of 4.02 at 186.56 with an M&M
Turbo 400 in the eighth mile. Despite running a limited schedule in the NMCA series, Sullivan finished in the Top 15 and received post-season recognition. Plans for 2017 are to run the entire NMCA and ADRL circuits.
The lineages of Petty’s ’Cuda and Sullivan’s Daytona provide a clear picture between mostly stock A/Factory Experimental cars and today’s Pro Modified. That makes diggin’ up bones even more pleasurable.