DAYTONA BEACH -- It wasn't unusual for Indy racers like AJ Foyt and Johnny Rutherford to rub fenders at Daytona International Speedway in the 1970s, before the advent of restrictor-plate racing with speeds exceeding 200 mph and plenty of wrecks.
The 1974 Firecracker 400, the big July 4th weekend event at DIS in front of 60,000 spectators in the stands and infield run on a Thursday afternoon, was no different, won by David Pearson in a last lap duel with Richard Petty, by pulling the slingshot pass.
In fact, Rutherford, who won the first of his three Indianapolis 500 cham,pionships, was among the early drivers to crash on the high banks of Daytona. Rutherford won the Indy 500 again in 1976 and in 1980.
Foyt struggled midway through the Firecracker race, going a lap down as Petty, Pearson and Buddy Baker battled for the lead with speeds in excess of 200 mph.Donnie Allison and Bobby Allison also were among the leaders.
But ultimately the final two laps came down to Pearson in the Purolator Mercury and Petty in the STP Dodge, with the Siilver Fox out front before the white flag at that point.
Pettty got around Pearson off turn 1 on the last lap by going high. But coming off turn 4, Pearson pulled the sling shot move to take the checkered flag by less than a car length as two of NASCAR's giants crossed the finish line.
This was Pearson's third consecutive Firecracker 400 win in a row, the only driver to ever to do in the July race at Daytona. He also was the first to win a 4th Firecracker 400 in 1978, all while driving for the Wood Brothers.
Pearson's winning purse was $17,350.