This is Part 2 of a Conversation with Ralph Moody as told by Allen Shaw. To read the first part Click here.
We talked about the various drivers whom drove for HM over the span of years and the list as you know is as legendary as it is long. I asked him very directly, of all the drivers whom drove for you, whom do you consider the best, taking into consideration that Pearson won two Championships back to back, without one moment of hesitation Ralph said Freddie Lorenzen. He said he had more natural driving talent than anyone he had ever seen or mentored. I got the impression that he was stunned when Freddie retired after 1967. He thought Fireball Roberts death in the 1964 from the crash at the May World 600 at Charlotte had a lingering impact on him.
I asked about the Richard Petty move to Ford in 1969. He said it was a power play as history has proven. Plymouth did not have a competitive car for 1969, Chrysler told Petty NO to moving to Dodge to drive a Charger 500 or Charger Daytona. He was under contract to Plymouth and that was that. Petty opted out to drive a Ford as his response to that corporate mandate.
HM of course supplied the Torino Cobra’s and Talladega’s that Petty drove in 1969, they also provided the engines. Maurice Petty did not work any of his legendary motor skills on a Ford 427 or a Boss 429 in 1969, as Ford knew Petty would not stick around with the 1970 Superbird coming, along with a sticking point lucrative HM like contract for Petty Enterprises to supply all the Chrysler Teams like HM did with the Ford teams. All the Ford items that Petty had were returned to Holman Moody at the end of that season with little if any chance of the Petty’s gaining any inside knowledge about the Boss 429 internally.
The 1970 Superbird was not the only thing that brought Petty back to Plymouth as their promotions materials would lead you to believe, the supplier contract sealed that deal. Oddly and Sadly Factory sponsorships all died right after the Aero Wars were brought to an end by NASCAR though wholly unrelated. The timing of things are sometimes bizarre.
I asked about his involvement with building cars and crew chiefing for Janet Guthrie in the mid 70’s. Ralph had nothing but nice things to say about Janet Guthrie, but they were very much limited budget wise. The Kelly Girl sponsorship was concocted by H.A. ( Humpy ) Wheeler the then President of Charlotte Motor Speedway. This was one of his biggest race promotional stunts at the time. Guthrie was not very well received at the time by her fellow drivers, she was quoted as saying that Richard Petty’s handshake was the coldest thing she had ever experienced in her life.
I asked about his relationship with John Holman when Ford brought the two of them together. Moody didn’t directly say anything bad about his former partner. He just said John was a “Wheeler Dealer” and I wanted to build race cars and go racing. I was left with the impression that no love was lost between them when Ralph Moody sold his share in the company and moved on, in hindsight Moody’s timing with Ford’s withdraw from racing couldn’t have been any better.
I hope this is of some interest , sorry it’s not all about the Talladega.