Richard with William Neely, King Richard
I. Macmillan; New York, 1986.
The 1978 season saw the Petty and
Bonnett teams trying to make the Dodge
Magnums competitive on the circuit, but
they were never successful with the
On the subject of car choices in 1978,
Greg Fielden says: "In the Chrysler
camp, there seemed to be only one
choice--the big, bulky Dodge Magnum. A
number of teams had campaigned for the
Dodge Diplomat [to be approved by
NASCAR], but NASCAR had turned thumbs
down on the smaller intermediate car.
'We'll be racing full size cars in
1978,' was NASCAR's statement."
"Richard Petty and Neil Bonnett,
principal Dodge drivers, had difficulty
in getting the Magnum to run
competitively. 'The Dodge Magnum is
undrivable at 190 MPH,' said Petty."
The decision had been made by late
summer of 1978 that the Petty team would
change car brands. In a very sad event
in the annals of Chrysler Corporation
racing, on August 6, 1978 in the
Talladega 500, Richard Petty competed in
his last NASCAR race in a Chrysler
vehicle. To that point in time, most of
the driving careers of both Richard and
Lee Petty had been in Plymouths, Dodges
and sometimes in Chryslers. About that
final race in a Dodge in which he
finished seventh in his Dodge Magnum,
Greg Fielden quotes Petty, "I'm glad
it's over. We'll clean 'em [the Dodge
Magnums] up and put 'em in the corner of
our shops. We'll go with the Chevrolet
for the next race."
The 1978 season was a winless season for
Richard Petty. It was the only season
that he did not score at least one
victory during the 25-year span between
1960 and 1984, inclusive.
About the Petty decision to switch from
Chrysler vehicles to General Motors
vehicles, Greg Fielden says: "By
mid-summer, Petty was still struggling
with the Dodge Magnum. After 18 races,
Petty had finished only six times in the
top five. When he was running at the
finish, he was usually a number of laps
off the pace."
"He was lapped five times in the Winston
500 at Talladega. He was three laps
behind at Martinsville, six laps behind
at Dover, four laps in arrears at
Nashville, and a lap behind at Michigan
and the Firecracker 400 at Daytona."
"In July, he had announced plans to
switch to Chevrolet for the remainder of
the 1978 season. He purchased a
Chevrolet Monte Carlo [the one at the
Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville?] from
privateer Cecil Gordon on July 17.
Scheduled debut for the Petty-Chevy
combination was the August 26, 1978
Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan. 'It
just wasn't possible to get the Dodge
Magnum consistently competitive with
some of the other cars under the current
NASCAR rules,' said Petty. 'We tried
everything we could possibly think of.
Even though there has been some
improvements from the first of the year,
everyone else is going quicker, too.'"
"NASCAR President, Bill France, Jr.,
said the sanctioning body could not
rewrite the rule book to suit one team.
'We could not come up with a rule that
would be beneficial to Richard and, at
the same time, be fair to those
campaigning other makes,' said France,
About the Petty change from Chrysler to
GM, D. Randy Riggs said in Flat-out
Racing, "It was the end of the line for
Richard Petty and Mopar. The '78 Dodge
Magnum was such an uncompetitive lump
that Petty abandoned the Pentastar
symbol for a Bowtie--as in Chevrolet."
About Chrysler's general attitude toward
racing, Riggs said: "Over at Chrysler,
fortunes were ebbing. Horrendous quality
standards had caught up with the
company, and styling the 1978 Dodge
Magnum to resemble a rounded-off barn
wasn't going to help a bit on the
nation's stock car tracks. Chrysler's
future lay with much smaller cars and a
government bail out---NASCAR had become
the furthest thing from their minds. It
was the unfortunate end of Chrysler's
most glorious performance days."
One of Petty's Dodge Magnums that
Richard had attempted to get competitive
in 1978 was dusted off and campaigned by
his son, Kyle, in 1979. Kyle won the
ARCA race at Daytona in his racing
The first time that Richard and Kyle
were both in the field of a Winston Cup
event was at Talladega on August 5,
1979. Kyle Petty had attempted to
qualify the Dodge Magnum on several
occasions prior to the Talladega race
but didn't because of crashes and other
problems. In that Talladega race, Kyle
drove to a ninth place finish.