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Invincible? Let's talk 1967

There is great fear across the stock car racing landscape that a Californian named Jimmie Johnson is about to completely consume the sport and become such an obnoxiously invincible figure that he'll win virtually every week.

 

Not to worry. The treetop level for "invincible" was set more than 40 years ago, and not even Johnson and his cyborg-like hordes at Hendrick Motorsports are going to threaten it.

 

Imagine this: In 1967, his second championship season, Richard Petty won 27 races. And he won 10 of them IN A ROW, a remarkable achievement even during a period in which the competition occasionally was brittle.

 

That victory streak will remain a momentous part of NASCAR lore well past Johnson's current mastery of the sport and Petty's lifetime.

 

When Petty is inducted along with the rest of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class in May, he'll bring along the blue Plymouth that he drove to those victories. On Day One, it will become one of the most valuable pieces housed in the new hall.

 

Petty was well on his way to becoming a superstar when the 1967 season started. He had won the Daytona 500 and the championship in 1964 and the 500 again in 1966. But 1967 cemented his role as a dominant figure in the sport.

 

Petty's streak of 10 straight began on Aug. 12 and ran through Oct. 1 - a late summer/early fall of anguish for those who pretended to catch him. He won at Winston-Salem, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Darlington, S.C.; Hickory, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; Beltsville, Md.; Hillsborough, N.C.; Martinsville, Va. and North Wilkesboro, N.C.

 

It also is worth noting that Petty's wins that season weren't exactly nail-biters. His closest margin of victory was what is now an almost unheard of finish - six seconds. He typically finished laps ahead of the second-place.

 

After the 10th straight win, Petty marched into the press box for the winner's interview at North Wilkesboro Speedway. He remembered seeing many of the same media people who had covered much of the victory string. "I said, 'How about me interviewing you guys today. I don't have much to say that I haven't already said,' " Petty said.

 

The streak ended the next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Petty was involved in a wreck and eventually left the race with engine trouble. Buddy Baker, the man who ended the Petty march, scored the first win of his career.

 

During the season, Petty broke his father Lee's all-time career victory record (with his 55th win) and won the Southern 500 for the first (and only) time.

 

Oddly enough, Petty didn't win the Daytona 500 that year. The victory went to Mario Andretti in one of his rare NASCAR appearances.

 

Petty won $150,000 that season, barely tip change for Johnson these days.

 

During the season, "Petty For President" bumper stickers began appearing at NASCAR tracks across the country.

 

He had defined invincible.

 

Jimmie Johnson is still working on it.

 

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEEDtv.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.