Craig Sullivan’s Retired Daytona Will Be Missed By Many

Words/Photos Rod Short

In some ways, racehorses are much like state-of-the-art Pro Mod cars. They usually only perform at the very top level for 2-3 years. When their time is done, horses go out to pasture while out-of-date race cars are relegated to the barn.

Indiana’s Craig Sullivan efforts extended the life of a used NHRA Pro Mod rolling chassis and brought it new-found acclaim as a tribute to the king of NASCAR racing which is Richard Petty.

Sullivan’s SuperBird began its second life at the 2015 PRI show, where it became an instant hit with the fans. That popularity has endured as the NMCA reported it always attracted the largest crowds at its events last year.

Chris Davis of Kryptonite Kustomz developed the artwork which depicts a rusted Richard Petty Dodge Daytona with its iconic number 43 that might have been found in a barn. The body wrap raises wonder and questions among more than a few race fans if Petty ever did actually drag race.

The answer is, yes!

The year was 1965. Petty, coming off his first stock car racing championship, had basically boycotted NASCAR when they banned the 426 Hemi from competition. While some of the other Mopar teams opted to race in the USAC series, Petty stayed true to his Southern roots and went drag racing on the match race circuit with his “Outlawed” Plymouth Barracuda.

Tragedy struck not long into that 1965 season, however, when a broken suspension part caused Petty’s car to suddenly veer into a crowd, killing an eight-year-old boy and hospitalizing six. A story has been told that a distraught Petty returned home, cut the car up and buried it where it remains to this day.

With a calendar still full of contracted match races, the Petty family used an already-built second car dubbed “43/Jr.” to make those dates before he would return to NASCAR competition later that same year. In 1967, Richard Petty won his second stock car championship in a Plymouth. Although he never actually raced a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, Petty won eight events in a Plymouth Superbird in 1970 and remains one of the most popular machines that Petty ever drove.

Sullivan’s Pro Modified reminds more than a few gray-haired fans of the days when a Petty-blue A/FX car was tearing up the eighth mile as a forerunner to this modern Pro Modified machine. Petty may never had run low 3.70s at nearly 210 mph as this car has, but Sullivan’s tribute to the King surely brought back memories that likely ran just as fast.