ONA — The Ona Speedway will host a tribute to racing legend Richard Petty — who won three NASCAR races on the historic short-track circuit early in his career — as part of race day Saturday, Aug. 17. The event celebrates the 55th anniversary of Petty's Mountaineer 500 victory at Ona in 1964.
The centerpiece will be the arrival of the replica 1964 Plymouth Belvedere, tailored to the exact specifications of Petty's 1964 Daytona 500 win, built by retired Marine MSgt. Raymond Mrosewske.
Mrosewske, a Michigan native and veteran of Vietnam, Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, requested to bring his car to the track after learning about Petty's history at the Ona Speedway, which is the only asphalt track in West Virginia.
The Plymouth Belvedere, a favorite of Petty, sports a 500-horsepower engine, a new automatic transmission built by an ex-Petty Enterprises employee, and the exact gear ratio Petty used in 1964. The exterior is the iconic "Petty blue" and sports the exact decal package to Petty's 1964 Daytona 500 win.
Race guests will be allowed to take photos with and sit in the car during the races. Mrosewske will also be taking the car on a spin around the track in exhibition between races.
There is a surprisingly deep history between Petty's celebrated NASCAR career and the Ona Speedway, which has operated on the banks on the Mud River at the Ona Airpark since at least the 1950s. Petty first raced at the Ona Speedway in 1963 but did not win (losing to fellow NASCAR legend Fred Lorenzen), only return to win the Mountaineer 500 in 1964 - the 35th of his eventual 200 career NASCAR wins.
Points from that race helped solidify Petty's first NASCAR Grand National Series championship in 1964. Petty returned to win two more NASCAR races at Ona in 1970 and 1971.
Mrosewske's Plymouth Belvedere will be at the grandstand area for guests to see roughly between 4:30 and 7 p.m., when racing begins. The display will feature archived photos from the 1964, historic clippings from The Herald-Dispatch and The Advertiser reports of the race, and books on Petty's life.
The books, all signed by Petty, will be given away to children via raffle throughout the night, with one boy and one girl also receiving a kit model of the 1964 Plymouth Belvedere. The grand prize for the night will be a family trip for five to visit the Petty family house, museum and garage in central North Carolina, including a private tour by Petty's daughter, Sharon Petty-Farlow.
The night features a full slate of races in five vehicle classes: classics, late models, modifieds, hobby stocks and u-cars. Grandstand admission is $10 for adults, $7 for kids 11-17 and free for children 10 and under. Gates open at 4 p.m., and races start at 7 p.m.
Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.