A brief history of NASCAR
Started off with large groups of factory backed teams, and few independents. Chevy hired Buck Baker,
Speedy Thompson, Jack Smith, Rex White, and Frankie Schneider among others. Ford hired Fireball Roberts,
Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly, Bill Amick, Marvin Panch, and Ralph Moody. Pontiac had Cotton Owens and
Banjo Matthews, while Mercury had Billy Myers and Jim Paschel. Lee Petty and Ralph Earnhardt teamed up
to drive Oldsmobiles and were "semi-independent." Plymouth had a one car team with Johnny Allen.
Advertising by the manufacturers stressed the speed and raw horsepower. The hood of a car carried the
painted on "Horse Power" figures the factory supplied (not always quite truthful). The wild advertising
claims got so out of hand with untruthful statements that NASCAR created a rule requiring "honest"
advertising by the auto makers.
Fuel injected engines and superchargers were legal since the public could buy such equipment from their
dealers and therefore was considered "stock", and the horsepower wars were underway. When highway safety
issues were raised by several organizations however, NASCAR banned the use of fuel injection and superchargers.
Then they went a step further and banned the auto companies from using race results in advertising.
Anyone caught violating the advertising ban would lose manufacturer's points. Both Ford and Chevrolet
had manufacturer's points taken away for violations of this rule during the year.
After an accident at Martinsville Speedway where a car hurled over the wall and into an area that
had been marked "no spectators allowed", but in fact had several spectators in it - several people were
badly injured. Once again, the media called for a ban on all forms of auto racing. The Automobile
Manufacturers Association (AMA) met on June 6, 1957 and recommended that the auto industry take no part,
nor assist in any way, auto racing or other competitive events in which speed or horsepower were emphasized.
The factory teams desolved immediately, leaving some of the drivers suddenly car owners or even team owners with absolutely
no support, no sponsors, and no money. Bill France in an effort to keep the drivers coming to the races,
offered to pay appearance money - he called it "travel money". Every entry would receive at least $300.
Buck Baker would win the Championship in his Chevrolet - 40 starts of 53 races, 10 wins, 30 top five and 38
top ten finishes.
Saw many of the previous "star" drivers fading from the winners circle. A few got caught up with high
bills for teams they had "inherited" when the factories pulled out and left them with teams but no support. A
few more were simply growing a bit too old for the sport. New faces and a few old faces showed up though.
One of those was Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts. He was not an unknown, he had in fact lost the 1950 Grand
National Championship by only a few points, but he was best known for his driving in the Modified division.
In 1958 he would start only 10 Grand National races, winning six of those, and despite missing 41 of the 51
races for the season, he finished 11th in the points at the end of the year. He was nearly impossible to beat
in the superspeedway races.
Richard Petty entered his first Grand National race - at Toronto Canada on July 18, 1958. He qualified 7th,
finished 17th, and claimed it was his dad Lee that bumped him into the wall to end his day. He would finish
the year 36th in points, 9 starts, no wins, no top five, one top ten, while his dad Lee would win the
Championship with 50 starts of 51 races, 7 wins, 28 top five, and 44 top ten finishes.
Begins a truly new era in stock car racing. Back in 1954 at speed weeks on the Daytona sand beaches, Bill
France said that 1954 would be the last year the Grand National cars would participate in the beach races.
(it wasn't) The reason was that he was building a superspeedway. The building of that speedway had many
setbacks along the way, but it was finally opened February 1, 1959. Drivers who toured the track before it
actually opened were in absolute awe and admitted they were scared to death of the place. Anyone who has ever
driven down the back straight and seen how the third turn rises up about five stories high would be in awe too.
Qualifying was spread out over the entire month of February, and the first qualifying race was run February
20th for the Convertible Class. Richard Petty finished third in that qualifying race. In the following sedan
qualifier race, several drivers wondered aloud, just how it was that they ran laps a full three miles per hour
faster than their qualifying laps during the race, and they did so while trapped in traffic.
Junior Johnson became the first driver ever disqualified at Daytona after he finished fourth in the
Sportsman 200 miler but was found to have a gas tank much larger than the 20 gallon tank allowed. Lee Petty
was the winner of the first Daytona 500 mile race, although it took several days to determine he had won
because of the close finish. The 500 was run caution free at an average speed of 143 MPH (Fireball Roberts
won the pole position with a speed of 140.5 MPH).
In April 1959 at Columbia, SC two rookies ran their first Grand National races; Ned Jarrett and Buddy Baker.
Jarrett would finish second, Baker 19th after a broken rear end sidelined him.
At Atlanta June 19, 1959 Richard Petty was flagged as the winner of the race, his first win - however, the
second place driver protested and the win was taken away from Richard and awarded to the second place driver,
Lee Petty (his father). Richard would have to wait until the next year to record a win. His father Lee would
win the Championship with 42 starts of 44 races, 11 wins, 27 top five and 35 top ten finishes
Saw the construction of three more new superspeedways and many started speaking of eliminating all the
dirt tracks and short tracks from the schedule in favor of these new superspeedway tracks.
Also new for NASCAR - CBS Television came to Daytona and wanted to broadcast the twin 125 qualifying races
before the 500. They did not want to broadcast the main race, only the 125s. NBC not to be outdone by CBS,
came to Daytona a few days later and broadcast a 4 lap 10 mile race called the Autolite Challenge race where
the drivers were selected by the sponsor and invited to participate.
On Februray 13, 1960 - before the 500, 73 Sportsman division cars took to the track for a 250 mile race.
Coming off the fourth turn to complete lap two, a car swerved down to the apron, but continued - while 37
cars wrecked behind him. The "big one" was born that day. The 500 wasn't much better for wrecking cars,
and ran more than 30 caution laps during that race. So many of the Grand National cars were torn up that
NASCAR cancelled the next two races to give the teams time to rebuild their cars.
Nine of the forty four races run in 1960 were on superspeedways, including the World 600 at newly built
Charlotte Motor Speedway. Lee Petty, Junior Johnson, and Richard Petty were all disqualified after that race
because they spun into the infield during the race. NASCAR said they were warned in the driver's meeting
to stay out of the infield.
Richard Petty scored his first Grand National win at Charlotte Fairgrounds half mile dirt track February 28,
1960. He would finish second in points with 3 wins by season end.
David Pearson was rookie of the year with 0 wins, 0 top fives, and one top ten in 22 starts.
Rex White took the Championship with 40 starts of 44 races, 6 wins, 25 top five and 35 top ten finishes.
Is a big test for NASCAR. In return for a loan of a large sum of money from the Jimmy Hoffa's Teamsters
Union, to bail out the builders of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the then President of the Charlotte
organization Curtis Turner, agreed to try to unionize the NASCAR drivers as well as drivers from other
sanctioning bodies. He met with drivers from NASCAR, USAC, ARCA (then known as Midwest Association of Race
Cars). They formed a union called the Federation of Professional Athletes - or FPA. Turner got his loan from
the Teamsters reported to be around $850,000.00. He issued a statement in August of 1961 indicating that the
majority of the drivers from the Grand National circuit had joined the union and paid their dues. Bill France
hit the roof when he heard that. He issued a statement also; "No known Teamster member will compete in a NASCAR
race, and I'll use a pistol to enforce that rule." He arrived before the next race and met with the drivers. He
had a great deal to say, but the most remembered statement was; "Before I have this union stuffed down my
throat, I will plow up my two and a half mile race track and plant corn in the infield." He then suspended
Curtis Turner, Tim Flock, and "Fireball" Roberts - for life due to their participation in the union. A couple
of days later, "Fireball" Roberts issued his own statement and said he had joined the union for all the right
reasons, to better things for the drivers, but he now saw the harm it could do and denounced the union and
withdrew his membership. Bill France reinstated him the same day. Then NASCAR formed the Grand National
Advisory Board, consisting of two drivers, two NASCAR executives, two car owners, and two promoters. Ned
Jarett and Rex White were named as the drivers, Ed Otto and Pat Purcell were named from NASCAR, Rex Lovette
and Lee Petty were named as the car owners, and Clay Earles and Enoch Staley as the promoters. They would
address collectivly the issues claimed to exist by the union.
Bobby Isaac drove his first Grand National race May 21, 1961 at Charlotte.
Ned Jarrett wins the Championship with 46 starts of 52 races, 1 win, 23 top five, 34 top ten finishes.
Saw the return of auto companies to racing. They had been secretly helping certain teams anyway, so
it was no surprise when they openly announced a return to NASCAR. First Ford made the announcement, then
Chrysler, but Chevrolet remained silent even though everyone knew they were supplying engines and parts for
some teams. Then Bill France made an announcement of his own - he imposed a new engine rule limiting engine
displacement to 428 cubic inches. Common knowledge of Ford developing a 483 cubic inch engine made France's
ban a slap in the face to Ford.
Darel Dieringer qualified 15th and raced a car his car owner bought off the showroom floor for the Southern 500
at Darlington, he was caught up in a crash that destroyed the car about halfway through the race. Freddy
Lorenzen ran another car that the same car owner purchased from Holman-Moody and finished third at Richmond VA
in it. The owner - 19 year old Mamie Reynolds of Ashville NC.
Joe Weatherly in a Bud Moore Pontiac won the Championship with 52 starts of 53 races, 9 wins, 39 top five,
and 45 top ten finishes.
CONTINUE TO 1963
Last Updated by Mike Wicks on Tuesday, 19 October, 2004 at 1:20 AM.
© 2003, 2004 Mike Wicks