1958 - Driving a #42 1957 Oldsmobile, Richard Petty makes his professional racing debut. He finishes 13th in a 200-lap, 100-mile NASCAR convertible series race at Columbia Speedway in South Carolina. Coincidentally, Bob Welborn wins the race in a Chevrolet owned by Richard's uncle, Julian Petty.
The race is not included in Petty's tally of 1,184 NASCAR Grand National / Winston Cup starts; however, the wheels were set in motion for one heckuva racing career and the eventual coronation of NASCAR's undisputed King.
The man himself spoke about his memories of transitioning from a crewman on his dad's team to being behind the wheel of his own car.
Dale Inman - Richard's cousin, best friend, and crew chief for the vast majority of his starts - tells a funny story about the beginning of Richard's driving career.
Sports Illustrated published an article about Petty's first start in its July 14, 2008 issue - almost 50 years to the day Richard first put on his helmet at Columbia. The article also mentions his first career Grand National start in Toronto, Ontario Canada about one week later.
In Richard's almost 60 years of racing as a driver and now an owner, he has selflessly signed thousands of autographs. Someone had to be the first. Tim Leeming from Columbia - one the great new racing friends I've met at RacersReunion.com - was at Richard's first race in 1958 and apparently got autograph number one from the future King of Stock Car Racing. (begin at 2:38)
A reader and fellow Petty fan from Columbia gave Bench Racing a huge boost. He visited the Columbia library's archives, found the following article from the July 13, 1958, edition of The State (South Carolina's largest newspaper), scanned it, and e-mailed it to me. Simply fantastic.
|Credit: The State - but Yeoman's Effort: Gamecock43|