Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16, 1958 - Lee Wins a Ragtop Race

May 16, 1958: Starting second, Lee Petty leads about half the race in an Oldsmobile and wins a 200-lap, 100-mile NASCAR convertible series race at the dirt fairgrounds speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Tiny Lund won the pole and led the first half of the race before surrendering the lead to Petty. Tiny and Petty Enterprises had somewhat of an interesting relationship. He drove a second #188 Petty Enterprises car for a few races in 1957 as Lee's teammate, and he returned 10 years later to drive four more races in a #42 Plymouth as a teammate to Richard Petty.

Tiny's brief stint with Petty Enterprises in 1957 apparently didn't end amicably. As writer Tom Higgins has told the story on more than one occasion:
Lund had driven five races for the Petty team in 1957 and the association ended bitterly.

Prior to a race in Greensboro, a flatbed from a trailer truck was being used as a stage for driver introductions. So happened that Petty and Lund were starting in fairly close proximity, so they passed on the stage.

An obviously disparaging remark was made and knuckles started flying.

"The deal was, Tiny and Daddy had a falling out," said Richard Petty. "To spite Daddy, Tiny was telling the other teams about some special, secret things we did to our cars. Daddy confronted him about it, and they went to it, right there in front of everybody. I think Daddy took the first swing."

"Tiny" was a joke of a nickname for Lund. He stood 6-5 and weighed between 250 and 275 pounds. Lee Petty stood 6-3 and weighed about 175.

"Daddy and Tiny scuffled onto the deck of that flatbed and he was whipping Daddy pretty bad. Me and my brother Maurice, both still teen-agers, jumped in to try and help Daddy. Well, Tiny was whupping all three of us.

"This is when my mother got involved. She came on that stage and started pummeling Tiny in the head with her purse. She was raising pump knots on poor ol' Tiny.

"The reason is, she had a .38 caliber pistol in that purse!"

Read more here:
Greg Fielden describes the 1958 Charlotte race in his book, Rumblin' Ragtops - The History of NASCAR's Faboulous Convertible Division:
Petty sped across the finish line seven laps in front of runner-up Ken Rush to nail down his first convertible triumph... The half-mile dirt course became an obstacle course within the first 35 laps. Two A-frames broke on the rutted surface, an accelerator linkage broke off another car, and a steering assembly broke on another. Many of the cars which finished looked like the runnin' wounded. ~ p.98
Lee started 28 races in NASCAR's limited-life convertible series. His victory at Charlotte was his first of only two career wins in the series. The second one came in July 1959 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina.


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