Friday, May 3, 2013

May 3, 1959 - Lee Monopolizes Martinsville

May 3, 1959: - Starting deep in the field in 24th, Lee Petty motors to the front, leads 337 laps, and wins the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. Driving an Oldsmobile, he won by 5 laps over runner-up Johnny Beauchamp who had relief-driver help from Larry Frank.

The win was Lee's 40th career Grand National victory and his third win of the season (the second was at North Wilkesboro).  Coincidentally, Beauchamp also finished second to Lee in his first win of the season in the inaugural Daytona 500.

Bobby Johns (who later raced for Petty Engineering) and Joe Lee Johnson qualified on the front row.

Richard Petty made his Martinsville debut. Like Lee, he struggled in qualifying and placed 25th, one spot behind his dad. But again like Lee, he picked his way through the field and finished 7th. Lee's victory was the final of his three wins at Martinsville. With a solid debut, Richard picked up where Lee left off and won 15 times in his career on the Virginia half-mile.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson finished 3rd with relief driver help from Ned Jarrett, a fellow, future HOFer. Greg Fielden notes in his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Volume 2:
Johnson was holding better than a lap lead when he pitted on lap 308, giving the lead to Petty for good. A long stay in the pits dropped him to third place. On lap 347, Johnson pitted again and passed out. Jarrett took the wheel and drove the car home third. Johnson later said exhaust fumes had overcome him. ~ p. 25

With deadline pressures to submit race reports to sports editors, mistakes can be made by reporters or complete information may not be available at press time. The following race report notes Roy Tyner finished fourth with Tiger Tom Pistone in 5th. However, when NASCAR posted the final results, the two spots were reversed.

Source: St. Petersburg Times via Google News Archive

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