Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 29, 1957 - Lee Petty Scores in Spartanburg

June 29, 1957: Starting from the pole, Lee Petty wins at Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds in Spartanburg SC. The race - the third Grand National event at Columbia in 1957 - was ended 13 laps short of its scheduled 200-lap distance.

In his book, Silent Speedways of the Carolinas, Perry Allen Wood writes:
Earlier in the month, the factories pulled out due to bad publicity and outside pressure. Gone were the big Detroit dollars, but the big names were still around, fueled by deal money from NASCAR and promoters, under-the-table bucks from factories and vendors, and funds raided from piggy banks and mattresses all over the country. Twenty-two stockers lined up and saw a whale of a show for 187 laps. Bud Moore had two Chevrolets out front with 13 laps to go when leader Buck Baker and teammate Speedy Thompson dueled neck and neck into that high board fence outside the first turn that gets blasted almost every race. The red flag flew to clean up two demolished '57 Chevrolets, lots of whitewashed kindling, and put Bud in a straight jacket after seeing his personal hometown sweep vanish in a cloud of dust and splinters. They hit it at about 11:30 PM and there was no time to make repairs and finish the 200-lapper before the Sunday morning curfew. In 1957, there was no racing in the Palmetto State on the Sabbath. Official declared [Lee] Petty the winner, even though Baker led the last lap completed. Petty was parked before the finish line and never completed the 188th lap, but was declared the winner anyway, his third at the Fairgrounds. ~ p. 9
So as was often the case throughout Petty's career, another Lee victory ... and another controversy. In the end, however, Lee still went home with the trophy. The win was certainly a relief to the Petty team, because 26 races were needed before he notched his first victory of the 1957 season.

Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal via Google News Archive (nav to p. 7)

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 28, 1958 - Lee Petty Horse Collars Hickory

June 28, 1958:  Starting ninth, Lee Petty wins the Buddy Shuman 250, a 250-lap, 100-mile race at Hickory Speedway in Hickory, NC. Records weren't maintained about lap leaders, so its unclear how much of the race Lee led.

Greg Fielden writes in Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Vol. 1:
Lee Petty pushed his Oldsmobile across the finish line a single car length ahead of Junior Johnson to win the 100-mile race at Hickory Speedway. Speedy Thompson came in third, right on Johnson's bumper ... Officials were forced to wave the red flag in the 25th lap when heavy dust conditions made driving unsafe. After utility trucks toured the .4-mile oval for 15 minutes, the the race was restarted. ~ p. 309
Julian Petty, Lee's brother, fielded three cars for the race. In what must have been a genuine facepalm race, none of the three had quality finishes. Possum Jones, Bob Welborn, and Ken Rush finished 19th, 27th, and 29, respectively, in the 31-car field.

Buddy Shuman was a pioneer of NASCAR's early years. He was among the few dozen individuals invited to the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, FL by Bill France Sr. in 1947. The meeting resulted in the formation of NASCAR. In an abbreviated career, he won once in a 29-race Grand National career. His one victory came in the first of only two GN / Cup races outside of the United States - a 1952 win near Niagara Falls on the Canadian side of the border. (Coincidentally, Lee Petty won the second, non-US race at Toronto in 1959 in which Richard Petty made his first Grand National start.)

Sadly, Shuman perished from smoke inhalation in a hotel room fire at the age of 40 in 1955. Hickory Speedway honored Shuman's legacy by renaming one of its annual Grand National races the Buddy Shuman 250. The name was continued from 1956 through the final Grand National race run at Hickory in 1971.

NASCAR also established the Buddy Shuman Award to be presented annually for "outstanding contributions and loyalty to automobile racing." Past winners of the award include:
  • Herb Thomas
  • ESPN
  • Dr. Jerry Punch
  • Dick Beaty, longtime NASCAR inspector
  • TV and radio announcer Ken Squier
  • Richard Petty 
  • John Holman (of famed Ford car builders Holman & Moody)
  • Bob Bahre, founder of what is now New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  • Dr. Joe Mattioli, founder of Pocono Raceway
  • Bud Moore
  • Smokey Yunick
  • Lee Petty
  • Goodyear
  • Benny Phillips, longtime writer for High Point Enterprise
  • Richard Childress
Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
While many of the Grand National drivers were racing in Hickory Saturday night, one of NASCAR's true characters - Curtis Turner - was in Charlotte filing a police report on Saturday morning.While this news clipping is short on details, Curtis' reputation for hard partying makes this news long on speculation and laughter.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
 Hickory Motor Speedway still operates today with a regular slate of local, late model racing. The track can be found on the web and on Twitter.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25, 1958 - Lee Petty's Pennsylvania Paydirt

June 25, 1958: Starting second, Lee Petty wins a 200-lap, 100-mile race on the half-mile, dirt Lincoln Speedway in New Oxford, PA - or Abbottstown - or Hanover. All are within a stone's throw of one another. I guess the town name just depends on who you ask.

Ken Rush started first in a Julian Petty-owned #44 Chevrolet - his second of only two career poles. When the race was completed, however, Rush had faded to twelfth in the 31-car field. NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker finished second, and Bob Welborn finished third in a second Julian Petty entry. Future Petty Enterprises driver - Jim Paschal - finished seventh.

Finishing an unimpressive 25th was driver Mario Rossi racing in his fourth and final NASCAR Grand National race as a driver. Rossi turned his focus to what he did best - working on cars. In the late 1960s, he fielded his own cars for The Alabama Gang - first Donnie Allison and later, his brother Bobby. In the early 1970s, the paths of Rossi and Donnie Allison crossed again when Rossi was hired by DiGard to crew chief for Allison. In mid 1975, Allison was fired and replaced by a rising driver from Franklin, TN: Darrell Waltrip. From the jump, the two didn't mesh. In 1976, DW got his wish when the team owners fired Rossi.

Source: Lakeland Ledger via Google News Archive
Rossi pretty well fell off the radar a few years after leaving DiGard. He disappeared in 1983 - and hasn't been heard from since. For more on Rossi's varied history and murky details surrounding his death (?), read this fine 2007 Sports Illustrated article by Becca Gladden (a solid person to follow on Twitter by the way).

Anyway, back to Lincoln...

The original promoter of the track was Hillen "Hilly" Rife. A few interesting nuggets about Hilly Rife as noted in a Godwin Kelly column from The Daytona Beach News-Journal include:
  • In 1957, Rife was involved in a bad racing accident. Bill France Sr. ensured Rife had the proper physician and paid his medical bills.
  • Their friendship continued for decades. When Big Bill's health situation worsened, Rife moved to Daytona Beach to become his personal assistant.
  • Rife worked with NASCAR to start the "Northern Swing" tour for the Grand National cars. For about a 10-year span or so, NASCAR sanctioned Grand National races in places such as Islip, Rochester, Bridgehampton and Buffalo, NY; Trenton, Langhorne and Morristown, NJ; Oxford, ME; Pittsburgh; etc.
After a colorful life with a passion for racing and commitment to deep friendships, Rife passed away in 2010.

Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal via Google News Archive
Lincoln Speedway still operates today with a slate of sprint cars and dirt late models. The track can be found on the web as well as on Twitter.


June 25, 1954 - Lee Petty Romps To Rochester Win

June 25, 1954: Driving a #42 Chrysler, Lee Petty wins a 200-lap, 100-mile race on the half-mile dirt track at Monroe County Fairgrounds in Rochester, NY. Second place finisher Herb Thomas was the only other car on the lead lap at the finish.

In the days leading up to the race, Thomas - the 1953 Grand National champion - was promoted in the local paper as one of the featured drivers expected to race.

Source: Rochester Democrat Chronicle - June 20, 1954
Another driver promoted in the newspaper to help sell tickets was Oregon's Hershel McGriff. It's stunning to think McGriff drove all the way east to race in the inaugural Southern 500 in 1951 and was still racing as recently as a couple of years ago.

Source: Rochester Democrat Chronicle - June 22, 1954
With the track being such a long distance from the southern base of NASCAR, many drivers simply chose not to make the trip presumably because of the high travel costs and low purse. But the absence of many GN regulars created an opportunity for many local drivers to test their mettle against the guys that did make the long trek.

Source: Rochester Democrat Chronicle - June 25, 1954
Greg Fielden recapped the race in his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Vol. 1:
Lee Petty wheeled his Chrysler around Herb Thomas in the the 141st lap and led the rest of the way to win the 100-mile Grand National contest at the Monroe County Fairgrounds. It was Petty's third win of the year and the 14th of his career.

Thomas, who started on the pole for the 30th time in his six year career on NASCAR's big league stock car tour, finished second. Dick  Rathman came in third, Buck Baker was fourth and Hershel McGriff fifth.

Thirty-two cars started the 200 lapper on the half-mile dirt track, and 24 were running at the finish. There was  only one crash - a solo mishap when Wally Branston flipped his Oldsmobile in the 52nd lap. He was not hurt. ~ pp. 150-151
Of the top five finishers, three are already in the NASCAR Hall of Fame - Lee Petty, Herb Thomas and Buck Baker. In time, I predict McGriff will be inducted as well for his longevity, a handful of GN and Cup starts and wins, and his multitude of NASCAR Winston West / K&N Series races.

Source: Rochester Democrat Chronicle - June 26, 1954
Edited June 24, 2014

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A 2013 Six (Months) Pack of Schaefer

My blogging focus for the last several months has been researching and recapping old school Petty Enterprises wins. Thank you to any who have read them, replied, forwarded a link, tweeted, posted to Facebook, etc. I hope you've enjoyed these trips through history and maybe even learned a trivia nugget or two.

Blogs about the adventures of the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor have not been as plentiful as in the past. The last Schaefer-schentric post was back in January. One reason has been my focus on the Petty posts. But the other reason is its getting dang near impossible to find Schaefer anymore. A limited supply results in limited opps to share in the fun.

The Metropoulos father-son combo that owns Pabst Brewing has all but strangled the life out of the brand. In the end, however, the Schaefer HOF and Ring of Honor is a committed group of good-time-havers. No amount of narrow minded, short sighted, cost cutting, production ending efforts of those two #@%*&!^ will detract from our fun times. With that said, here is a photo recap of some of the fun times had by the SHOF and SROH the past six months.

Rev. Randy had quite the Schaefer Schuper Bowl Schaemorgasborg. When food and Schaefer collide, good times are destined to happen.

While Schaefer HOF co-founder's Schuper Bowl buffet may not have been as extravagant, I've had that scheven-layer bean dip before. Its phenomenal - plus Philly amped his presentation with a Schaefer tall boy.

When a new race season begins, TMC - like many other fans - renews foolish new optimism. I'm always hopeful the legendary 43 will return to its rightful place in victory lane. I tried to convey some positive mojo on Richard Petty Motorsports beginning with the twin qualifying races for February's Daytona 500.

When the checkered flag fell on the Daytona 500, the 43 finished 13th and teammate Marcos Ambrose finished 18th. Not great. But as the Schaefer HOF slogan goes, its not that bad.

With the return of the Indy Car series to Pocono in 2013, TMC bought some 1970s era decals from back in the day when Pocono's Indy race was part of the triple crown.

In February, Rev. Randy truly went old school and back to the roots. He located a statue of Gambrinus - the patron of all brewers - and commemorated his visit with a missing-can-formation Schaefer Schaloot.

He later drove by Boston Brewing Company, brewer of Sam Adams. Before Boston Brewing moved its operations to this location, the brewery was originally the home to ... yep, F&M Schaefer Brewery (some pics and more truth). In between, the location was used to make Smirnoff Ice. But we'll overlook that part of its sordid past and move on.

In March, SHOFer (class of 2012) Kuzzin Kari traveled to New England - the one part of the country that fortunately still sells Schaefer. She found this 12-pack in parts-unknown Massachusetts.

As spring began its return, the SHOFers got the itch to do more than just enjoy indoor Schaefer activities. Philly, Rev. Randy, and Uncle Dave showed 'em who's boss at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Though with the empty grandstands and the fact these three weren't mowed down by fast race cars, I'm reminded of his 2004 commercial featuring Michael Waltrip.

In April, Uncle Dave and Philly hit the right track - Rockingham - to witness the return of NASCAR with its running of the Camping World Truck Series race.

As Uncle Dave and Philly enjoyed Rockingham, TMC flew to Philly. From there, I drove north to Princeton NJ. As part of my stay, I enjoyed a Schaefer reunion with Schaefer Ring of Honor member and fellow life-long Petty fan 200WINZ.

Uncle Dave relocated from Cleveland to establish the South Florida Chapter of the SHOF. He regularly lets other SHOFers how good life can be down there.

The Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor Annual Conference is held each Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway - as it was again this year. But as documented here frequently, many regional conferences are held - including the All Star Race at Charlotte the week before the 600.

This year, the All Star event took it up a notch. SROH Cuzzie G made a huge delivery. He transported ten cases of Schaefer tall boys and a cooler full of live New England lobsters and steamers from New Hampshire.

And the weekend's party host, SROH member Pat, grilled several racks of incredible, dry rub ribs.

Rookie loved him some lobstah - even if he did get a bit greedy with them after they were pulled from the pot.

After an afternoon of cornhole, Schaefering and generally having fun, SHOFer Kuzzin Kari parted ways with the crowd and used her pit pass of privilege to pay a visit to the 43 pit stall - the team partially owned of course by the King, Richard Petty.

She then went one better by getting the chance to see the King himself around driver introductions.

Throughout the day, SHOFers, Schaefer Ring of Honor members and other distinguished guests schared plenty of food, fun, schmiles and Schaefer.
toomuchcountry's 2013_ASR_Slideshow album on Photobucket

Because of competing priorities on the home front, I missed the Coke 600 in Charlotte for the first time in several years. The Schaefer Schelebration is greater than one individual's participation; however, and the party continued.

On Thursday's qualifying night, Philly and SHOFer Cuba met a living legend: Ken Squier. Among his many contributions to racing, he was the original voice of Motor Racing Network radio, a track promoter in Vermont, and the lead announcer on CBS' NASCAR broadcasts.

Squier's greatest career call, however, is unarguably the last lap of the 1979 Daytona 500: ... and there's a fight!

Race day for the 600 once again reunited a super-majority of the SHOF - great friends all of them. Three of us sadly had to miss year's annual Schaefer Schoiree: Bruton, Uncle Dave and TMC.

L to R: Philly, Paducah, Cuba, Rookie, Rev. Randy, Kuzzin Kari
Philly and new SROH entrant Dale Jr. claimed the treasured 2013 Schaefer Racing Cornhole Tournament trophy.

As they settled in for a long evening of 400 laps and 600 miles, the SHOFers displayed their true colors.

As Cuba settled into a new dwelling, he made sure his table's place settings were in order.

And his new refrigerator was sufficiently stocked with the basics needed for sustenance.

On a Wal-Mart run to restock some essentials, Cuba ran into this guy. Who knows - a potential Schaefer Ring of Honor entrant? I guess we'll see in May 2014.

In June, I traveled to Las Vegas and was immediately hit in the face with triple-digit heat. Fortunately, I knew precisely where to get some Schaefer to quench my thirst: Lee's Discount Liquor on Las Vegas Blvd. Just 2 years ago, Philly and I found it there - far left hand corner of the store, second shelf from the bottom. So as soon as I got my luggage and rental car, I made a beeline for Lee's.

But when I arrived, OH NO! It couldn't be! But it was. Lee's still had shelf space for Schaefer Light, but they'd been out of stock for weeks. And regular Schaefer wasn't even sold by them anymore.

Temporarily crushed (and still thirsty), I needed a new plan. The next day I phoned the local distributor to see if other area stores sold it. Sure enough, she referred me to a chain called Smart & Final. I was given the address for a specific store that had recently purchased twenty 12-packs. With renewed hope, I headed for the store - which was most assuredly not part of The Strip.

And there it was - just as was predicted. I was practically giggling like a teenage school girl as I bought a 12-pack to bootleg home in my luggage.

Earlier this month, I blogged about a return to trip to the fairgrounds speedway in Nashville. No racing trip would be complete without a Schaefer - even if it is dang difficult to find and needs to be smuggled in as a pocket beer.

SHOFer Bruton submitted this one back in January. So I'll let your deviant minds come up with your own juvenile punch line for it.

I'll close with this video. While the Harlem Shake craze has fortunately passed, it was a phenomenon of the first schix months of 2013. And with a Schaefer theme to this one, I'm willing to let the trend extend a bit.