Friday, June 14, 2013

June 14, 1959 - (A) Petty Wins Lakewood

June 14, 1959: Richard Petty takes the checkered flag at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta, Georgia for his much anticipated first career NASCAR Grand National win! But a trophy wasn't awarded, victory lane beauties withheld kisses, and presses were stopped paused as an official protest was filed and had to be resolved by NASCAR officials.

Greg Fielden recaps the highlights of the race in his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Volume 2:
Richard Petty drove his convertible Oldsmobile under the checkered flag first, but dad Lee Petty wound up pocketing first place money in the 150-mile Sweepstakes race at Lakewood Speedway.

Richard... appeared to have won his first big league NASCAR event when he was flagged first in the 150-lapper on the dusty Lakewood oval. However, the runner-up protested and asked that the score cards be checked out. The runner-up was Richard's dad, Lee.

After an hour, Lee was declared the winner, and he nailed down the $2,200 first prize. Richard got $1,400 for second place. Buck Baker finished third and Curtis Turner was fourth... Fifth place went to Tom Pistone who was two laps down.

Lee Petty started 37th in the 40-car field. Time trials were not held due to an early morning rain. Richard drew 27th place. The Pettys charged through the pack as wrecks slimmed down the field. Accidents took out Bob Burdick, Ken Rush, Johnny Allen, Mike Price, Gene White and Harlan Richardson. No serious injuries were reported in any of the incidents. ~ p. 30
Fielden's use of the phrase "no serious injuries" doesn't necessarily mean someone didn't endure a painful injury. In the articles embedded below, the writers note Gene White suffered facial lacerations and lost several teeth in an accident. OUCH! The green flag unfurled - and a hockey game broke out!

J.C. Hendrix, a driver of only six career Grand National races, drew the #1 spot for the pole position. In only his third GN start, he got to start up front - yet wasn't credited for winning the pole. But he held his own and soldiered home to a 13th place finish.

Driving a #73 Ford Thunderbird, Johnny Beauchamp finished second to Lee Petty in the inaugural Daytona 500 a few months earlier. On March 29, Beauchamp won the 1959 season's first Lakewood race - also in the #73 T-Bird. For the June Lakewood race, Beauchamp strapped into the now-legendary #21 Wood Brothers Ford. Good fortune was not with driver or team, however, as JB finished 14th - 18 laps down.

For those unfamiliar with Lakewood Speedway - the original superspeedway of Atlanta - or the disputed Petty win, I encourage you to spend a few moments reading a couple of great columns at including this one by Brandon Reed about larger-than-life racing stories and this one by Cody Dinsmore about Lakewood itself.

In this excerpt from Richard Petty's Audio Scrapbook, The King tells his version of the story to long-time MRN announcer, Barney Hall.
And in the video production, Petty Blue, Richard again retells the story (with footage from races other than Lakewood used as the backdrop).

With economics and racer pride prevailing over parental empathy, Lee was awarded the win. The victory was his 42nd Grand National win - one that matched his car number.
Source: Spartanburg Herald Journal via Google News Archive
Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive

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