Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 18, 1959 - Lee Petty Conquers Columbia

June 18, 1959: Starting third in a #42 Plymouth and leading only the last few laps, Lee Petty wins a 200-lap, 100-mile race at Columbia Speedway in South Carolina.

Perry Allen Wood recaps the race in his book, Silent Speedways of the Carolinas:
Bob Burdick from Omaha captured his second and last career pole in just his fourth start in a T-Bird. ... But it was scar-faced Joe Weatherly from outside row one that jumped away and led the first 43 laps until he and Junior [Johnson] in old 11 roared into the first turn and found G.C. Spencer and Richard Riley tangling. Junior plowed into the rear of Joe's T-Bird and during caution, the indestructible Joe had to be lifted from the 'bird as a hastily recruited Jimmy Thompson took over. ... Buck took over for the next 82 laps until Tommy Irwin battled past in his T-Bird and looked like a winner until 11 to go. That is until Lee Petty, luckless at this place, battled by Irwin with dust flying to take the point. The Old Man rumbled under the checkers by less than a second in his high-finned white '59 Plymouth. ~ p. 52
Finishing 13th driving a #4 Julian Petty-owned Chevy was Ken Rush. Though he never drove for Lee Petty / Petty Engineering, Rush made a substantial number of NASCAR Grand National and Convertible Series starts for Lee's brother, Julian. He also won the first race held at Talladega - the 1969 Grand Touring race held as a preliminary race to the now infamous, inaugural Talladega 500. The 1957 NASCAR Rookie of the Year passed away in October 2011.

Source: The (Columbia) State - Courtesy of Gamecock43
With limited television coverage and no interwebs, newspaper writers had more opportunities to enhance their stories. The description of Junior Johnson's escaping a flaming death reminded me of P.T. Flea's circus in Disney's A Bug's Life movie.


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