Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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

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