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: FindAGrave.com
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.


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