Thursday, July 11, 2013

July 11, 1954 - Lee Petty Grabs Grand Rapids

July 11, 1954: Lee Petty wins his fifteenth career race in a 200-lap, 100-mile race on the half-mile, dirt Grand River Speedrome in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Herb Thomas apparently started on the pole; however, the rest of the starting line-up and lap leaders are unknown.

The Speedrome hosted two NASCAR Grand National races. The first in 1951 was won by Marshall Teague, and Papa Lee pocketed the second and last one three years later.

Credit: Retro Rockets
I Googled the dickens out of the interwebs for information about the race and speedway. I knew next to nothing about the racing history of Grand Rapids other than it is the home of former NASCAR driver, Johnny Benson, Jr.

Source: Wikipedia
After searching high and low, the only photo from the race I was able to find was this one of Walt Flinchum. Yep, that Walt Flinchum (/sarcasm). His eighth place finish at the Speedrome was the tops of his single-season, eight-race GN career.

While I found little to nothing about the 1954 race, I did land upon the site for the Speedrome Historical Society that features a nice write-up of the history of the track. One of the trivia nuggets I gleaned was that the track's announcer for many years was Bud Lindemann. Bud later became the host of a syndicated 'magazine' show called Car & Track that ran from the late 1960s through the mid 1970s. A few years ago, the show gained a new set of fans when Dale Earnhardt Jr. repackaged some of the old content into his Speed Channel series, Back In The Day.

Also, I found this video clip with highlights from the 1951 race. Although the coverage isn't from Lee's winning effort in 1954, the clip does provide great context for the track and the cars and racing conditions of the era.


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