Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 31, 1959 - Petty Picks Greenville-Pickens' Green

July 31, 1959: Lee Petty wins his second and final career NASCAR Convertible Series race in a 200 lap, 100 mile race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, South Carolina. Son Richard Petty struggled mightily in the race and finished 19th in the 22-car field.

Lee's win in his familiar #42 Plymouth came in his 28th and final start in the Convertible Series over a three-year period. (NASCAR ended the series after 1959 though it sanctioned a few convertible or blended races of sedans and ragtops through 1962.)

Greg Fielden succintly recapped the race in his book, Rumblin' Ragtops: The History of NASCAR's Fabulous Convertible Division:
The 45 year-old veteran, a part-time competitor on the popular ragtop circuit, finished over a lap ahead of runner-up Joe Lee Johnson. Roy Tyner came in third with the father-son team of Buck and Buddy Baker in fourth and fifth.

[Lee] Petty started fourth and moved into contention when pole sitter Joe Weatherly went out early with steering failure. ~ pp. 123-124
Less than a year later, Joe Lee Johnson of Cleveland, Tennessee won the inaugural World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway - easily the biggest win of his driving career. After a career that included two Grand National wins and two Convertible Series victories, Joe Lee took over ownership and promotion at Cleveland Speedway in Tennessee. Before his passing, he turned the track into a premier dirt track of the southeast.

In the rear view mirror of today's perspective, the race was chocked full of future NASCAR Hall of Famers - though many of them didn't have a HOF-caliber finish in that particular event.
  • Lee Petty - winner
  • Buck Baker - 4th
  • Bud Moore (car owner of Jack Smith) - 12th
  • Glen Wood - 13th
  • Ned Jarrett - 18th
  • Richard Petty - 19th
  • Joe Weatherly (NHOF nominee) - 20th
Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal via Google News Archive (p.4)
Greenville-Pickens Speedway (web, Twitter) continues to operate today with a full slate of late model hot shoes.

Also, despite conventional wisdom that CBS' airing of the 1979 Daytona 500 was the first "flag to flag" coverage of a NASCAR Cup race, it was actually ABC's 1971 Greenville 200 that has the distinction - 12 years after Lee Petty's ragtop win.

Edited July 31, 2014


  1. Hey how can I email you?

    1. toomuchcountry (at) gmail (dot) com - Looking forward to hearing from you.