Sunday, July 7, 2013

July 7, 1956 - Lee Petty Sparkles at Spartanburg

July 7, 1956: Lee Petty wins a 200-lap, 100-mile race at Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Polesitter Fireball Roberts finishes second behind Petty. The win is Lee's second of three career victories at the track.

The race featured some interesting car numbers. In contemporary racing times, about the only unique numbers raced are those with a leading zero. But in the 1950s, it wasn't unusual at all for cars to feature 3-digit numbers - or even a letter on the door panels and roof. Some examples from the Spartanburg race:
  • 300C - Speedy Thompson - finished 7th
  • 760 - Brownie King - finished 12th
  • 300   Buck Baker - finished 13th
  • 264   Johnny Allen - finished 15th
  • 999   Wilbur Rakestraw - finished 16th
  • 500D   Herb Thomas - finished 17th
Perhaps teams quit using that third digit because it made the car too heavy and slow. Hmm...

Perry Allen Wood summarized the race in his book, Silent Speedways of the Carolinas:
The Grand National tour visited Spartanburg twice in 1956, the first time on Saturday night, July 7th. The event was moved from the prestigious Independence Day for a 250-miler on the Raleigh asphalt... On the dirt, 18 cars entered with Kiekhaefer rolling out two high-powered Chryslers for Buck [Baker] and Speedy [Thompson] and a Dodge for Herb [Thomas]. It was [Fireball] Roberts in one of three De Paolo Fords on the pole with a new track record... Only seven cars finished as [Gwyn] Staley's Chevy slowed in the groove entering the first turn with a sour engine and Thomas, in an effort to avoid him, creamed the boards in his Dodge... Roberts ran hard all night but could not catch the streaking Petty who took the $850 first prize in his Dodge. ~ p. 7-8
Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal via Google News Archive

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