Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 13, 1954 - Lee Scores Southern States

Driving a #42 Chrysler, Lee Petty wins his sixth race of the season in a 200-lap, 100-mile race at Southern States Fairgrounds in Charlotte, North Carolina on August 13, 1954. The event was the first Grand National race at the track, and GN races continued to be promoted on the Carolina half-mile, dirt track through 1961.

Perry Allen Wood describes the track in his book Silent Speedways of the Carolinas:
At the southeast corner of Sugar Creek Road and US 29 in Charlotte stands a shopping center with lots of Asian and empty stores anchored by a Park N Shop that is as much eyesore at is is supermarket. Its stands on the site of the Southern States Fairgrounds that held 17 100-mile Grand National races from 1954 to 1961. It actually lasted two seasons after the opening of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. However, there is no trace of it left to stir the imagination; no rusting guardrails, no pine trees popping through the concrete grand stand, no wooden fairgrounds fence, not even a bullet-riddled light pole. There is no magic in a dirty asphalt parking lot 45 years after the show closed. Postcards of the old fairgrounds show a lovely lake in the infield that today has been reduced to a miserable little litter-strewn rivulet surrounded by scrub brush and all that nasty pavement. ~ p. 194
 The footprint where the track once stood...

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And a postcard view of the track as referenced in Wood's book... 

Lee won three Grand National races (1954, 1957, 1959) and one convertible series event at the track (1958). In 1960, Richard Petty won his first career Grand National / Cup race in the the next-to-last GN race at Southern States.

Future Petty Enterprises driver Buck Baker started from the pole in the 1954 inaugural race but finished fifth. The rest of the starting line-up and lap leaders apparently were not documented or simply were lost to time. Based on the article below, Lee didn't lead the entire race. He took over the lead from Baker with 50 to go, and then went on to a two-lap victory over second place Dick Rathman.

Source: Spartanburg Herald Journal via Google News Archive

Edited August 12, 2014

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