Saturday, September 14, 2013

September 14, 1952 - Lee Petty Lassos Langhorne

September 14, 1952: Starting deep in the field, Lee Petty wins at the famed but treacherous one-mile, dirt Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania.

Herb Thomas started from the pole position for the 250 lap race, but he never led a lap. He crashed, completed 61 laps, and finished 37th in the 44-car field. Fonty Flock qualified second and led 50 laps, but he too exited early. A blown motor relegated Fonty to a 26th place finish. 

Bill Blair and Dick Rathman each led a sizeable chunk of laps. Blair was on point 89 laps and finished second to Petty. Rathman had a solid race - just not a great one. He qualified eighth, led 61 laps, and finished fifth. With 41 laps to go, however, Petty took over the lead and kept it the rest of the way. After starting 24th, the driver of the #42 Plymouth worked his way to the front and led the laps that mattered.

Many race fans today (myself included) often long for a return to racing like in the good ol' days. Interesting how we all often overlook the bad ol' days that accompanied the good times. In his book, Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France, Daniel Pierce noted:
One of the major problems encountered by NASCAR in the early 1950s was that, despite some improvements in safety, stock car racing continued to be a dangerous and even deadly pastime. A basic design flaw in the Hudsons made them especially prone to end-over-end rollovers. As Smokey Yunick observed, the "Hudson's rear quarter panels were deep and strong and the rear axle shafts were weak by racing standards. So when the axle broke, rear wheel was loose, but trapped in this strong wheel housing. This cause the Hudson to bounce ass-over-head violently." This type of rollover caused Jesse James Taylor serious head injuries when his Hudson flipped in the first turn on a 1951 race at Lakewood Speedway. It took rescue workers fifteen minutes to extricate him from the wreckage... Similar Hudson axle failures led to the deaths of drivers Larry Mann at Langhorne and Frank at Luftoe at Lakewood, both in 1952... The state of emergency medical care at the track did not help the situation much either, as Smokey Yunick noted "Back then, a local doctor with a bag and an ambulance or a hearse, or maybe just a fire truck was all we had." ~ pp. 145-146
As noted, Larry Mann crashed his Hudson during the 1952 Langhorne race. He suffered significant trauma and head injuries in the wreck and passed away in a Nazareth, PA hospital later that evening. Mann's death was the first fatality in NASCAR's young Grand National series. Eerily, he drove car number 43.

Source: Milwaukee Journal via Google News Archive


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