Friday, September 20, 2013

September 20, 1959 - Lee Petty Hauls in Hillsboro

September 20, 1959: Starting seventh in his #42 Plymouth, Lee Petty wins a 100-mile, 110-lap race on the .9 mile dirt Orange Speedway in Hillsboro, NC. Richard helped make it a good time for the Level Cross team with a third place finish in his #43 Plymouth (albeit with a wounded car).

Lee finished one lap ahead of second place Cotton Owens. Junior Johnson was originally flagged as the third place finisher but was subsequently disqualified to 22nd and last place. Richard, who limped home on a bum rear axle, was elevated from 4th to 3rd.

Jack Smith and (future) King Richard started on the front row. Junior Johnson arrived to the track late, and he had to start out back in the 22-car field. NASCAR would later reunite him with his starting spot in the race's final, official rundown.

The Pettys went on a pretty good hot streak winning three in a row at the central North Carolina speedway about 70 miles east of Winston-Salem and about 40 miles north of Raleigh.
Perry Allen Wood vividly recaps the race in his book, Silent Speedways of the Carolinas:
The second visit of 1959 was September 20, the day after Khrushchev was barred from Disneyland. Twenty-two speed merchants appeared at Fantasyland on the Eno for 110 laps, with Jack Smith putting a Chevy on the pole. He rocketed away for the first 50 laps until an axle snapped and Tiger Tom [Pistone] put his tired, but twice-victorious T-Bird 59 on the point. Junior Johnson...was late arriving, starting at the rear. However, he screamed through the field from 22nd and was challenging for first when he was taken out in a crash... Johnson got the goat going again and soldiered on. With 21 left, Pistone broke a spindle and Papa Lee got his 38th career win by a lap over Cotton [Owen's] 1959 T-Bird. Third was Richard Petty despite retiring with a broken axle. ~ p. 111
Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal via Google News Archive
Note the final paragraph of the race report article - especially if you have a hand in promoting races or know someone who does. What a cool event that must have been to watch - a match race of father-son teams of Lee and Richard Petty vs. Buck and Buddy Baker. Imagine the fun that fans could experience if track promoters still had such ideas: Kurt vs. Kyle Busch, Gibbs teams vs. Roush cars, Darrell and Michael Waltrip vs. Terry and Bobby Labonte, etc.


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