Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 15: Some NASCAR firsts and lasts

In the month of October, we're Halfway to Halloween. But until I started studying some of NASCAR's history a bit closer, I didn't realize how many firsts and lasts bookended this day's races.

1950 Martinsville Speedway

NASCAR Hall of Fame member Herb Thomas leads more than half the race and claims his first career Grand National win in a 200-lap race at Martinsville.

Also, Leon Sales finished last in the race after crashing Hubert Westmoreland's #98 Plymouth. The car was wrecked just six weeks after Johnny Mantz finished first in it in the inaugural Southern 500.

1967 National 500 - Charlotte Motor Speedway

Buddy Baker wins his first NASCAR Grand National race by capturing Charlotte's fall race in Ray Fox's Dodge.

Baker's long-awaited win was coupled with Richard Petty's early exit. A failed engine relegated Petty to an 18th place finish and ended the King's 1967 consecutive winning streak at 10 races. (Interestingly, the highest finishing Petty Enterprises entry was journeyman G.C. Spencer who finished 5th in a #42 Petty Plymouth in the 2nd of his 3 starts for the team.)

1989 Holly Farms 400 - North Wilkesboro

The King lasts only 124 laps, crashes, and finishes 32nd and last. Painfully, son Kyle Petty develops ignition problems, goes out the same lap, and finishes 31st - next to last.

Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt waged a classic battle in the waning laps to see who would finish first. Instead, they BOTH spun on the last lap giving first place to Geoff Bodine. This type of hardscrabble action is what's missing from today's NASCAR cookie-cutter, play-it-safe racing. (Be sure to watch and listen through the post-race interviews.)

Coincidentally, Bodine was in his last season with Hendrick Motorsports and would be replaced by Rudd in 1990. The race was also the first race for Winston Cup cars to run Goodyear radial tires.

2000 Winston 500 - Talladega Superspeedway

Dale Earnhardt pulled off what seemed like an impossible win. He came from deep in the field with just a few laps remaining to win. Though he finished first, it was his last Winston Cup victory.

Fellow Schaefer Hall of Famers Philly and Paducah joined me that day at Talladega. After many trips to the track, however, the race remains our last one there.

So as you reflect on the racing history of October 15th - and just life in general - remember the timeless and challenging guidance of Reese Bobby...

Edit 2013-10-15: Overlooked another October 15th first. Ricky Craven won his first Winston Cup race in the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville on October 15, 2001. HT to @ClassicNASCAR on Twitter for tweeting about Craven's win.



  1. I still remember watching the '89 Holly Farms 400. More than once on tape. Bob Jenkins was epic, as was the race

    1. Better video quality can be viewed here - just doesn't have the great post-race interviews: http://youtu.be/cnqUozeHMcw