Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 17, 1954 - Lee Petty Masters Martinsville

October 17, 1954: Starting from the pole in his #42 Chrysler, Lee Petty wins at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

The race was scheduled for 200 laps and 100 miles; however, officials displayed the checkered flag at 165 laps because of darkness.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
The record books indicate Petty won the pole; however, the rest of the starting line-up is unknown. Papa Lee dominated the shortened race by leading 157 of the 165 laps. The remaining 8 laps were led by ageless Hershel McGriff who finished second. McGriff later ran a handful of races in the early 70s for Petty Enterprises.

The victory was also meaningful for Petty because it clinched him his first of three NASCAR Grand National series championships.

Greg Fielden recapped the race in his book Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Vol. 1:
Lee Petty locked up his first Grand National driving title with a victory in the scheduled 100-miler at Martinsville Speedway.

Hershel McGriff finished in second place, in the the same lap with Petty and in a position to challenge for his fourth win of the year. Third place went to Buck Baker, Dick Rathman took fourth and Jim Reed was fifth with relief help from Herb Thomas.

Three caution flags broke the action. The most serious altercation occurred in the 34th lap when Dink Widenhouse and Glen Wood flipped their cars simultaneously in the third turn.

44 cars started the event which produced some tight traffic jams from start to finish. Twenty-six cars finished the race. ~ p. 163
With only three cautions and Martinsville's having a few years of races under its belt to estimate average race times, its unclear why NASCAR and track management couldn't run the full race. Based on the race article above, the race was slated to begin at 2:30 PM. Perhaps race day rain delayed the start - or ominous rain clouds and accompanying darkness moved in during the afternoon.


1 comment:

  1. I guess this is an early clue about the dominance Petty Enterprises would enjoy at Martinsville.