Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October 2, 1949 - Petty Legacy Kicks Off in Pittsburgh

October 2, 1949: In the seventh race of NASCAR's first season for its Strictly Stock series (known later as the Grand National and Cup series, Lee Arnold Petty of Level Cross, NC wins career race number one. The race was a 200-lap, 100-mile event on the half-mile, dirt Heidelberg Speedway near Pittsburgh, PA. Petty won 53 more Grand National races over the remainder of his career.

Al Bonnell won the pole but finished last in the 23-car field. The rest of the starting line-up and the race's lap leaders have been lost to history.

Dick Linder had a five-lap lead on the field with five laps to go in the race. But he lost a wheel and was apparently done for the day. Petty made up the five-lap difference and completed the full 200 laps. Linder was awarded second place based on his 195 laps completed. The third place finisher, Bill Rexford, was seven laps down to Petty and two behind Linder.  

Petty's winning trophy is on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

Greg Fielden recapped the race in his book, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing - Vol. 1:
In the first Strictly Stock event in Charlotte in June, Lee Petty entered a bulky Buick Roadmaster. The enormous automobile was fast on the straights, but it wobbled like a tank through the turns. Just past the halfway point, Petty rolled the Buick a number of times....[T]he North Carolina speedster vowed never to drive a heavy vehicle in competition again.

In the 100-mile event at Heidelberg Speedway, Petty driving his number 42 lightweight Plymouth, was five full laps ahead of his nearest competitor. 

Dick Linder's Kaiser finished second but was in no position to challenge the fleet Petty.

Bill Rexford finished third, Sam Rice's Chevrolet was fourth with relief driver Glenn Dunnaway at the helm. Fifth place went to Sara Christian, the first time a female driver has cracked the top five in a premier NASCAR event. ~ pp. 20-21
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via Google News Archive


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