Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November 20, 1960 - Lee Petty's Final GN Win

November 20, 1960: In a 200-lap, 100-mile race on the half-mile dirt track at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, FL, Lee Petty wins what turns out to be his 54th and final career NASCAR Grand National race. His son Richard finished fourth and within a few years would surpass his dad's records to become the King of NASCAR racing.

Though the race was in November 1960, it was actually the second race of the 1961 season. Junior Johnson won the pole but lost a distributor and finished dead last in the 22-car field. Though Lee won the race, he started in the 'unlucky' 13th spot.

Virginian Tommy Irwin had a career day. Irwin only started 99 GN races in his career, but he had 23 top 5's (though no wins). He qualified third for the Jax race, dominated the race by leading 166 laps, but finished second to Lee - tying his career best.

Though Irwin didn't have an extensive GN driving career, his racing affected at least one driver: Tiger Tom Pistone. Nine months earlier in a qualifying race for the 1960 Daytona 500, Irwin spun off the track and ended up in Lake Lloyd.

Though he escaped, the car sunk into the lake where it remained until Speedweeks concluded. Pistone - admittedly not a great swimmer - rigged up an oxygen mask for the 500 in the event he should wind up in the same situation as Irwin.

Photo courtesy of Chrissy Pistone
But I digress...

I'm uncertain as to how or why Irwin surrendered the lead - perhaps through a pit miscue. Regardless, Lee took over the top spot with 18 laps to go and led the rest of the way to take the checkers.

NSSN headline and ISN article courtesy of Jerry Bushmire
Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
As referenced in the beginning, Lee's win at Speedway Park was his final GN one. Just a few months later in February 1961, he was critically injured in a qualifying race for the Daytona 500.

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive

While the 1960 win at Jacksonville was Lee's final GRAND NATIONAL victory, it wasn't his final win overall. On February 19, 1961, a few days before the Daytona qualifying race wreck that effectively ended his career, Lee won a compact car race at Daytona.

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive

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