Monday, April 20, 2015

April 20, 1958 - Welborn Wins Martinsville

Driver Bob Welborn and owner Julian Petty won their fourth consecutive race together on April 20, 1958 in the Virginia 500 Grand National race at Martinsville Speedway.

Source: Motor Racing Programme Covers
NASCAR Hall of Famer and two-time defending race winner Buck Baker let the field know early he planned to extend his win streak to three. He won the pole in his #87 Chevrolet and was joined on the front row by another future NASCAR Hall of Fame member, Glen Wood. Welborn's Chevy was not quite right during qualifying, and he had to settle for a 20th place starting spot in the 47-car field.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
Baker's top starting spot didn't yield him much of an advantage. He did lead the first lap once the green was dropped, but he soon gave way to Wood. The #21 Ford driven by Wood led the next 138 laps before giving way to Julian Petty's older brother, Lee. Papa Lee piled up 58 laps out front as Welborn continued working his way through traffic.

Welborn went to the point for the first time around lap 200. Baker had developed an issue with his car's wiring several laps earlier and was done for the day. After his stint out front, Lee Petty no longer challenged for the lead, When the day was done, he had to accept his 11th place finish. Wood got back by Welborn around the 300-lap mark  to lead for another 30 laps or so. But as with Petty, Wood's car began going away, and he cruised the final 200 laps to finish 9th.

With Welborn's top competition out of the race or sliding back through the field a bit, he settled into his rhythm and clicked off one lap after another. In time, he built a 5-lap lead over the second place car and seemed to be on his way to an easy win.

With about 30 days to go, however, Welborn's Chevy cut a tire. Fortunately for him, he was able to nurse his car back to the pits and have the tire changed. He gave back a couple of his laps he'd built on second place Rex White, but the remaining ones he'd accumulated seemed to be an insurance policy for a victory.

As the checkers fell, Welborn was indeed fortunate to win the race. White and third place finisher Jim Reed managed to get back on the lead lap with Welborn, but they couldn't get past him for the win.

After joining Julian Petty's team a month earlier, Welborn could seemingly do wrong. Their 1958 win streak stood at four following Martinsville:
  • April 5 GN win at Champion Speedway in Fayetteville NC
  • April 7 convertible win at Bowman Gray Stadium
  • April 13 convertible win at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway
  • April 20 GN win at Martinsville
Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
Following the race, Welborn was congratulated by the top two party drivers on the circuit - Curtis Turner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Weatherly. My guess is one of two things happened - well maybe both:
  • The two may have gotten Welborn likkered up that night as part of a long celebration, and/or
  • They may have taken Bob up in Turner's plane and barnstormed it enough to scare Welborn into giving up his trophy - with them laughing the whole time.


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