Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 24, 1958 - Welborn Wins Winston-Salem

Greetings from the tailgating grounds of Charlotte Motor Speedway. TMC is here once again enjoying the weekend festivities leading up to tonight's Coca-Cola 600.

After driver Bob Welborn joined forces early in 1958 with owner Julian Petty, the duo was almost unstoppable in the spring races of NASCAR's convertible and Grand National divisions.  Welborn won five races in a row followed by Top 5s and a sixth in the next three convertible races with another GN win by Welborn at Greensboro (though he wasn't driving for Julian in that one).

On May 24, 1958, the Grand National drivers traveled to Winston-Salem, NC to race at Bowman Gray Stadium. The track opened in 1949, but the May 1958 race was the first GN event at the Stadium.

The race was officially sanctioned as a Grand National event; however, many convertible division regulars joined the field. They didn't need a separate car - just a top. The drivers brought their regular ragtop cars and simply bolted on a roof piece to race in the GN event.

Source: Greensboro Daily News
Rex White won the the pole. Lee Petty started 3rd, and Welborn timed 10th in Julian's #49 Chevy. Ken Rush started seventh in #44A in a second Julian Petty entry. White raced #44, and some records indicate he also raced for Julian Petty - though White insists he never drove for him.

White leveraged his top starting spot to lead the first two-thirds of the 150-lap race. Welborn then got by Rex and led the remaining 49 laps to match his car number. His victory was his 4th consecutive Grand National win in a series of four races entered.

Although Welborn won the race in a full-bodied sedan, he was not awarded GN points. Why? Despite having a roof over his head, Welborn's Chevy did not have rear glass in place. It's hard to see how the absence of the glass would have provided an aero advantage on the quarter-mile, Winston-Salem bull ring. But that was the ruling. As a GN part-timer, the trophy likely meant more to Welborn than "a good points day" anyway.

Source: Greensboro Daily News
Remarkably, with the momentum Welborn and Julian had built, Welborn wouldn't win another GN race until late August - his fifth and final win of the 1958 season.

Though Welborn and many of the other drivers had the day off Sunday after Saturday night's race at Bowman Gray, others had no time to sit still. Trenton Speedway was to host its first Grand National race on Memorial Day, May 30th. Qualifying began a week earlier on Sunday May 25 meaning several had to hustle to travel overnight from Winston-Salem, NC to Trenton, NJ.

Source: Reading Eagle via Google News Archive
Drivers who raced at Bowman Gray and then trekked to Trenton for qualifying were Buck Baker, Cotton Owens, Eddie Pagan, Lee Petty, Jack Smith, Jim Reed, and 1958 rookie of the year candidate Shorty Rollins. With Lee's participation in both races, I'm curious if 19 year-old Richard was tasked to drive the car home from Bowman Gray - or take a car to Trenton. Hmm.


1 comment:

  1. Geez, those guys lived the life of a nomad. The only things missing were a desert and a herd of camels. No way today's drivers could maintain that pace.