Lee Petty was an established NASCAR star - a Grand National champion who was headed for his second of three career titles in 1958. One of his crewmen began as a crewboy - his son, Richard. After being rebuffed by his dad to begin driving himself at age 18, Richard waited three more years to begin his career. That driving debut happened in a NASCAR convertible race on July 12, 1958 at Columbia Speedway in South Carolina.
Though Petty's start turned out to be a seminal moment for racing, 24 other drivers likely didn't care about the kid from Level Cross being in the field. They were there to race and to win - not to acknowledge the future.
Fireball Roberts claimed the pole for the 200-lap, 100-mile race in his #22 1957 Chevrolet. Qualifying alongside him was Bob Welborn in his Julian Petty-owned #49 Chevy. Possum Jones timed 6th in a second, #48 Julian Petty Chevy. Richard lined up in 13th.
With about 60 laps to go, Johnny Allen had a wreck that could have negatively affected racing in a grand way. Coming out of turn 4, he left the track and tore up about 10 rows of grandstands. Apparently the seats weren't occupied and fortunately no one was injured - including Allen.
Fireball and Welborn came to the pits to get fuel for the stretch run of the final 50 laps. Julian's crew put some fuel in Welborn's car - but the team wasn't sure if they got enough. He got back on the track in front of Roberts, and then endured 25 miles of getting rapped in the bumper as Fireball tried to find a way by him.
On the last lap, Roberts made his move as Welborn's car began running on fumes. But he didn't have quite enough. Welborn nipped Roberts by about a half car-length as his car ran dry.
|Credit: The State of Columbia SC|