Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August 26, 1957 - Gwyn Staley Wins Myrtle Beach

From the late 1980s through 2000, NASCAR's Busch Series (now Xfinity) raced at Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina. Prior to its branding as Myrtle Beach Speedway, the track was known as Rambi Speedway. Rambi hosted Grand National (later Cup) races from 1958 through 1965.

Rambi replaced another Myrtle Beach track - Coastal Speedway. Coastal was just a couple of blocks from the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean and hosted two GN races. Fireball Roberts won the first one in 1956, and the drivers were back for the second and final 200-lap race at Coastal on Saturday night, August 24, 1957. Because of South Carolina's blue laws, the race was moved to Monday evening vs. running it on Sunday.

Source: The Robesonian via Google News Archive
Johnny Allen surprised the other drivers and the fans by putting his Plymouth on the pole on the half-mile dirt track. His top spot was the first of only three career poles for Allen. Fireball started second in a Ford. Gwyn Staley qualified third in Julian Petty's Chevrolet. Lee Petty and Jack Smith rounded out the top 5 starters.

Allen's fast lap in qualifying did nothing for him in the race. He didn't lead so much as one lap, and he was the first to depart the race when the fan assembly on the Plymouth failed after ten laps. His DNF relegated him to 15th and last in the field - a true case of going from the penthouse to the outhouse.

Fireball got the jump on the field and began his domination of the race. His plan was to go the distance without making a pit stop. One thing about Fireball though. His M.O. was pretty straightforward: go fast. It's likely he used more gas than was needed simply because he was leading - and likely trying to pull away.

Roberts' strategy almost worked, but almost doesn't get it in racing. With 15 laps to go, Fireball ran dry. He coasted into the pits, got him a splash to go, and returned to the track. Instead of a trophy, Roberts went home with a third place finish and two laps down to the winner.

Staley took advantage of Fireball's miscue. He put his Julian Petty-owned Chevy out front, led the remaining laps, and scored the win. The win was Staley's first of three career GN victories. All three were won in 1957 and in Julian's '57 Chevrolet.

Staley did not, however, receive any GN points for the race. Julian had bolted a hardtop on the Chevy following Staley's second-place finish in a convertible race at Charlotte Fairgrounds three days earlier. The car had no rear window, however, which made him ineligible for points. Because Staley was a full-time convertible division driver and raced only part-time in a few GN races, the points loss was of little concern to him or Julian.

Eddie Pagan finished second, one lap down to Staley. Pagan had traveled across the country to race in the Southern 500 at Darlington. He also entered the Myrtle Beach race while he was in the neighborhood. As was often the case back in the day, a win generally didn't happen without a corresponding protest. Someone (it's unknown who) filed a protest saying Staley made a pass under caution. The protest was either withdrawn or rejected by NASCAR officials because Staley was allowed to keep his win.

Source: Greensboro Record
Thanks to fellow Petty fan Tim Leeming (web | Twitter) for the assist with this post. 


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