Monday, September 14, 2015

September 14, 1958 - Welborn Stakes Salisbury

NASCAR scheduled races for two of its major series on September 14, 1958. The Grand National drivers raced at Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds for the Richmond 200. Speedy Thompson won the race, and Lee Petty finished second.

About 250 miles southwest of Richmond, Salisbury Super Speedway hosted a convertible division race, its first major NASCAR event.

Source: Spartanburg Herald via Google News Archive
Despite what one of the preview articles said, the race was not 500 miles. It did, however, have an odd distance - 155 laps, 96.9 miles. Twenty-six cars started the race with Larry Frank on the pole. The Petty teams were quite busy that day. Papa Lee raced in Richmond, and he had two more cars in the convertible race. His brother, Julian Petty, fielded three cars at Salisbury.

Julian's three cars were driven by the soon-to-be-crowned season champion, Bob Welborn, as well as Ken Rush and Tiny Lund. Rush was returning after an early race tumble at Wilson Speedway a week earlier.

Petty Engineering's two Oldsmobiles were driven by Richard in car #2 and Fireball Roberts in Lee's traditional #42. The race was the one and only time Roberts raced in a car fielded by the Pettys. I'm sure a story exists for why Fireball piloted the Petty Olds. With both Lee and Fireball gone, the chances of learning it are slim.

For the most part, the Petty cars qualified well. Lund started on the front row in Julian's #48 Chevy alongside pole winner Frank. Fireball qualified the #42 Petty Olds third. Welborn lined up sixth, and Julian's third driver Ken Rush started 7th. Richard had to start from way back in 17th in the 26 car field, but he up his stock once the race got underway.

Lund got the jump on Frank as the green flag fell. Tiny went to the point in Julian's Chevy and stayed there for the first 78 laps. Bad racing luck hit Lund, and an issue with the engine knocked out his chances for a win. He did finish the race, but he ended up tenth and 15 laps down to the winner.

With Tiny having issues, Frank went from second to the lead. The pole-winner paced the field for the about the next thirty laps. On lap 111, however, Welborn let it be known he had not grown weary of winning. Welborn led the remaining 40+ laps to claim his eighth convertible division win of the season. The finish was pretty close as Welborn finished just a couple dozen yards ahead of second place finisher Frank.

Petty rallied from his deep starting spot to run with the leaders. Near the end of the race, however, he lost an engine. The future King was initially scored third - which would have been the best finish of his young career. After rechecking the score cards, however, Petty was placed fifth which matched his finish from a week earlier in the convertible race at Wilson Speedway.

Fireball didn't have much success in Lee Petty's car. He was the final car still running at the end of the race, but he was about 100 laps down to Welborn.

Source: Statesville Record and Landmark
And yes, the AP writer committed a double Petty faux pas by:
  1. referring to Richard as Dick Petty and
  2. stating he was a Jr.
Source: The Daily Times-News of Burlington, NC
Salisbury hosted only one other major race - a Grand National event on October 5, 1958, a race won by Lee Petty. After building and opening the track in 1958, the track's promoter chose to move on to bigger projects. The promoter? O. Bruton Smith. The project? A development effort with Curtis Turner that would become Charlotte Motor Speedway.


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