Tuesday, September 15, 2015

September 15, 1957 - Gwyn Lassos Langhorne

Today's Cup schedule seems to run forever as it begins in February and finishes in November. The schedules of the 1950s and 60s, however, were a true grind for those who made a legit effort to race in all or the majority of the races.

The 45th race of the 53-event 1957 season was scheduled for September 15th at Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania. The 300-mile race was a NASCAR Sweepstakes event - a blended race of Grand National hard-top sedans and drivers from NASCAR's convertible division.

Paul Goldsmith won the pole in Smokey Yunick's #3 Ford convertible. Fireball Roberts qualified second in his hard-top sedan. Glen Wood and Lee Petty made up the second row. Bob Welborn rounded out the top 5 starters. The rest of the 48-car field was set with the quickest ragtops starting in the inside, odd-numbered positions and the sedans filling the outside, even-numbered slots.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Several starters were drivers from the northeast making their one and only or at least an infrequent GN start including:
  • George Bumgardner - only start
  • Bobby Abel - only start
  • Roger Baldwin - 2nd of two career starts
  • Jerry Benjamin - 4th of 5 career starts
  • Art Binkley - 4th of 5 career starts
  • Don Gray - 3rd of 5 career starts
  • Dick Klank - 6th of 7 career starts
  • Tommy Elliott - 6th of 7 career starts
  • Ken Marriott - 4th of 5 career starts (4 at Langhorne and 5th in inaugural Daytona 500)
  • Huck Spaulding - 6th of 9 career starts
  • Dutch Hoag, modified ace of the northeast  - 4th and final GN race
Fans witnessed a great back and forth battle between Goldsmith and Fireball during the first third of the race. Each led a handful of laps before being passed.

Fireball was finally able to shake Goldsmith as the race neared the 100 lap mark. Two additional challengers then made their way to Roberts' bumper. First, Bill Amick of Portland, Oregon got by Roberts to lead 19 laps. Like Goldsmith, Amick's time up front was short-lived. Roberts re-took the lead, and Amick later lost an engine near the 200-lap mark.

After Fireball led for a 63-lap stint, he began having steering issues. Multi-time NASCAR Short Track Division champ Jim Reed went out front for 44 laps as Roberts fell further behind. Then Reed developed engines issues of his own, and he fell out of the race after only 220 laps.

As the race cleared the two-thirds mark, Gwyn Staley arrived. Staley was driving a Chevrolet convertible for owner Julian Petty and started the race deep in the field in 25th. He led the remaining 85 laps to take the win by a half-second or so ahead of unknown Whitey Norman. Though close at the time for the fans and drivers, a post-race scoring recheck revealed Norman was actually two laps down to Staley.

Johnny Allen came home third. The little bit of remaining drama involved the fourth and fifth place finishers. With four laps to go, Buck Baker eased by Rex White into fourth place. On the last lap, however, Baker's Chevy ran out of gas. He coasted helplessly to the finish, and White was able to pass the fading Baker to reclaim fourth.

Although Staley raced Julian's convertible, NASCAR records recognize his win as a Grand National victory. His car was the only convertible of the top five finishers.

The race also turned out to be the final Grand National race at Langhorne. Staley needed a shade over four hours to capture the win. It seems like that would have been like an eternity to wrestle the wheel around Langhorne's one-mile, dirt circle. Yet at the time, the mark was a race record.

Staley's win was also the last of three career Grand National victories. All were won in 1957, and all were at the wheel of Julian Petty's Chevrolets.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if Dutch Hoag's lone 1957 Grand National outing carried any financial help from his long time modified suds sponsor, Genesee Beer?