Monday, September 7, 2015

September 7, 1958 - Julian Petty's bookends day

The next to last race of the 1958 NASCAR convertible division season was a 150-lap race on the half-mile, dirt Wilson Speedway in Wilson, North Carolina.

Julian Petty's 1957 Chevrolets were fast - as was often the case in 1958 in the convertible and Grand National divisions. Ken Rush in Julian's #44 Chevy, and teammate Bob Welborn qualified on the front row with Rush.

Starting 11th was Richard Petty in his family team's #42 1957 Oldsmobile. The race was only his second convertible start and seventh NASCAR start overall.

Ken Rush's last name was appropriate - if he wanted to be the first one to leave the track. On the 12th lap, he lost the car coming out of turn four and rolled his convertible down the frontstretch. Rush remarkably suffered only a bruised shoulder and arm, and he returned to race the next week. Though I'm sure his wreck brought the crowd to their feet, Rush left Wilson with a 23rd and dead last finish.

All was not lost for Julian as an owner though. Welborn did what he'd been doing pretty much all season: winning. Though I haven't found any detail about lap leaders, Welborn did lead the lap that mattered most - the last one. With Welborn's win, Julian went home with bookend finishes - cars that finished first and last in the race.

Brownie King finished third, a career best finish for him in a combined 120 or so GN and convertible division starts.

Petty finished fifth - his first top 5 in NASCAR competition. The weekend was a pretty good one for the Petty clan as Lee finished third in in the Grand National race in Birmingham, AL the same day. Coincidentally, Richard's first top 5 in a Grand National race was also at Wilson Speedway. He finished third at Wilson in March 1959.

One confusing point about the race is its distance. Some materials I've referenced indicate the race was 150 laps and 75 miles. The wire service report I found in several newspapers, however, states the race was 200 laps and 100 miles. Either way, the constant between them all is Welborn again took the top prize in a 1958 convertible race.

Source: Greensboro Daily News

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