Knowledge Is Power

Many things come to pass, but should not be forgotten. In regards to racing, such things may have been short-lived failures, others could be deemed building blocks in the evolution of the sport.

If you’re a history buff, reminiscing and trivia are no doubt important to you, regardless of what role the facts may have played in racing’s formation. Yet, if you’re a present-day fan, not well versed on racing’s past and struggling to find any meaning in a bunch of old stories and facts from bygone days, look at it this way: learning about the past can structure you into a spectator who can better appreciate modern racing through understanding its roots. It can also put you one-up on your neighbor when bench racing around the BBQ grill.

Let’s review a few of items that are little-known, or still objects of confusion to this day.

NASCAR actually had a bona fide Short Track Division for Cup type cars from 1951 to 1959, which ran independently of the premier Cup Series. The schedules consisted of ovals shorter than a half-mile. There was not more than one event set per track per year. In the beginning, so many of the weekly regional tracks were excited about the fledgling NASCAR that they hungered for a date.

The new class had its own championship and points fund. The first year, 1951, turned out to be one of observation by promoters. Even after voicing their desire to secure a date, most first wanted to see if the fields had a draw for fans before committing. Eleven meets were run in seven states.

The biggest purse that first year was $5,250 at Lanham (MD) Speedway, won by Bronx, NY, midget driver Tony Bonadies in a Nash. Pappy Hough, of Paterson, NJ, was crowned first champ following completion of the ’51 season.

Although the circuit only lasted through the 1950s decade, it was popular and prospered for a while. Short track ace Jim Reed dominated the series for five consecutive years, 1953-57. Other champions were Neil Cole, 1952; Lee Petty, 1958; and Californian Marvin Porter, 1959.

Into the changing 1960s, the Short Track Division was absorbed into the NASCAR Cup Series on the smaller tracks. As purses became more lucrative and competition tighter, having a separate “short track car” was the way to go. The racing calendar then supported almost 50 events per year until 1972, when dates were cutback to around 30.

One more set of facts I’ll clarify this time around, since the topics routinely come up at the Archives, and continue to be misunderstood in the field. They surround Richard Petty and the locations of his first starts and first win in NASCAR.

His very first start was not in the Cup Series, but rather NASCAR’s Convertible Division at Columbia (SC) Speedway on July 12, 1958. He finished sixth, and was 21 years of age.

Where the confusion often come into play, is that the very next week, he made his initial start in the NASCAR Cup Series at the Canadian National Exposition Speedway in Toronto, Canada, on July 18, 1958. He made it a little over halfway before crashing into the fence after a rear end bump from his father, Lee.

These two events were totally different divisions and did not appear on the same schedule — one was Convertible, the other Cup Series. Points and championships were separate.

His very first win, however, didn’t come until 1960 at the Charlotte (NC) Fairgrounds on February 28, 1960. Lastly, in concert with this fact, it is sometimes erroneously reported that this was the same site as NASCAR’s first sanctioned Strictly Stock race in 1949. That facility, actually, was old Charlotte Speedway, not the Fairgrounds.

If you win any bets around the BBQ, be sure to cut me in!

Related Topics:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2008

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