1st DIRT NASCAR Grand National Road Course Race

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
8 years ago
9,134 posts

I just learned something new. Was re-reading my 1998 "Thunder of America" coffee table book celebrating NASCAR's 50th anniversary.

In the history section, NASCAR historian, Jonathan Mauk related that the first ever NASCAR race on a DIRT road course was held in 1955 at Willow Springs road course in Lancaster, California.

The road course was an oiled, dirt 2.5 mile layout and the race was the third of the 1956 season.

Here are the results from Racing Reference, which doesn't mention dirt. Anybody have a Greg Fielden writeup that tells of the dirt road course??

NASCAR Grand National race number 3 of 56
November 20, 1955 at Willow Springs Speedway, Lancaster, CA
80 laps on a 2.500 mile road course (200.0 miles)

Time of race: 3:00:25
Average Speed: 66.512 mph
Pole Speed: 76.556 mph Cautions: none
Margin of Victory: 500 feet
Attendance: 17,000
Lead changes: 7

Fin St # Driver Sponsor / Owner Car Laps Money Status Led
1 2 22 Chuck Stevenson Carl Dane '56 Ford 80 1,570 running 54
2 3 98 Marvin Panch Tom Harbison '56 Ford 80 1,130 running 26
3 5 15 Johnny Mantz Bill Stroppe '56 Mercury 79 1,130 running 0
4 1 7 Jim Reed Jim Reed '56 Chevrolet 79 580 running 0
5 4 2 Allen Adkins Gus Davis '55 Dodge 78 445 running 0
6 24 99 George Seeger Oscar Maples '56 Ford 78 350 running 0
7 12 10 Scotty Cain Scotty Cain '56 Ford 77 260 running 0
8 8 34 Sherman Clark Sherman Clark '55 Chevrolet 77 215 running 0
9 10 56 Chuck Meekins Jim Rush '55 Chevrolet 77 165 running 0
10 32 47 Lloyd Dane Lloyd Dane '55 Mercury 76 150 running 0
11 23 8 Jim Sills '55 Mercury 76 150 running 0
12 18 89 Jim Blomgren Lorrin Bates '54 Mercury 76 160 running 0
13 9 49 Bob Ruppert Ellingham Body '55 Chevrolet 76 115 running 0
14 11 33 Bill West Jim Dane '53 Hudson 76 110 running 0
15 16 96 Danny Letner Coz Concilla '56 Oldsmobile 75 110 running 0
16 14 45 Eddie Pagan Eddie Pagan '55 Chevrolet 75 110 running 0
17 25 5 Gordon Campbell Don Oliver '53 Oldsmobile 74 75 running 0
18 6 25 Erick Erickson Erick Erickson '54 Buick 74 90 running 0
19 29 55 Mel Larson Mel Larson '56 Ford 74 75 running 0
20 17 12 Bill Stammer Bill Stammer '55 Chevrolet 73 85 running 0
21 27 30 Fred Steinbroner Fred Steinbroner '55 Chevrolet 72 40 running 0
22 34 77 Bob Stanclift Herb Eberhart '54 Dodge 72 40 running 0
23 7 26 Ed Brown Ed Brown '55 Chevrolet 72 55 running 0
24 35 40 Elgin Holmes '55 Oldsmobile 71 50 running 0
25 26 27 Don Stanyer Jack Chatenay '55 Plymouth 70 40 running 0
26 13 37 Bill Stacy '55 Ford 70 50 running 0
27 21 91 Jim Cook Art Krebs '55 Plymouth 70 40 running 0
28 31 210 Tom Francis '54 Ford 68 40 running 0
29 19 6 Bill Hyde Herb Eberhart '54 Oldsmobile 67 50 running 0
30 36 53 Herb Crawford '53 Studebaker 63 40 running 0
31 33 90 Dick Getty Dick Getty '51 Ford 62 30 running 0
32 15 95 Clyde Palmer '54 Oldsmobile 61 40 running 0
33 28 48 Bill Moore Bill Moore '56 Ford 46 30 head 0
34 22 41 Ernie Young Walt Palozi '52 Plymouth 25 30 overheating 0
35 20 43 Len Fraker Floyd Johnson '51 Hudson 10 30 crankshaft 0
36 37 80 Arley Scranton Arley Scranton '51 Ford 9 30 brakes 0
37 30 71 Fred Bince Ralph Briggs '53 Hudson 3 30 rod 0




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"

updated by @dave-fulton: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
8 years ago
9,134 posts

From NASCAR.com 2009 article comes this:

WILLOW SPRINGS

The nine-turn, 2.5-mile road course about an hour north of Los Angeles was constructed in 1953. There is some dispute over the type of surface that was in place when NASCAR visited for the first time three years later. Originally designed with an oiled dirt surface, making it a rare dirt road course at the beginning, Marvin Panch contends that the track had already been paved with asphalt by 1956.

In any case, Willow Springs was one of the California native's favorites. He finished second to Chuck Stevenson in 1956, then won the race the following season as teammate Fireball Roberts made it 1-2 for the DePaolo Engineering factory Ford operation.

"I was very fortunate out there," Panch said. "I was able to win the race. It was a good road course. I liked it, naturally because I won there. You had a backstretch, a long straightaway, then you had to go through a series of esses. It wasn't too much different than Riverside."

The track continues to host a full schedule of events, including racing schools and vintage sports car and club racing.

The mystery continues.....




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
3 years ago
4,049 posts

A few snippets I found re: Willow Spring indicate the track was "paved". Is use of paved the same as asphalt? Would seem so.

Jan 29, 1955 Bakersfield Californian

Racing director Harold Mathewson reports nearly 60 entrants, whose hometowns range from Merced to Las Vegas to San Diego, will compete. It is considered the most important race yet staged on the Willow Springs layout, located off Highway 6 north of Lancaster. The two-and-a-half-mile paved strip at Willow Springs is considered an ideal one for the modified stocks. They have hit speeds in excess of 100 miles an hour on the long straightaways.

Feb 10, 1955 San Bernardino County Sun

Sports car competition will be staged on the 2.2-mile paved road course at Willow Springs Sunday with a field of 144 cars lining up for the event sponsored by the California Sports Car Club and Long Beach MG Club. The tricky course, built on the side of a hill, will be the site of highly spirited practice runs on Saturday.

Feb 13, 1955 LA Times

What will America's Ford Thunderbird do in competition against Europe's speed-wagons? That's one of the top queries circulating among thousands of sports car fanatics, and today's third running of the Willow Springs Road Races may provide the answer. Entries closed with listings of virtually every type of foreign and domestic sports car make, with Race Chairmen Joe Weissman and Ray Frug anticipating a turnout of at least 10,000 fans to view the five-event program over the tricky two-and-a-half-mile paved course.

And I found this in June 12, 1954 Bakersfield Californian - nearly 18 months before NASCAR visited the track.

Situated five miles due west of Rosamond, 75 miles north of Los Angeles, the Willow Springs circuit has undergone extensive modifications, including widened and fully paved turns.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 01/18/20 05:20:38AM
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,134 posts

One thing for sure, Chase, by the time I was sponsoring Derrike Cope and his Jefferson Racing Thunderbirds for 7-Eleven in Winston West competition at Willow Springs in 1984 & 1985, the whole deal was definitely paved with asphalt as seen in our member Scott Baker's photo of Derrike there in '85.

pavedwithasphalt.PNG




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,134 posts

Here is a link to an interesting 1991 Willow Springs article written by the late L.A. Times reporter, Shav Glick:

http://articles.latimes.com/1991-06-28/sports/sp-1368_1_willow-springs




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
3 years ago
9,134 posts

In this 1984 Scott Baker Willow Springs photo, the late Eric Horn ("Big E") is hands on during an engine swap on Derrike Cope's Jefferson Racing / 7-Eleven Ford Thunderbird. Horn came east with Cope in 1986 and later worked many years for Robert Yates Racing.

1984willowsprings022.jpg




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"

updated by @dave-fulton: 11/20/17 05:45:27PM
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
2 weeks ago
4,049 posts

Promo photo of Jim Reed and race report

1955 Willow Springs Jim Reed 112055LATimes.png
1955 Willow Springs Chuck Stevenson 112155LATimes.png



--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.