A Racing History Minute - April 13, 1962

Tim Leeming
04/13/13 10:19:33AM
3,110 posts

It should be no surprise that I have elected to go with an event from Columbia Speedway today given all the importance Columbia Speedway has played in my life with racing. After all, I was there one September night in 1952 when I was almost six years old for my first race. So, let's go back to April 13, 1962.

Only 19 cars showed up for the 100 mile/200 lap race on the half mile dirt track, considered by most drivers as being one of, if not THE toughest half mile in NASCAR. This was the Eleventh race run in the 1962 season and Joe Weatherly came into the event leading the point standings. (Joe would go on to win the Championship in 1962).

I had already been to Daytona for the 500 in February, 1962, and to the March 17th race in Savannah, so this was my third race for the season. I do remember how excited I was to enter the speedway that night and take our usual parking position next to the fence in turn four. We always parked there so we could see who was pitting, but much of my time was spent walking all around the fence in the infield watching every inch of the track at some point during a race.

Joe Weatherly put his Bud Moore Pontiac on the pole and was very entertaining, I remember, cutting up with everyone before the race. Joe Weatherly was known as the "clown prince" of racing and that was a justifiable title if ever there was one. Joe was a pleasure to be around.

The early part of the race was a duel between Joe and Jack Smith, in another Pontiac, with Rex White and Buck Baker holding their own. Ralph Earnhardt, a regular in the weekly events at Columbia Speedway was driving a 1961 Pontiac and was putting on quite a show with what appeared to be an ill handling car, althoughback in those days it didn't seem handling was that often discussed on a half mile dirt track. Buck Baker in a '61 Chrysler 300and Richard Petty in '61 Plymouth ran side by side for several laps during the mid part of the race.

In the end, smooth driving Ned Jarrett in his 1962 B.G. Holloway Chevrolet came home the winner with Joe Weatherly the only other car on the lead lap. Gentleman Ned, as he was known, even then, put on a display of smooth driving on that track which, although it was dirt, took on asphalt charactiristics very early on. It was Ned's 9th career Grand National (Cup) win in a career of excellence.

Columbia Speedway was a track with blazing fast straightaways and turns made perfectly for the "power slide" which was perfected by so many. Many a night out there Tiny Lund would put on a display powersliding that had to be seen to be believed. I recall watching Junior Johnson execute the perfect power slides with his left arm out the window holding on to the roof. But on this night, it was the silk smooth driving Ned used to take the win.

Much of the history of this race is apparently lost to the records and although I can close my eyes and see some of what happened that night, it is too bad that even the local newspaper from Columbia, from which I have the clipping from that race, found little to mention other than Ned won and Joe maintained the points lead. I also found it interesting that it was noteworthy in both my sources, that Wendell Scott was mentioned as "the only black driver on the major league stock car racing circuit". With all the hoopla today about the movie "42" concerning Jackie Robinson in Baseball, it's time we remember that Wendell was black, yes, but Wendell was a race driver. He had far less than most anyone else running the circuit but he was there every race and he raced his heart out. Wendell was easy to talk with, even for a teenager as I was then. I think, in today's world, Wendell would be referred to as "a stock car race driver" without the necessity of throwing in the "black". What he did in racing, with what he had, in my opinion, far outweighs anything accomplished on a baseball diamond and that is not intended to slight Jackie Robinson at all. Just my admiration for Wendell and what he accomplished in stock car racing.

Top five finishers at Columbia that April 13th night were:

1. Ned Jarrett, Chevrolet, winning $1,200.00

2. Joe Weatherly, Pontiac, winning $600.00

3. Jack Smith, Pontiac, winning $400.00

4. Jim Paschal, Pontiac, winning $300.00

5. G.C. Spencer, Chevrolet, winning $275.00

Other finishers of note were Rex White 6th, Richard Petty 7th, Buck Baker 8th, Ralph Earnhardt 9th, Curtis Crider 11th, Stick Elliott 12th, Buddy Baker 13th, Wendell Scott 16th, and Cotton Owens 18th. It should also be noted that rookie Jim Bennett qualified third but was the first car out of the race when he lost oil pressure on the 27th lap of the 200 lapper. He won $50.00. Even at 1962 prices, I would think he lost money.

Honor the past, embrace the present and dream for the future.

updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
Jeff Gilder
04/13/13 10:37:59AM
1,745 posts

Now, thanks to you...more of the history of this night is not only preserved, but is available for even more folks enjoy.

Founder/Creator - RacersReunion®
TMC Chase
04/13/13 10:38:47AM
3,871 posts

Here is the story as reported in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Tim Leeming
04/13/13 10:42:05AM
3,110 posts

Chase, you are an awesome resource! You should take over these Racing History Minutes! But I guess you're busy with the Petty History Minutes which I enjoy very much. As always, thanks for your contributions. For the record, I do not remember Buddy Baker crashing out. I remember Ned and Joe putting on quite a show but, honestly, as most times back then, my attention was focused on that number 43 car. Thank you for commenting.

04/13/13 11:08:19AM
606 posts

Love it, TIm! Thank you for today's minute.

Dave Fulton
04/13/13 11:47:10AM
9,039 posts

Thank you so much, Tim.

You know how much I loved my hometown Richmond dirt track and my "adopted" 1/2-mile dirt track in Wilson, NC.

How I wish I could have seen a race at the Columbia track. My misfortune that I never did. But it is my good fortune to hear stories by you and Barb Scott and Devin. Although I never saw a race there, I can just picture Ralph Earnhardt, Tiny Lund, Little Bud Moore and a whole cast of weekly racers on hot summer nights in Cayce.

Can you folks remember how it was if you got to a track and parked and could already hear the sounds of the cars practicing? I'd get an extra little spring in my step trying to hustle to the ticket window so I wouldn't miss anything.

The stories from you good folks help me remember those wonderful days and nights. Thanks.

"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Randy Myers2
04/14/13 07:14:17AM
219 posts

While I wasn't at this particular race, I did attend some events at Columbia later as a "tire buster for Goodyear/Huggins. I remember exactly what Tim is referencing on the track takingon asphalt charactiristics. Many drivers would start on "dirt" tires and change around half-way to the softer asphalt tire with no grooves to complete the race. I was there the night "Pops" Turner showed up in a nice suit & tie and drove Junior Johnson"s Ford. Heck of a show.

TMC Chase
04/13/17 10:20:44AM
3,871 posts

Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 04/13/17 10:21:11AM