Racing History Minute - April 24, 1960

Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
6 years ago
3,119 posts

Yes, it is true, and not unusual for "back in the day". Yesterday, our minute was dated April 23, 1960 and today we are also in 1960. Two days, two races. That's the way it was back then. Often times, the races were hundreds of miles apart but while yesteray's event was in Greenville, SC, today's event happens in Weaverville, NC on the half-mile asphalt track known as Asheville-Weaverville Speedway. About four years after this race, I would have a real adventure at that same track but today, the adventure concerns the 200 Laps/100 miles race.

It was a nice spring afternoon in the Blue Ridge Mountain area where the track is, or was, located, and 5,000 spectators showed up anticipating a great race. Junior Johnson started on the pole with Glen Wood on his outside. It was, however, Jack Smith in his Pontiac who stormed into the lead on the first lap with Johnson and Wood in hot pursuit.

By lap 25, the asphalt on the track began to come apart and chunks of asphalt became missles as the cars kicked up more and more. Jack Smith had a chunk of that asphalt put a hole in his oil pan on lap 35 and he relinquished the lead to pit his powerful Pontiac. There was no repair for the oil pan so Smith was finished for the day. (later in 1960, deterioating asphalt at the new Charlotte Motor Speedway would reek havoc with Smith's victory chances).

With Smith behind the wall, Banjo Matthews put his Thunderbird in first place. On lap 45 Bob Welborn stormed into the lead on a track that now resembled a bombing range with the pot holes and asphalt debris scattered everywhere. On lap 63, just as Lee Petty put his Plymouth in front, NASCAR relented and red flagged the race so track workers could do something about the holes in the track surface. More than an hour later, NASCAR determined that track workers had done all that could be done with the track and the green flag was again waved in front of Lee Petty. The Petty Blue Plymouth with those huge tail fins was flying and soon Lee had lapped the field and was moving away. On lap 81, early leader Banjo Matthews tangled with Richard Petty, Larry Frank and Rex White and was out of the race.

The continuing breakup of the track caused NASCAR to flag the race as "official" on lap 167, thirty-three laps short of the scheduled distance, and the checkered flag went to Lee Petty. Scoring had Lee one and a half laps ahead of second place Joe Lee Johnson's Chevrolet, but Johnson's crew was convinced he had won. An official protest was filed but after a recheck of the score cards, Lee Petty was declared the winner.

Preparing this "minute" today, I am struck by the players in this event who would be a major part of the first World 600 less than two months later on a track with asphalt chunking problems. Joe Lee Johson WOULD win at Charlotte. Lee Petty was disqualified at Charlotte for "cutting across the infield grass to pit. The deteriorating Charlotte track caused the cars to have wire cages around grills and windshields and mud flaps on the back wheel wells. Jack Smith would have a hole putin his gas tank at Charlotte by asphalt chunks. I can still see those cars fly by me from my vantage point next to the fence in turn four that June afternoon in 1960. What a wonderful time to be a teenager.

The win at Asheville-Weaverville was Lee Petty's 50th win. He would go on to win four more times in his career before his career ending crash at Daytona in 1961.

Top Five finishers were:

1. Lee Petty, Plymouth, winning $900.00

2. Joe Lee Johnson, Chevrolet, winning $625.00

3. Ned Jarrett, Ford, winning $375.00

4. Bob Welborn, Chevrolet,winning $275.00

5. G.C. Spencer, Chevrolet, winning $250.00

Sixth through tenth, in order, were PAUL LEWIS, Rex White, Buck Baker, Richard Petty and Larry Frank.

Fred Harb finished 11th . Banjo Matthews was credited with 13th after crashing out on lap 100. Jimmy Pardue was 14th, Junior Johnson 15th, Glen Wood 16th, Jack Smith 17th, Neil Castles 18th, Roy Tyner 19th and Bunkie Blackburn 20th. Only 20 cars started the race.

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


updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
bill mcpeek
@bill-mcpeek
6 years ago
820 posts

lol, you boys both have a keen eye for great stories, just need to work on the schedule a wee bit. Thank you for great reading.

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
6 years ago
9,128 posts

Thanks, Tim. 1960 was not a good year for asphalt. I envy you having seen the first CMS race. I bet the setiing for the Asheville-Weaverville track must have been spectacular.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
6 years ago
3,119 posts

Dave, when I took my grandsons to the 600 in 2011, we sat in the grandstands right across from where I had been that first 600. It was quite a time travel event for me. I know I'm getting a little crazy in my old age, but I could look at that fence and almost see the skinny 14 year old kid clinging to that fence so I could be close to the cars.

Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
6 years ago
3,119 posts

Bill, I swear when I considered the History Minute for today I thought about Chase and all his fine postings on Petty history but then I thought "he won't post this today" so I went for it. Thank you for reading and commenting and I'm sure Chase feels the same. I will need to get his phone number so when I'm getting a History Minute ready to post and it comes up with a "Petty winner", I can be sure not to conflict with his post. But, at least, you got a double dose of some good memories today!