Racing History Minute - May 19, 1962

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

Story and rumors have it that the track now located in Talladega was first considered to be constructed in Spartanburg, SC. I've heard that story in more than one place and from many more than just one person so I have to give some credit to it being true. Moreover, at one time Spartanburg, SC was the home of several top notch teams and was, at the time, the "Charlotte/Mooresville of NASCAR. But, today, we are going back to a half mile dirt track known asa Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds located there in Spartanburg. On this day in 1962, fifteen entries showed up to run 100 miles for the prize.

Hometown favorite Cotton Owens would put his Pontiac on the pole with Ned Jarrett starting his Chevrolet to the outside. Cotton set a new track record for the speedway at 64.423 mph but his swift mount lasted only 20 laps before the engine expired relegating Cotton to a last place (15th) finish. David Pearson, another home town favorite in a Ray Fox Pontiac had started third but on lap 30 his engine exploded putting him out of the race. Of the 15 starters, 11 were running at the finish. My source for information has no record of lap leaders or caution flags but considering the winning average speed was 60.090 mph it is unlikely more than two or three laps were run under caution and there is no indication any of the four cars falling out did so because of an accident, all were mechanical issues.

Ned Jarrett would win for the third time in 22 races in the 1962 season and for his 14th career win in the Grand National (Cup) series.

Top five finishers were:

1. Ned Jarrett, B.G. Holloway Chevrolet, winning $1,200.00

2. Jim Paschal, Cliff Stewart Pontiac, winning $800.00

3. Richard Petty, Petty Engineering Plymouth, winning $400.00

4. G.C. Spencer, Floyd Powell Chevrolet, winning $300.00

5. Joe Weatherly, Bud Moore Pontiac, winning $275.00

Sixth through tenth were Tom Cox, Jack Smith, Herman Beam, George Green and Curtis "Crawfish" Crider. Remaining finishers, in order, were Ed Livingston, PAUL LEWIS (to whom we owe this website) Fred Harb, David Pearson and Cotton Ownes.

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


updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
6 years ago
9,130 posts

Tim, one of the great things that ever happened to me in my racing career was having car owner, Bud Moore in late 1981 introduce me to Spartanburg's Joe Littlejohn, the longtime promoter of racing at the Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds.

What I know of Joe would barely scratch the surface. I'm sure Perry Allen Wood could tell us volumes about Joe Littlejohn. By the time I met Joe, he was what I then considered elderly. He owned the Pine Street Motel in Spartanburg and was a frequent golfing companion of Bud's.

When the very first meeting of the Southern Motorsports Press Association was ever held, Joe donated the meeting space for the convention at his Pine Street Motel in Spartanburg. That organization morphed into today's prestigious National Motorsports Press Association.

When I flew to Spartanburg in Fall 1983 with Ricky Rudd in a plane piloted by his brother Al, Joe Littlejohn registered Ricky and myself at his motel under false names while we negotiated with Ricky to replace Dale Earnhardt in Bud's Wrangler sponsored car for 1984.

It's ironic that you mention the very true story of the Talladega connection to Spartanburg. One of the last times I remember seeing the former Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds promoter was in Talladega. My wife, Joyce and I were eating breakfast on race day morning at the brand new Talladega Best Western motel restaurant. When I got up to pay our bill, the lady at the register told me it had already been taken care of.

She pointed out the restaurant window to the parking lot. "That old man with the police officer getting in the South Carolina Highway Patrol car paid your check," she said. It was of course, Joe Littlejohn of Spartanburg and the Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds who had seen us and paid the bill.

In 1984 a Joe Littlejohn Appreciation Day was held at Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds. I'm no good at capturing screen shots, but here's a link to an article about that day:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19840421&id=...

I remember Mr. Littlejohn as always being very dapper and often wearing one of those stylish straw hats with a little feather. I'm so happy you jogged my memory of Joe Littlejohn, Tim. He was one of the most favorite and nicest characters my wife and I ever met in racing.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dennis Andrews
@dennis-andrews
6 years ago
835 posts

Thomas Cox from nearby Asheboro placed 6th on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.

Is Littlejohn Coliseum at Clemson named for someone in the same family as Joe Littlejohn?

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
6 years ago
9,130 posts

Don't know if they were related, but according to VenueGuru here's the origin of the Clemson facility's name:

It is named for James C. Littlejohn, class of 1908, the schools first business manager, who was instrumental in many of the schools early building projects, including the building it replaced, Clemson Field House, and Memorial Stadium.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dennis Andrews
@dennis-andrews
6 years ago
835 posts

Thanks Dave. Littlejohn is one of those names you seldom hear but tend to remember.

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
6 years ago
9,130 posts

Just noted another bit of irony regarding Joe Littlejohn and Talladega. We were at Talladega in July 1989 when his death was reported. Here's the account from the Spartanburg paper:

Auto racing pioneer Joe Littlejohn dies
Published: Sunday, July 30, 1989 at 3:15 a.m.

Spartanburg Herald-Journal

Joe Littlejohn, a member of the National Motorsports Press Association's Stock Car Hall of Fame, died yesterday morning in Spartanburg after a massive heart attack.

He was 81. "Daddy seemed to be doing all right," said Joe Littlejohn Jr. "We are just as shocked and surprised and stunned as everyone." Littlejohn was one of the great promoters in the early days of stock car racing. He attended the organizational meeting of NASCAR in 1948 and was a promoter of early NASCAR races. As a driver in the 1930s and '40s, Littlejohn competed in stock car races that were the forerunners of today's professional Winston Cup events. The Pacolet native was the first man to register 100 mph in a stock car through the measured mile on the sand at Daytona Beach, Fla. He made that run in 1950, in an Oldsmobile, and ended his competitive driving. Littlejohn, who staged the first stock car race at the Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds' half-mile, horse-racing oval Nov. 11, 1939, then turned his full-time attention to promoting races.

He continued operating the Spartanburg track until the mid-1960s, and served as general manager of the Atlanta International Raceway and co-owner of Asheville-Weaverville (N.C.) Speedway. Littlejohn worked with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. in an attempt to locate a 11/2-mile speedway in Spartanburg County in the 1960s, but the project was stymied by opposition from some local residents. He then helped France select the site where the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway is now located. The DieHard 500, to be run this afternoon, is the second of two annual Winston Cup races at the 2.66-mile track. Littlejohn organized the National Motorsports Press Association, which honors him with an award each year to the leading motorsports writer.

"He was a big instigator in organized racing," NASCAR driving legend Richard Petty said yesterday at Talladega, where the racing community mourned the death of Littlejohn. "He was really something else. He knew what needed to be done in this sport and went out and did it. "A lot of outsiders probably don't realize how much of an impact he had on this sport. He did a lot to promote this sport and he always did things his way." Petty said Littlejohn continued to be a big supporter of NASCAR up until his death, despite his declining health. "He would always come around and talk to me," said Petty.

"With his health, he couldn't get out and around as much as he wanted to. Everybody in this sport is sure going to miss him." Spartanburg's David Pearson, another former NASCAR champion who has curtailed his driving, also credited Littlejohn for the sport's success. "Him and Bill France were real big buddies and I'm sure Joe gave him a lot of ideas about forming NASCAR," said Pearson. "I'm sure a lot of people are going to miss him. "He took me to Daytona in 1960 when I was just getting started in this business. He introduced me to France and all those folks. If he liked you, he'd do anything he could to help you."

Littlejohn was also close to Spartanburg car owner Bud Moore. Littlejohn was a frequent visitor to Moore's shop and the two often played golf together. "He was a great man," said Moore, obviously shaken upon learning of Littlejohn's death. "He had a lot to do with this sport getting started." Littlejohn had shoulder surgery earlier in the week after falling, according to Jim Foster, a longtime associate of Littlejohn. "He came through the surgery just fine, but then he had the heart attack."

Foster, a former sports editor of the Spartanburg Herald, now serves as NASCAR's vice president of marketing. He credits Littlejohn for helping him get into NASCAR. "He was just one of the true old-time pioneers of the sport," said Foster. "He was successful as a driver, as a promoter and as an official. "He was always doing what he could to promote the sport and he was very close to the press. He would always want to hang around all the writers whenever he could.

"He was a lifelong friend of Bill France. The two were very close. They got NASCAR to where it is today. He was also a very innovative promoter. He would promote match races in Spartanburg featuring guys like Lee Petty, Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly and Cotton Owens." Foster recalled one of his favorite stories about Littlejohn's racing days.

"He used to haul a load of turnip greens down to Daytona Beach and sell them so he could have enough money to eat," Foster said. "Then he would race the same car he drove down there in the stock car race. "He was one of the guys everybody liked. He had a tremendous impact on everyone in NASCAR - from the drivers, to the car owners, to the officials to the press. The best way to describe him would be simply to call him a pioneer. "I owe a lot to the man. He helped get me the job in Spartanburg and he later introduced me to France and helped me get this job with NASCAR."

Jim Freeman, director of public relations at Talladega, said Littlejohn loved being around those involved with NASCAR. "I wasn't around him that much until he had gotten older," said Freeman. "But he always seemed to care about everybody. He loved being around this sport."

Racing writer Tom Higgins of The Charlotte Observer recalled one of his favorite stories involving Littlejohn. "There was a group of guys up in Wilkes County (N.C.) who called Joe up and wanted him to send them a couple of bushels of peaches to make peach brandy with," said Higgins, who has covered NASCAR for over 30 years. "Joe loved playing practical jokes so he had a train car full of peaches sent to Wilkes County. He loved to do stuff like that."

"They got him back, though. They made the brandy and sent all of it back to Joe's hotel in Spartanburg. He couldn't believe it." Littlejohn's son, Joe Jr., has carried on the racing tradition in the family, driving in races on area short tracks.

"It would probably be impossible to figure out how many people he has touched through his involvement with the sport," said Foster. "He's a legend." Funeral services will be conducted by the Rev. Hal Marchman tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Floyd's Greenlawn Chapel on East Main Street in Spartanburg. The family will receive visitors at the funeral home tonight from 7-9 p.m.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
6 years ago
4,024 posts

Here is the race report as published in the Spartanburg Herald Journal :




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
6 years ago
4,024 posts

David Pearson was presented an award during pre-race festivities. While the recognition was nice for David, the good vibe didn't transfer to the race. He led early but lost the engine and hit the showers early.

Race preview article from Spartanburg Herald Journal .




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
6 years ago
9,130 posts

Awesome stuff you've posted, Perry. I have a curiosity question. Do you know if the Richard Fowler of Spartanburg listed as being present at the March 23, 1948 organizational meeting of the South Carolina Auto Racing Association was kin to Danny Fowler of Bud's team?




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Cody Dinsmore
@cody-dinsmore
6 years ago
589 posts

Wow, a lot of Georgia drivers are on the point standings....even Atlanta's Ed Samples winning the title it appears. An interesting note is that the 25th place finisher, Swayne Pritchett, passed away in May of that year. He was among the first of drivers to obtain a NASCAR license even. After winning a race in Arcade Georgia (Seems to be around May 17th or 18th of that year) he ran into the back of a slower car on track, flipped and was killed. He was also inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in 2011.

Also just counted 14 drivers on that list that were from/racing out of Georgia.

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
6 years ago
9,130 posts

Thanks. I can't imagine being able to put up with Billy's shenanigans all those years!




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Angela Prince
@angela-prince
4 years ago
2 posts

Mr. Fulton,

Richard Fowler was my father. We are not kin to Danny Fowler with Bud Moore's team. My father was close associate and friend of Joe Littlejohn, Bill France Sr., Cotton Owens, Fireball Roberts. These are the people I remember as a child, attending my first Daytona race in 1951 and present as an 8-week old at the beach house post-race gatherings of the drivers and officials at that race. My dad worked for Joe Littlejohn and Bill France from the late 40s until shortly after Fireball Robert's death. At times my dad was referred to as an official (newspaper stories I have), as a general manager/steward, and they fondly called him "the professor" because he was a brilliant mathmetician and in the days before computers, they relied upon his observations, notes and statistics during the races. As a child I recall being at the homes of the Littlejohns, Cotton Owens and others nearly every weekend during race seasons. All of us were from Spartanburg. I went to high school with Bud Moore's son Brent. My brother often played golf with Joe Littlejohn, as did Bud Moore. I was googling my father's name and your question came up. I joined this group so that I could tell you more about my father, who passed away after Joe Littlejohn, in 1973.

Angela Prince
@angela-prince
4 years ago
2 posts

Mr. Wood - Please see my response to Mr. Fulton's question. Angela Prince

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
4 weeks ago
9,130 posts

Thank you, Angela




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