Maybe it's because 1957 was the year I made my first trip to Darlington, or maybe it's because most of the 1957 cars had distinctive appearances on the track. For whatever reason, each time I post a Minute about a race in 1957, mental images of the cars and tracks, and more especially for the drivers of the era, float across my computer monitor as I try to type. When preparing the Minute for today, the term of "cookie-cutter tracks" arose as this Minute is about a 1.5 mile track, a size very prevalent in NASCAR these days. But the 1.5 mile track for today's event was DIRT. That's right. A 1.5 mile dirt track located in LeHI, Arkansas. Who knew? Did you?
On this date in 1957, a 200 mile/134 lap race was race number 30 on the '57 schedule. Twenty-six of the drivers and their crews made the trip to Arkansas for the race. When qualifying was over, Speedy Thompson would have his Chevrolet on the pole with Paul Goldsmith in a Ford in second starting position. Buck Baker would start third with Curtis Turner fourth. Fifth place starter was Bill Amick.
This race included cars designated as "Grand National" which were the same as the designated "Convertibles" with only the addition of the roof to specify a difference. Fourth place starter, Curtis Turner, was the only convertible to start in the top five. Ten of the 28 starters drove convertibles.
A crowd of 9,500 spectators came out to witness the event, but by the half-way point of the race, more than half of the crowd left the premises as the blinding dust raised by the cars made viewing impossible and breathing most uncomfortable. Two caution flags flew for a total of 56 MINUTES for no other reason than to wet the track in an effort to keep the dust down. No other cautions were required but the 56 minute total delay in the race was just too much for some fans as well.
Paul Goldsmith parlayed his second starting position into the lead on lap one and held on to that spot for 36 laps before Curtis Turner slid his Ford convertible into the lead. The topless Turner would lead until lap 72 before Jack Smith stormed into the lead in his Grand National Chevrolet. Smith steadily moved away from second place and with 10 laps to go appeared headed for a sure victory. With eight laps to go, the Chevy power plant exploded and Smith was out of the event. Smith's departure left Marvin Panch to inherit the number one position. After the race, Smith said he was "retiring from the sport" as he coiuld "not afford to keep buying engines". Plainly stated, Jack said "I quit. I have run my last race". Of course we know that wasn't set in stone as Jack went on to have a successful career in NASCAR.
Marvin Panch would win the race over a hard charging Bill Amick. With a few more laps, Amick may have stolen the event from Panch.
Top five finishers were:
1. Marvin Panch, Herb Thomas Pontiac Grand National, winning $3,500.00
2. Bill Amick, Amick Ford Grand National, winning $2075.00
3. Fireball Roberts, Paul Spaulding Ford Grand National, winning $1,375.00
4. Buck Baker, Baker Chevrolet Grand National, winning $950.00
5. Bob Welborn, Welborn Chevrolet Convertible, winning $750.00
Sixth through tenth were Lee Petty in a Grand National, Cotton Owens in a Grand National, Possum Jones in a Convertible, Billy Carden in a Grand National and Curtis Turner in convertible.
Glen Wood was 11th, Johnny Allen 12th, Jack Smith 13th, Larry Frank 14th, and Brownie King 15th. Ken Rush finished 19th, Speedy Thompson 22nd, Jim Paschal 23rd, Joe Lee Johnson 24th, Joe Weatherly 26th and Paul Goldsmith 27th.
Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future
updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM