Racing History Minute - August 19, 1956

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

Here in Columbia, SC, where I reside, it has rained every day this summer it seems. Although that's not an "official statement" from the weather service, most of us know that hardly a 24 hour period has passed since the first of June that we haven't had at least one downpour. Yesterday morning, during church, the sun came out for the first time in three days and I think the congregation actually stiffened in shock expecting the Second Coming at that very moment. So, with all that rainy weather, why would I choose to go Convertible Racing this morning? Well, the simple answer is there are very few events from which to choose for this date and one was at Columbia Speedway, which I just did yesterday, and the other was a Petty victory which I leave to TMC Chase to cover. Sort of an agreement TMC and I have.

Today we will travel to Heidelberg Raceway located in a City of the same name in the State of Pennsylvania. A 100 mile/200 lap convertible event was run on the half-mile dirt track there on this date in 1956. Joe Weatherly, in the feared Pete DePaolo Ford parked the ride on the pole with Gwyn Staley in a Chevrolet to his outside. Curtis Turner would start third in another DePaolo Ford and Glen Wood took fourth starting position in a Ford. Jimmy Massey started a Chevrolet in fifth.

The race was Joe Weatherley's from the start as he led all 200 laps. However, just after halfway, Danny Letner, who had started 10th in a Dodge found himself chasing down the Clown Prince of Racing. With 15 laps to go in the race, Letner caught Weatherly and a battle ensued that brought the crowd to its feet. For four laps, the two battled side-by-side, rubbing and bumping, with Letner actually putting a fender out front several times but never at the line where it counted. With three laps to go, Weatherly and Letner tangled when Letner dove to the inside to pass and Letner's fender was pushed into the right front tire causing him to head for the pits. By the time it was over, Letner was credited with third place, three laps down. Those 10 laps had been some of the best racing Heidelberg fans had ever witnessed.

Bob Welborn, who came into the event as the series points leader, fell out on lap 158 with a failed wheel bearing. When the race was over, Welborn had a 280 point advantage over Larry Odo who finished 8th,and 592 points over Curtis Turner who had parkedh is Ford on lap 59 with fuel pump issues.

Top five finishers were:

1. Joe Weatherly, Pete DePaolo Ford, winning $650.00

2. Gwyn Staley, Hubert Westmoreland Chevrolet, winning $525.00

3. Danny Letner, Tom Harbison Dodge, winning $400.00

4. Jimmie Lewallen, Welborn Chevrolet, winning $320.00

5. Glen Wood, Wood Brothers Ford, winning $290.00

Sixth through tenth were Possum Jones, Don Oldenberg, Larry Odo, Bill Brown, and Bill Poor. Mel Larson finished 11th, Dick Joslin 12th, Jimmy Massey 13th, Bob Welborn 14th, Curtis Turner 19th, and Tom Pistone 20th. Twenty-two cars started the race.

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


updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
7 years ago
4,041 posts

Race report from Pittsburgh Press




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Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
7 years ago
9,134 posts

The Heidelberg track closed in 1973, the same year NASCAR ran a Grand National East event there. In 1990, I met a fellow in Richmond named Bill Wise at my local Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie who was originally from the Pittsburgh area. His dad ran late model sportsman style cars at Heidelberg in the late 60s. Here's a couple of photos of his dad at Heidelberg late 60s.:

The Heidelberg site is very historic for a number of reasons, including those listed on the sign posted by TMC-Chase back in July.




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

The article below was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Plaque to celebrate Heidelberg Raceway
$1,800 for marker raised in 2 weeks
July 12, 2012 12:41 am

Associated Press
Cars pile up at Heidelberg Raceway in 1952.

A crowd fills the stands at Heidelberg Raceway on July 5, 1953.

By Bob Podurgiel

In the 1950s and '60s, thousands flocked to the Heidelberg Raceway and Sports Arena, which could hold 15,000 fans, to watch stock car racing on a track that today is the site of Raceway Plaza shopping center on Route 50.

Even those who couldn't go to the races experienced some of the excitement.

On hot summer nights, residents in neighboring Scott, Carnegie and Collier could hear the roar of the engines as drivers competed to become champions of the oval track. It was a sound that kids growing up then will never forget.

One of those champions was Herb Scott of Wexford, who won 10 season championships at Heidelberg Raceway, more than any other driver.

Other familiar names who won at the track include Lee Petty, who won his first NASCAR race there in 1949. Lee Petty and his son, Richard Petty, raced together in the track's final NASCAR race in 1960. Lee Petty finished first that day, and his son finished second.

In the 1949 race that Lee Petty won, Sara Christian finished fifth, setting the record for the best finish by a woman driver at the highest level of NASCAR racing, a record that still stands today.

Those champions and all of the people who raced and who loved the sport will be remembered at 2 p.m. Sunday when the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission dedicates a state historical marker commemorating the Heidelberg Raceway and Sports Arena, which operated from 1948 to 1973.

The dedication ceremony will be held at 2055 Washington Pike on the border of Heidelberg and Scott between Walgreens and King's restaurant.

Light refreshments will be served and vintage race cars will be on display in the Walgreens lot, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Circle Track Club.

Among the speakers will be David Kohler of the Pittsburgh Circle Track Club; Andrew Masich, chairman of the museum commission; and federal, state and local elected officials.

"I came up with the idea for the marker, and [Heidelberg borough manager] Joe Kauer ran with it," said Heidelberg Councilman Robert DeBar, who also heads the Heidelberg Historical Society.

As Mr. Kauer researched the history of the raceway, he came up with an event that caught the attention of the museum commission. It wasn't about racing, but it held national significance.

On July 16, 1956, Heidelberg Raceway was the final stop of the "Greatest Show on Earth" -- the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus under the Big Top.

That show would be the last under the "Big Top," a network of tents erected for each show that moved from town to town. The circus survived after that date but performed only in arenas and concert buildings from then on.

Mr. Kauer said he enjoyed digging into the history of Heidelberg Raceway.

"Everyone I talked to had a story about the racetrack. It took people back to memories of their childhood," he said.

The borough needed to raise $1,800 to pay for the marker, but Mr. Kauer said the money was raised in only two weeks.

He said the hardest part of the project was coming up with the right 80 words for the marker.

"It was a monumental task. There was a significant amount of history to cover, but I think we covered all the bases."

Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.
First Published July 12, 2012 12:00 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-south/plaque-to-celebrate-heidelberg-raceway-644408/#ixzz2cRIsLT2d




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

and NO.... Danica Patrick has yet to post a Cup finish as high as the 5th place by Sara Christian at Heidelberg in 1949.




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

If you look on YouTube, you can find a number of short films made each year by the Pittsburgh Racing Association chronicling the annual season ending Tri-State Championship at Heidelberg. The films go back to the period of 1957 or so. The one I've posted below covers the 1961 Heidelberg Tri-State Championship. One thing I note in every film... Heidelberg drew tremendous, capacity 15,000+ crowds for these races.




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

Take a look at the old wooden grandstands at the current Pennsylvania Motor Speedway outside Pittsburgh.... they were some of the original 1948 grandstands from Heidelberg !!!




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
one month ago
4,041 posts
1956 Heidelberg ad.png



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