Racing History Minute - September 27, 1959

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

As I have already mentioned once this past week, it is almost impossible to find a date anywhere near this period of September in which the event was NOT run in Martinsville, VA. So, today we return to the half-mile paved track know as Martinsville Speedway for the 1959 "Virginia Sweepstakes 500". This is another of the "sweepstakes" races where Convertibles competed against the hardtops for the win. The only real difference is the convertibles were missing a top. For the purposes of brevity, I'll designate the convertibles as "C" and the Grand Nationals as "GN".

Glen Wood started a Ford "C" on the pole with a speed of 69.471. mph. Tommy Irwin in a T-Bird "GN" would start second, Richard Petty ina Plymouth "C" third, Tiger Tom Pistone in a T-Bird "GN" fourth and Joe Lee Johnson in a Chevrolet "C" fifth.

Glen Wood would lead the first 85 laps before Lee Petty, who had started sixth in a Plymouth "GN" took over. Lee held the point until lap 164 before Rex White moved his Chevy out front. It was Lee again on lap 172 but he only stayed there until lap 179 before Jim Reed, driving a Chevrolet "GN" took over. Reed stayed out front until lap 266 when Larry Frank, driving a Chevy "C" went to the front where he would stay until lap 305. On lap 306, Rex White put that Grand National Chevrolet in the lead and he would stay there until the checkered flag waved on lap 500. This was Rex's seventh career win in the Grand National Division which was recorded before 13,500 fans at an average speed of 60.500 mph. The pace was slowed by 7 caution flags but my source does not provide the number of laps run under caution.

It was at this race that Lee Petty clinched his third National Championship by finishing 10th. He left the evet with a lead of 1,380 points with only three races left in the 1959 season. As it worked out, Lee would win two of those events (Asheville-Weaverville, NC and N. Wilkesboro, NC) and finish second in the final race of the season at Concord, NC.

Top five finishers were:

1. Rex White, White Chevrolet GN, winning $3,250.00

2. Glen Wood, Wood Brothers Ford C, winning $1,975.00

3. Jim Reed , Reed Chevrolet GN, winning $1,425.00 (3 laps down)

4. Tommy Irwin, Irwin T-Bird GN, winning $1,175.00 (3 laps down)

5. Speedy Thompson, Ogden-Ridgeway Chevy GN,winning $900.00 (3 laps down)

Sixth through tenth were Larry Frank, Tiger Tom Pistone, Joe Lee Johnson, Roy Tyner and Lee Petty. Ned Jarrett would finish 12th, Buck Baker 14th, Richard Petty 15th, Tiny Lund 19th, and Herman Beam 21st. Twenty-third went to Brownie King, Bobby Johns was 24th, Jimmy Thompson 28th, Jack Smith 29th, Fireball Roberts 30th and E.J. Trivette 32nd. Cotton Owens had the Thunder Chicken T-Bird in 33rd, G. C. Spencer 34th and Marvin Panch 38th. Banjo Matthews nailed 39th, Elmo Langley 40th, Fred Harb 44th, Johnny Beauchamp 45th, Bob Welborn 46th and Jimmie Lewallen received $25.00 after crashing out of the race on lap 2.

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


updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
7 years ago
3,119 posts

Oh, and just so you know, I will be posting the Minute for September 28th tomorrow morning (Friday the 27th) because I'll be in Hillsborough, NC for the Celebration of the Automobile. Coincidentally, the Minute for the 28th involves Occoneechee. If you are anywhere in the area, come out to the event Saturday. It is free admission and the entire spectacular is amazingly awesome.

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
7 years ago
4,043 posts

Rex's victory didn't come without some more controversy from NASCAR officials and scoring. From the sound of things, looks like scoring missed a lap for Rex during a pit stop sequence. They had him pinned down a lap behind Glen Wood. The fans left the tracking thinking the #21 driver from Stuart, VA had won. Instead, a scoring record recheck revealed Rex had NOT lost a lap and had indeed won the race.

Source: Fredericksburg VA Free Lance Star

Also, the Old Dominion 500 turned into the Oh Dear! 500 for some including Fireball Roberts (88) and Cotton Owens (6). Front-row starter Tommy Owen (38) also spun. But as Tim noted above, he rallied for a top 5 finish. Looks like R.L. Combs (63) made it through the narrow passage as well; however, he still struggled throughout the race and finished 27th.




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

updated by @tmc-chase: 09/26/17 11:53:37AM
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
7 years ago
9,134 posts

That was a huge field of cars for the tight little Martinsville track.

Was 37th place finisher Gene White of Marietta, Georgia the same Gene White who distributed Firestone racing tires and fielded that potent ex-Smokey Yunick Camaro for Pete Hamilton in the NASCAR GT/Grand American Series?




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

I am guessing it is the same Gene White although I can't guarantee that. Just something floating around in the back of my mind says so. Chase may have that answer for sure.

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
one month ago
4,043 posts

1959 Martinsville Rex White 092859RichmondTimesDispatch.png




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