October 23, 1960: Speedy's Final GN Win

TMC Chase
6 years ago
4,024 posts

With Speedy Thompson being a central figure in the Racing History Minute - October 23, 1956 posted by Tim Leeming today, I thought I'd add this post featuring him as well in a 100-mile race 4 years later on October 23, 1960.

The GN circuit raced at the half-mile, dirt Richmond fairgrounds speedway in the Capital City 200. The event was the next to last race of the 1960 season. Ned Jarrett started from the pole with Joe Weatherly starting alongside him. Thompson in the #21 Wood Brothers Ford and Doug Yates made up the 2nd row.

Rex White, who claimed the 1960 GN championship, didn't have a stellar day at Richmond. He qualified 12th and finished 8th in the 19-car field.

The reigning GN champion from 1959, Lee Petty, was not in a position to repeat. But he was in a position to vision the future for Petty Enterprises. Son Richard had already begun his driving career. And Lee believed it was time to help his other son build his skills from behind the wheel as well. Lee opted not to race at Richmond. Instead, he turned his familar #42 Petty blue Plymouth over to 19 year-old and future NASCAR Hall of Famer Maurice Petty. The race was Chief's 2nd GN start but the first on dirt. Coincidentally, the Capital City 200 was the 43rd race of the 1960 season. Maurice may have been told to follow Rex because he qualified 13th and finished 9th - both times he was one spot behind White.

The race got off to a rough start with 4 cars starting at the rear of the field getting tangled up in the first turn of the first lap.

Thompson dominated the race by leading 173 of 200 laps - including the final 81. Ned Jarrett with 19 and Junior Johnson with 8 were the only other lap leaders. The 3 of them represented the top 3 finishing spots too with Thompson winning, Junior 2nd and Ned 3rd. All of them were on the lead lap. Richard Petty finished 4th with no laps led and 3 laps down to the leaders.

Race report from Spartanburg Herald.

The win was Thompson's 2nd in a row. A week earlier, he won at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the inaugural National 400.

The races were his 19th and 20th (and last) Grand National victories for Speedy. According to the following article, Thompson won on the half-mile, dirt Richmond track in the same Wood Brothers Ford in which he won on Charlotte's 1-1/2 mile paved track.

Source: Free Lance-Star

Thompson's brief run with the Wood Brothers - and the wins - is recapped on the Wood Brothers Racing website :

In his first-ever start for the Wood Brothers, the driver that the NASCAR world seemed to have forgotten, delivered them their first-ever superspeedway victory. Suddenly, the Woods and Thompson had become hot NASCAR properties, and Paul Sawyer, the promoter at the Richmond Fairgrounds track, knew a good thing when he saw one. With Richmonds 200-lap race coming up next on the schedule, Sawyer figured he could sell a lot more tickets with Thompson and the Woods No. 21 Ford in the starting field. So he called his fellow Virginian and friend Glen Wood and offered him $2,500 to bring Thompson and the winning car to his track and added another grand if hed bring a second Ford for Joe Weatherly.

Paul was pretty good about getting something while it was hot, Glen Wood recalled. And hot they were. Thompson qualified third at Richmond, took the lead from pole-sitter Ned Jarrett after just 19 laps and led 173 of the 200 laps on the half-mile dirt oval to get his 20th and final victory on the circuit now known as Sprint Cup. Leonard Wood remembers well that fall afternoon in Richmond. It surprised us how well Speedy ran on dirt, he said. He would back off early getting into the corner and let the car make a set, he said. A lot of drivers would run too hard into the corner and it would slow them down in the middle, but Speedy had a style of driving at Richmond that was really smooth. And of course he had equipment that allowed him to look good on the track. As NASCAR participants and fans came to better understand in later years, a car that been touched by Leonard Woods wrenches was a huge advantage.

The 1960 Ford that Thompson drove to his 19th and 20th career wins was once a burned-out heap in a junkyard. The Woods chose it because the fire had rid it of the heavy soundproofing materials and glue and other unnecessary weight. And Leonard Wood had done a little of his own magic on the 352-cubic-inch engine that was built on Fords assembly line right alongside those destined for passenger cars and trucks. There wasnt a lot you could do to them under the rules, Wood explained. But we could port the heads a little, and do a valve job. They had to have a certain compression ratio, and the cubic inches had to be right.

Thompson passed away in 1972 after suffering a heart attack during a late model race at Metrolina Speedway. He was laid to rest in Monroe NC.

Source: FindAGrave.com

Fin # Driver Car
1 21 Speedy Thompson '60 Ford
2 27 Junior Johnson '59 Chevrolet
3 11 Ned Jarrett '60 Ford
4 43 Richard Petty '60 Plymouth
5 17 Fred Harb '59 Ford
6 87 Buck Baker '60 Chevrolet
7 36 Tommy Irwin '59 T-Bird
8 4 Rex White '59 Chevrolet
9 42 Maurice Petty '60 Plymouth
10 10 Bill Morgan '59 Buick
11 74 L.D. Austin '58 Chevrolet
12 5 Nace Mattingly '58 Ford
13 83 Curtis Crider '58 Ford
14 61 Elmo Langley '59 T-Bird
15 23 Doug Yates '59 Plymouth
16 16 Joe Weatherly '58 Ford
17 54 Jimmy Pardue '59 Dodge
18 14 Wes Morgan '60 Chevrolet
19 7 Buddy Baker '58 Ford

Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 10/23/17 09:25:27AM
Dave Fulton
6 years ago
9,130 posts

Interesting to hear Glen Wood recount Paul Sawyer's deal making. I've heard Paul tell that exact same story.

The win was Speedy Thompson's second on the Richmond dirt. He beat Lee Petty to the checkers in the 1958 Richmond 200.

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

Great post. I remember watching Speedy race many times but it was just in seeing him on the track. My Uncle Bobby, my mentor in racing, was not such a big fan of Thompson after the Herb Thomas incident in 1956. At the time, I didn't understand the issue because I was seeing cars wreck all the time and many times it appeared one would take out the other intentionally. It was long after the fact of the 1956 incident that it realized what Speedy did ended the career (and almost the life) of Herb Thomas.

TMC Chase
4 years ago
4,024 posts

Couple of race preview articles from The Progress Index of Petersburg, VA.

Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
3 weeks ago
4,024 posts


Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 11/06/19 07:41:03AM