The 1959 season is one of my favorite memories from the past and the track from today's History Minute is one of my favorite tracks, although I got to attend only one race there in the 60s. The track is Orange Speedway located in Hillsboro, North Carolina where a fine tribute to racing of the past is held each year in early fall. The Historic Speedway Group puts on one of the finest shows in historic preservation each year. But, for today, let's go back to a 99 mile race on the .9 mile dirt track.
Curtis Turner would start on the pole in the Delta Auto Sales T-Bird. Tiger Tom Pistone would start second in his Rupert Saf-Belt T-Bird, Lee Petty in an Oldsmobile third, Cotton Owens in W. H. Watson's Pontiac fourth, and Bob Welborn in his Chevrolet fifth.
Turner took the lead on lap one but was overhauled on lap two by Tiger Tom. Turner went by Tiger Tom to lead laps 3-13. Pistone would move back in front on lap 14 and stayed there until lap 50. It was Turner again on lap 51 of the 110 lap race and he would hold position one until lap 103 before Pistone could push his way by Turner to take over again for two laps.
On lap 107, Bob Welborn, is the Welborn Chevrolet, who had been lurking within sight of the leaders, moved out front. Welborn was in command but Turner was literally pushing the Chevy driver around the track, trying high and low, but unable to find a way around. The white flag was thrown and it appeared all Welborn had to do was fight off Curtis Turner for one more lap. Suddenly, without any warning, Welborn jerked his car to the inside of the racetrack as Turner sped by. It took the 7,500 fans in attendance only seconds to realize something was wrong with Welborn's car. He had run out of gas. So close to victory and no gas with which to get there.
As Welborn slowed, Turner sped by and Tiger Tom Pistone made a huge charge to overtake Turner, falling short by only three car lengths at the line. It was Turner's first win since April 18, 1958 when he won a race at Charlotte.
1. Curtis Turner, Delta Auto Sales T-Bird, winning $800.00
2. Tom Pistone, Rupert Saf-Belt T-Bird, winning $525.00 (3 car lengths back)
3. Bob Welborn, Welborn Chevrolet, winning $350.00 (1 lap back)
4. Lee Petty, Petty Engineering Olds, winning $250.00 (1 lap back)
5. Buck Baker, Baker Chevrolet, winning $225.00 (1 lap back)
6. Glen Wood
7. Brownie King
8. Joe Eubanks
9. Cotton Owens
12. Harvey Hege
13. Speedy Thompson
14. Tiny Lund
15. Bobby Keck
16. Larry Frank
17. Elmo Langley
18. L. D. Austin
19. Junior Johnson
20. Tommy Irwin
21. Jimmy Lewallen
22. Bobby Rose
The average speed of the race was 81.862 mph, slowed by two caution flags. Curtis Turner's pole winning speed was 87.544 mph
PERSONAL NOTE: If you are anywhere near Hillsboro, North Carolina when The Historic Speedway Group holds its annual event in the fall, you really need to go by for the day. There is no admission charge although the event is worth more than probably any race run in current NASCAR today. You can meet many drivers from the golden era of the sport, see numerous historic race cars, and enjoy the company of many fans of the history of the sport.
When the move the cars to the track for the parade laps that always seem to turn into a mini-race, if your heart doesn't pound in your chest, you had best check in with your cardiologist because you're pretty close to death. Seriously, it is a wonderful event, one which I have attended the past five years. It gets better every year so I can't wait until this year's comes around.
Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future
updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM