Happy St. Patrick's Day to those of you claiming Irish heritage. Come to think of it, seems as though everyone claims that family heritage on March 17th. Although "Smith" is not an Irish name, and I don't think I've ever hear the name "O'Smith", it was certainly the "luck of the Irish" that came through for Jack Smith on this date in 1962.
The "St. Patrick's Day 200" was set for the new one-half mile dirt track in Savannah, Georgia. Appropriately named "Savannah Speedway" the track drew 16 entries for the race. Rex White put the Louis Clements Chevrolet on the pole with Darel Dieringer in a Buck Baker Chrysler taking the outside front row. Joe Weatherly started Bud Moore's Pontiac third, Jack Smith in his own Pontiac fourth, and Buddy Baker in another Buck Baker Chrysler started fifth.
A crowd of 7,000 fans showed up to watch Joe Weatherly shove his Pontiac from its third place starting slot into the lead on lap one. Lil Joe would stay out front for 24 laps before Ned Jarrett, who had started sixth, moved his B.G. Holloway Chevrolet to the point. Ned would hold on until lap 117 when his Chevy began to lose oil pressure. Ned finally parked the car on lap 134 because the oil pan was compromised and he lost all oil pressure.
Cotton Owens, who had started ninth in his Pontiac, took over on lap 118 and stayed there until lap 152 before Jack Smith moved by to take over. Smith quickly opened a huge lead but with less than a hand full of laps to run, the Smith Pontiac began to leak oil to the point some folks compared it to a "gusher" coming in on an oil well site.
Smith was not "black flagged" for the oil leak as racing or dirt apparently did not present such a problem with leaking oil. But moreover, the track had so deteriorated that the dust was as thick as London fog on a spring morning. There were three caution flags in the race with the third one thrown to allow the track to be watered down as the drivers' visibility was zero as in barely able to see the hoods of their cars. Some fans reported that it would be months later before they were able to get all the dust out of their ears and hair and most just threw away what they were wearing that day rather than trying to wash out the dust.
Jack Smith took the checked flag almost 3/4 of a lap ahead of second place finisher Cotton Owens. The pole qualifying speed was 70.588 mph and the average speed for the race was 58.775 mph. Only eight of the sixteen starters were running at the finish. This was Jack Smith's second win in 8 races of the 1962 season.
1. Jack Smith, Smith Pontiac, $1,000.00
2. Cotton Owens, Owens Pontiac, $600.00 (3/4 lap down)
3. Joe Weatherly, Bud Moore Pontiac, $400.00 (2 laps down)
4. Curtis Crider, Crider Mercury, $300.00 (10 laps down)
5. Rex White, Louis Clements Chevrolet, $275.00 (17 laps down)****
**** Rex actually broke an axle and was in the pits out of the race****
6. Tom Cox
7. Wendell Scott
8. Herman Beam
9. Buddy Baker
10. George Green
11. Jim Paschal
12.G. C. Spencer
13. Ned Jarrett
14. Richard Petty
15. Darel Dieringer
16. Ed Livingston
Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future
updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM