The Grand National teams had a hectic schedule in late March through early April 1959. They raced 4 times in an 8-day period:
- March 29 - Wilson NC
- March 30 - Bowman Gray
- April 4 - Columbia
- April 5 - North Wilkesboro
But then the drivers and crews got some "whew" time away from the track. The next race didn't take place until April 26 for a 200-lap, 100-mile race at the Reading Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania. The event turned out to be the second of only two GN races ever held at the Fairgrounds track.
In the days leading up to the race, Pat Purcell was apparently dispatched up north to assist with race promotion. Though I haven't found anything yet to prove it, my hunch is Ed Otto likely had a hand in the logistics of the race based on all the track connections he developed in the northeastern part of the US and Toronto, Ontario.
Some of "advertised" drivers included...
Tom Pistone, Lee Petty, 1958 Reading winner Junior Johnson and Speedy Thompson
I think we now know where the producers of the sitcom The Brady Bunch got their idea for the opening of their show.
Tiny Lund was also expected to race. For reasons I'm unclear about, Tiny apparently didn't race. He isn't listed in any finishing order I've seen.
Race preview from Reading Eagle
The race was scheduled as a one-day event with qualifying held right before the race. Mother Nature interfered a bit and brought rain to the area. Imagine that - rain at a Pennsylvania race. (*cough* Pocono).
With qualifying rained out, the drivers drew for starting positions. I'm guessing the drawing part was orderly and understood. The documentation of the draw, however, was not. I can't find who started where.
Regardless of where he started, Lee Petty let it be known early that the race was his. He set sail on lap 1 and kept everyone behind him for the first 173 laps. Problem for him was that the race was scheduled for 200 laps.
Petty led lap after lap even while being pursed by Pistone, Cotton Owens and Johnson. Lee's time out front likely doomed his pit strategy - and ultimately cost him a trip to victory lane. He had planned to race the full 100-miles without a stop. But with the 42 Oldsmobile being pushed by his 3 challengers, he likely burned more gas than he'd expected. On lap 174, Johnson finally got past Petty - who perhaps had gone into conservation mode. But Lee then realized he had to make a stop to finish the race. He ducked into the pits with 12 laps to go but then snapped an axle as he headed back to the track. One lap later, he was done despite the dominating performance.
By the time the race had reached its late stages, Cotton had exited the race and Thompson had passed Pistone for 2nd. Petty and Johnson had built a comfortable lead over the field. With Petty off the track at lap 189, Junior won by 4 laps over 2nd place Thompson and 3rd place Tiger.
The above victory lane photo shows Junior's car void of a right side door. The caption says he lost it in an accident in a New York race the previous night. A GN race wasn't scheduled so I wonder if perhaps a NASCAR Short Track Division race was held.
Race report from Reading Eagle
Though Ed Otto's involvement with the promotion of the race is debatable, his connection to the higher-ups in NASCAR is not. Another point that may be debatable is whether having a dog named after you is an honor ... or an insult.
|Fin||Driver||Sponsor / Owner||Car|
|1||Junior Johnson||Paul Spaulding||'57 Ford|
|2||Speedy Thompson||Steve Pierce||'57 Chevrolet|
|3||Tom Pistone||Carl Rupert||'59 T-Bird|
|4||Tommy Irwin||Tommy Irwin||'59 T-Bird|
|5||Buzz Woodward||Buzz Woodward||'57 Ford|
|6||Lee Petty||Petty Enterprises||'57 Oldsmobile|
|7||Tiny Benson||Tiny Benson||'57 Chevrolet|
|8||Jim Parsley||Jim Parsley||'57 Chevrolet|
|9||Ben Benz||Bernard Friedland||'57 Chevrolet|
|10||Shorty Rollins||Shorty Rollins||'58 Ford|
|11||John Seeley||'57 Chevrolet|
|12||Reds Kagle||Hoss Kagle||'57 Chevrolet|
|13||Al White||Al White||'58 Ford|
|14||Cotton Owens||W.H. Watson||'58 Pontiac|
|15||Ken Johnson||Ken Johnson||'57 Ford|
|16||Ray Fanning||'57 Chevrolet|
|17||John Findlay||Jim Findley||'57 Chevrolet|
|18||Gus Wilson||Gus Wilson||'57 Chevrolet|
|19||Rex White||Rex White||'59 Chevrolet|
|20||Bobby Johns||Shorty Johns||'57 Chevrolet|
|21||Johnny Beauchamp||Jim Reed||'57 Ford|
|22||Elmo Langley||Ratus Walters||'57 Ford|
|23||Don Angel||Don Angel||'58 Ford|
|24||Jim Reed||Jim Reed||'57 Ford|
|25||Dave Marburger||'57 Ford|
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
updated by @tmc-chase: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM