Racing History Minute - May 20, 1956

TMC Chase
3 years ago
4,016 posts

NASCAR launched its newly acquired convertible division in 1956. On May 20, 1956, the ragtops raced in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. The GN drivers had been racing at the one-mile dirt oval since 1949.

From Motor Racing Programme Covers

One of the expected entrants was Bob Welborn. Along with Curtis Turner, Welborn had success early and often in the new division.

Qualifying was held on Saturday. Bill France made it clear that the convertible division race was in addition to the existing Grand National events at the track vs. a substitute. Big Bill also referenced the convertible division was the 7th NASCAR division. I think these would be the seven - but someone correct me if you think there are more.

  1. Modified
  2. Strictly Stock / Grand National
  3. Speedway Division
  4. Pacific Coast Late Model
  5. East Coast Late Model
  6. Short Track Division
  7. Convertible

Frank Mundy, who won the two previous convertible races at Old Bridge and Raleigh, won the pole at Langhorne in Carl Kiekhaefer's Dodge. Two more Dodges owned by Tom Harbison qualified in the next two spots - Danny Letner in second and Allen Adkins in third.

The field is lined up for the start of the race.

It didn't take long for the convertible gang to have issues with the treacherous track. Bill Tanner, Glen Wood, and Don Oldenberg got together in the fourth turn of lap one. Tanner and Wood were done for the day. Oldenberg continued but a second crash around lap 70 finished him off.

For the first 20 laps, Letner and Mundy went back and forth every few laps. Letner then settled into a groove and retained the lead for a stretch of about 60 laps.

Larry Odo - who often raced against Tiger Tom Pistone at Chicago's Soldier Field - started 20th but had a great showing for the day. He finished 4th, and Art Binkley ended the day 7th after starting deep in the field himself.

Mundy re-took the lead from Letner, and led a stretch of 17 laps. But then, he spun, popped the fence, crashed Kiekhaefer's Dodge, and was done for the day, yet still ended the day in 11th.

With Mundy out of the picture, Letner re-assumed the lead. Possum Jones made a valiant effort to catch Letner, but he too crashed out leaving Letner with little competition. Letner put it on cruise control for the final 50+ laps to take the win. The victory was the Californian's third and final career NASCAR win between the GN and convertible divisions. He won a GN race in Oakland, CA in 1954 and the GN race in Tucson in 1955.

A couple of years ago, Sandeep Banerjee found some really neat footage from the race.

Race report from Bristol Daily Courier

Fin Driver Car
1 Danny Letner '56 Dodge
2 Jimmy Massey '56 Chevrolet
3 Jimmie Lewallen '56 Chevrolet
4 Larry Odo '56 Chevrolet
5 Mel Larson '56 Ford
6 Allen Adkins '56 Dodge
7 Art Binkley '56 Plymouth
8 Bob Welborn '56 Chevrolet
9 Jimmy Thompson '56 Mercury
10 Possum Jones '56 Chevrolet
11 Frank Mundy '56 Dodge
12 Gene Blair '56 Mercury
13 Larry Frank '56 Mercury
14 Don Oldenberg '56 Dodge
15 Fonty Flock '56 Chevrolet
16 Dave Hirschfield '56 Chevrolet
17 Bob Pronger '55 Buick
18 Dick Joslin '56 Dodge
19 Harry Dust '56 Pontiac
20 Joe Weatherly '56 Ford
21 Don Gray '56 Ford
22 Curtis Turner '56 Ford
23 Ray Atkinson '56 Dodge
24 Norman Schihl '56 Ford
25 Glen Wood '56 Ford
26 Bill Tanner '56 Ford

Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
Dennis Andrews
3 years ago
835 posts

Great report Chase.

TMC Chase
4 months ago
4,016 posts


Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.