Petty’s first start comes outside U.S.

Friday, July 18, 1958 – Richard Petty, son of NASCAR premier series champion Lee Petty, makes his first official start in the series at Canadian Exposition Stadium in Toronto, Ont. Petty, who turned 21 only 16 days earlier, started seventh in the 19-car field and finished 17th in his 1957 Oldsmobile.

The younger Petty had made his first start in a NASCAR-sanctioned event a week earlier, competing in a convertible race at Columbia (S.C.) Speedway. He finished sixth.

The start in Canada was one of nine for Petty that season. By month’s end he had earned his first career top-10 in the top series, finishing ninth at Wall Stadium in Belmar, N.J.

While Lee Petty would end his career with three titles and 54 victories, Richard Petty would go on to win a NASCAR record 200 races and seven championships. He holds numerous other NASCAR records, such as most starts (1,184), runner-up finishes (157) and laps led (51,406).

Petty was one of five members of NASCAR’s inaugural Hall of Fame class, inducted in 2010. Lee Petty was inducted into the Hall the following year.

The 1958 race was the only visit by NASCAR’s premier series to the Canadian track.

Richard Petty completed only 55 of the 100 scheduled laps in his debut, exiting due to a crash. The reason for the crash has often said to have been the result of his father knocking him aside while battling for the lead with Cotton Owens. However, Petty has also remarked that the incident in question took place in another race.

Petty wins, loses after father’s protest

Sunday, June 14, 1959 – Richard Petty’s first victory in NASCAR’s premier series lasted approximately one hour. That’s how long it took for his father Lee to protest the final results and for officials to rule in the elder Petty’s favor, giving Lee the win at Lakewood Speedway and dropping his once-again winless son into second place.

Richard Petty, competing in a convertible, was making his 17th start in the series and his second start at Lakewood, a 1-mile dirt oval located outside Atlanta.

It was career win No. 42 for Lee Petty, who would go on to capture a third series championship that season. “I lapped Richard twice when he was in the pits,” Lee Petty told reporters afterward. “He’s my boy and I’d love to see him win a race, but when he wins one I want him to earn it.”

Rumors suggested Lee Petty convinced officials of the scoring error in order to collect a bonus for winning with a current-year model car. Lee was driving a ’59 Plymouth, Richard a ’57 Oldsmobile.

The 150-mile race was stopped briefly after 50 laps when dust from the track made visibility nearly impossible. According to reports, fans were so angered by the delay they tossed rocks at the pace car before the race could resume.

Track conditions forced NASCAR to cancel qualifying and instead had drivers draw for starting positions. That move also angered fans and was just one reason track promoter Carl Queen issued an apology afterward.

The race was the 11th and final for NASCAR’s premier series at the facility.

Trailing Lee and Richard Petty across the finish line in third through fifth were Buck Baker, Curtis Turner and Tom Pistone.

Rexford’s lone win in championship season

May 30, 1950 – Bill Rexford won for the first and only time in a NASCAR premier series event when he captured the Poor Man’s 150 at Canfield (Ohio) Speedway. The victory came in Rexford’s eighth start in the series. He was piloting the No. 60 Oldsmobile of owner Julian Buesink.

Rexford would go on to win the championship in 1950 although he never won another NASCAR race. He was the first driver to win the title while winning only once during that season. Ned Jarrett (1961), Benny Parsons (’73) and Matt Kenseth (’03) also claimed championships during one-win seasons.

Lee Petty was stripped of 809 points earned during the first half of the season by NASCAR president William France, costing him a shot at the title. Petty had competed in non-NASCAR sanctioned events during a break in the summer schedule. NASCAR also penalized defending series champion Red Byron for a similar infraction.

The race’s name, the Poor Man’s 150, came about as it was run on the same day as the more popular, and more lucrative, Indianapolis 500.

Fight overshadows Goldsmith victory

Sunday, April 28, 1957 – Paul Goldsmith won the season’s 13th race in the NASCAR premier series, held at Greensboro Agricultural Fairgrounds, but it was the altercation between Tiny Lund and the Petty family that is still talked about today. It was the first win of the year for Goldsmith, driving for owner Smokey Yunick, and the second of his career. He bested a field of 19 on the .333-mile dirt track.

Lund and the Pettys were involved in a fracas that didn’t end until Elizabeth Petty, wife of Lee Petty, began pummeling Lund with her purse, which reportedly held a .38 pistol.

There are minor differences in the story of the fight – some say it started before the race began during pre-race introductions while others say it occurred after the race while Lund and Petty were in line at the payout window. Regardless of when it began, all agree that Lund was fighting, and whipping, Lee as well as his sons Richard and Maurice Petty when pistol-packing Elizabeth Petty stepped in and began whacking Lund with her purse.

The race was the last before NASCAR officials outlawed what was considered high performance equipment (superchargers and fuel injection). It was hoped the move would level the field, which had been dominated by Ford and Chevrolet teams.

Petty avoids potholes, first to score No. 50

Sunday, April 24, 1960 – Lee Petty became the first NASCAR driver to score 50 victories in the premier series when he was declared the winner in a scheduled 200-lap race at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway. The distance was shortened to 168 laps, however, due to deteriorating track conditions on the half-mile paved oval. Large chunks of asphalt had begun coming up in Turns 3 and 4, leading officials to first halt and eventually end the season’s 15th of 44 scheduled races. Joe Lee Johnson finished second.

Two drivers, Jack Smith and Glen Wood, retired due to holes knocked in the oil pans of their cars caused by striking the potholes in the track. Likewise, Junior Johnson was forced to park his Wood Brothers ride when he ran through one of the potholes and bent a tie rod.

Petty and Herb Thomas began the 1960 season with 48 wins each, tops in the series.

Return of a champion

Sunday, April 22, 1962 – Lee Petty returns to NASCAR competition more than a year after he was seriously injured in a crash at Daytona International Speedway. Petty, founder of the legendary Petty Enterprises racing operation, resumed his racing career with a fifth-place finish in the Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Petty suffered injuries to his right leg, a punctured lung and broken ribs in an accident during his qualifying race at DIS the previous year. He was hospitalized for four months.

The three-time series champion made roughly a half-dozen starts after his crash but by ’64 his was through as a driver. After the Martinsville start, his only race in 1962, Petty made three starts in ’63 and two in ’64.

Richard Petty said talk of his father’s retirement “never came up,” when the two were competing. “I don’t think it came up in his mind because he was still winning races and winning championships (at that time. I don’t think he ever thought about not driving,”

The Daytona accident changed all that. “One of the last races he ran, I think it was Martinsville, he got out of the car and he said, “I’m through,” Richard Petty said. “I said ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I don’t enjoy it anymore; it’s not fun.’ He had lost his enthusiasm. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, he wouldn’t have lost it. Who knows how much longer he might have raced?”