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.

White ‘lands’ win at Montgomery

Sunday, July 17, 1960 – Hard-charging Rex White outlasted a field of 18 fellow competitors to score the win in the inaugural Empire State 200 NASCAR stock car race at Montgomery (N.Y.) Air Base. White put his No. 4 Chevrolet out front three times to lead 63 of the race’s 100 laps. Richard and Lee Petty finished second and third respectively, while Ned Jarrett and Buck Baker completed the top five.

The race, No. 25 of 44 for the season, was the only time NASCAR brought its premier series to the facility, located approximately 75 miles north of New York City.

The layout of the track featured only three turns, similar to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway which hosts two Cup races annually. However, there was no banking on the 2-mile layout located on an auxiliary air base.

Crowd estimates ranged from 3,000 to 5,000, not enough to convince local authorities to seek additional NASCAR races.

It was the ninth career victory for White and his second of the season.

‘Shorty’ finds victory lane in Busti

Wednesday, July 16, 1958 – Lloyd George “Shorty” Rollins rolled to his first career victory in NASCAR’s premier series, winning the 150-lapper at State Line Speedway in Busti, N.Y. Rollins, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, pushed his No. 99 Ford to the front with 12 laps remaining. Regional favorites Bob Duell, Ken Johnson, Emory Mahan and John Seeley completed the top five. Lee Petty, already twice a series champion, was eighth.

The win was the only victory in hard-top competition for Rollins, who made 43 premier series starts from 1958-60. He ended his career with 12 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes in the series.

Rollins was named NASCAR Rookie of the year in 1958; he finished third in the ’58 Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Rollins was the first driver to win a race at Daytona International Speedway, capturing the 40-lap convertible series event there to earn a starting spot in the inaugural Daytona 500.

In addition to his Daytona convertible win, Rollins also placed second at Charlotte (N.C.) Speedway and also had top-10 finishes at Columbia and Darlington, S.C. in nine career starts.

The 150-lap event at State Line Speedway was the only premier series event held at the 0.333-mile Busti, N.Y., track, located on the western end of the state.

Rollins was the grand marshal for the 1998 Snowball Derby

The State Line race was the second and final series appearance for Brockway, Pa. driver Squirt Johns, who led 42 laps.

Final pole for Northeast standout

Friday, July 15, 1983 – Ron Bouchard, twice a pole winner on the sprawling 2-mile layout of Michigan International Speedway, scored the first short-track pole of his career when he zoomed to the No. 1 qualifying spot for the Busch Nashville 420 at Nashville (Tenn.) International Raceway. A native of Fitchburg, Mass., Bouchard edged short-track ace Darrell Waltrip for the top spot. “I told the guys to get me close enough to the front so I could see the green flag at the start of the race,” Bouchard told reporters.

The Nashville pole was the last of Bouchard’s career. He went on to finish 27th in the race, falling out after 147 laps when his engine expired.

Bouchard competed in NASCAR’s premier series from 1981 through 1987. The majority of his 160 starts came with team owner Jack Beebe, another New England native, in the No. 47 Race Hill Farm Buick. He also drove for owners Mike Curb and Hoss Ellington.

The 1981 series rookie of the year, Bouchard is best known among NASCAR fans for his lone victory, winning the 1981 Talladega 500 with a last-lap pass of Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte. Bouchard later credited fellow driver Buddy Baker with explaining to him how to wait before making such a pass at Talladega because of the location of the finish line, which is much close to Turn 1.

NASCAR officials announced a rule update at Nashville – eliminating the new rule requiring the area between the hood of the car and windshield be sealed. The rule had been in place at Daytona earlier that month but did not significantly impact the competition as had been hoped.

ISC bumps portfolio with Phoenix purchase

Monday, July 14, 1997 – The battle for track ownership took another step forward as International Speedway Corp. announced the purchase of Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway. The facility boasts a 1-mile asphalt layout and has hosted one NASCAR premier series event annually since 1988. According to reports, the purchase price was $46 million. It was announced that track owner and president Buddy Jobe would remain as president of the facility.

The purchase increased ISC’s track ownership to five facilities. In addition to PIR, at that time the Daytona Beach, Fla. group also owned Daytona International Speedway, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The company also had an 11 percent interest in Penske Motorsports, which owned three facilities, including two that hosted NASCAR premier series events.

In making the announcement, ISC chairman and CEO Bill France Jr., acknowledged interest in possibly building tracks in Chicago, Kansas City and Sacramento, Calif.

The move evened track ownership for Cup facilities. Speedway Motorsports Inc., founded by Bruton Smith, owned Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. In addition, his group held co-ownership of North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway.

PIR executives said the sale would allow grandstand seating at the facility to be increased from 65,000 to 90,000. Estimated attendance for the ’96 NASCAR event was 102,000.

It’s Wood again at Bowman Gray

Saturday, July 13, 1963 – Glen Wood, founder of the legendary Stuart, Va.-based Wood Brothers Racing organization, earned his fourth career victory in the NASCAR premier series when he triumphed at Bowman-Gray Stadium, beating Ned Jarrett in the 200-lap event. It was also Wood’s fourth win at Bowman-Gray.

Buck Baker, Lee Petty and Jack Smith completed the top five. All finished a lap or more down to the winner.

After starting on the pole, Wood fell to 14th following a spin on the second lap of the race. Junior Johnson inherited the lead and remained in front until lap 80 when his No. 3 Chevrolet suffered a flat tire.

Wood ended a nearly two-year hiatus with his return to competition at Bowman Gray. Now a NASCAR Hall of Fame member, Wood did not compete in 1962 after running only six races the previous season.

According to records, Wood led every lap in each of his Bowman Gray victories, except for the final one in which he led 95 laps.

Wood made two starts in 1964 before ending his driving career.

The event was the annual Myers Brothers Memorial race named in honor of former racers Bobby and Billy Myers.

Glotzbach gets help and win at Bristol

Sunday, July 11, 1971 – Chargin’ Charlie Glotzbach won the only caution-free NASCAR premier series race contested at Bristol Motor Speedway with help from relief driver Friday Hassler, capturing the Volunteer 500. Hassler, whose own entry was sidelined earlier with a broken wheel, took the checkered flag after relieving Glotzbach with less than 150 laps remaining in the 500-lap affair.

  Thanks to the lack of yellow flags, Glotzbach still holds the race record at BMS of 101.074 mph. That mark eclipsed the previous record of 91.704 mph set earlier that season by David Pearson.

The winning No. 3 entry was owned by Charlotte Motor Speedway promoter Richard Howard, built and fielded by team owner Junior Johnson.

It was the first victory for Chevrolet in three years – prior to the win, Bobby Allison had been the last driver to put a Chevy in victory lane, winning at Islip (N.Y.) Speedway on July 7, 1968.

The Glotzbach/Hassler switch was just one of many on the day at BMS. Bobby Allison took runner-up honors with James Hylton at the wheel of the No. 12 Holman-Moody Ford; Richard Petty was third and split seat time with Buddy Baker; Hylton placed fifth although G.C. Spencer was driving the entry at the conclusion of the race.

The victory was the last of four for Glotzbach in 124 premier series starts.

Bristol is one of seven tracks on the current NASCAR Cup Series schedule that has seen a race go caution-free. The others are Darlington (1), Daytona (7), Dover (1), Michigan (3), Talladega (3) and Watkins Glen (1).

Even with the mid-race driver change, Glotzbach’s winning margin was still three laps.

Pearson feted by officials, fellow drivers

Tuesday, July 10, 1973 – Less than one week after his victory in the Medal of Honor Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway, driver David Pearson was honored by city and state officials, fellow competitors and citizens of his hometown of Spartanburg, S.C. “David Pearson Day” paid tribute to the 38-year-old, three-time NASCAR premier series champion who had scored a series-best 20 superspeedway victories.

Taking part in the festivities were South Carolina Gov. John C. West, Lt. Gov. Earle Morris, as well as numerous other political figures from the local and state level.

Among the drivers who turned out to honor Pearson were Richard Petty, Bobby Isaac, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and Donnie Allison. Members of the Wood Brothers Racing team, which fielded the No. 21 for Pearson, were on hand as was country musician and racer Marty Robbins.

At a “Roast Pearson” luncheon, much was made of the driver’s somewhat miserly ways. He was presented with a framed cancelled check for $5.22, Pearson’s first prize money from racing. After Pearson stated the amount was likely “about right,” promoter/publicist Joe Littlejohn quipped “You know it’s right. You’ve probably still got it.”

The story was also told about how Pearson was reluctant to spend $15 in order to compete at NASCAR sanctioned events early in his career. Eventually he was convinced and it paid off handsomely. In ’73 he became only the second driver to earn more than $1 million during his career.

Stewart dedicates win to fallen comrade

Sunday, July 9, 2000 – Tony Stewart, a three-time series winner the year before as a fresh-faced rookie, won for the third time in his sophomore season when he won the rain-shortened thatlook.com 300 NASCAR premier series race at New Hampshire International Speedway.

The call to keep Stewart on the track during the second of two red flags for rain proved decisive when officials ended the race 27 laps shy of its scheduled 300-lap distance. Stewart led 156 of the 273 laps completed in his No. 20 Pontiac for Joe Gibbs Racing. Joe Nemechek, Mark Martin, Jerry Nadeau and Jeff Gordon completed the top five.

Driver Kenny Irwin was killed during practice two days earlier at NHMS when his car struck the wall in Turn 3 and overturned. In spite of the fatality, which came approximately eight weeks after the death of Adam Petty in almost exactly the same place on the track, NASCAR continued with practice and qualifying.  Irwin was NASCAR Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series in 1998.

In the same race a year earlier, Stewart had lost the race at NHMS despite dominating when he ran out of gas with less than three laps remaining.

Jeff Burton, winner of three consecutive July races at New Hampshire, was involved in an accident with Chad Little and finished 11th.

Nothing wrong with Haley’s Daytona win

What to make of Sunday’s rain-delayed, rain-shortened finish to the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway?

• Justin Haley, first-time Cup winner. Deserving? Well, he was leading when NASCAR officials declared the race official with 127 of 160 laps completed. That’s pretty much all that’s required.

A driver doesn’t have to lead a certain number of laps or pass a certain number of cars or anything other than be in the lead when the race officially ends to be declared the winner.

That’s the way it’s always been (OK, there ARE exceptions. The winning car has to pass post-race technical inspection; and years ago, there were instances of drivers protesting race results and NASCAR officials correcting the official finishing order.).

A quick search of the record book fails to unearth any instances of drivers turning down victories because they happened to be leading the race when it ended short of regulation for one reason or another.

Had Kurt Busch not pitted under caution and handed the lead to Haley, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver would have been your winner.

Had Busch and Haley both pitted, runner-up William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports) would have celebrated career win No. 1.

It could have been Jimmie Johnson (third) or any one of several others who chose to remain on the track during the sixth and final caution.

But it wasn’t.

Lightning in the area forced officials to halt the action twice before rain eventually arrived and soaked the track.

And Haley, the 20-year-old Xfinity Series competitor, became the first non-Cup regular to win a race since Trevor Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500 while driving for Wood Brothers Racing.

Spire Motorsports is a first-time winner as well after just 18 starts in the series. The last time there was a “first-time” organization winner? Probably 2014 when A.J. Allmendinger won for JTG Daugherty Racing at Watkins Glen International.

Maybe it matters to others that Haley was making only his third start in the series or that the Spire organization had exactly one top-25 finish before Sunday.

But he was out front when it counted.

That’s what matters to me. Mr. Haley, too, I presume.

If I was disappointed about anything, it was that the weekend marked an end to the July 4th holiday race week at Daytona.

It’s been a staple for so long. From the very beginning in ’59 up through ’87 the race was held on July 4 no matter what day of the week that happened to fall on.

Talk to some garage veterans and they’ll tell you about the 1969 season when teams raced at Daytona on Friday, the 4th, then beat it up the east coast for the inaugural Mason Dixon 300 at Dover held just two days later.

Put that on your 2021 schedule …

Even when the Daytona race was moved to be contested on the holiday weekend, there was still something unique about it.

Going forward, the race will be held in August and it’s the cutoff race for the playoffs and maybe that will spice it up somewhat, but it’ll be tough to top its predecessor.