October 11, 1953
“Wilkes 160”

Top 5 finishers…..

It didn’t take long for Alfred Thompson to figure how to get around the 5/8 mile track at North Wilkesboro. In his first Grand National race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, he and his ’53 Oldsmobile put a stop to Herb Thomas and his Hudson Hornet’s 3 race NWS winning streak. At the end of the day, Thompson lived up to his nickname of “Speedy” by finishing 2 laps ahead of second place finisher, Fonty Flock. Thompson led 25 laps in the race and Flock led 37.

23 year old Ray Duhigg finished 3rd in a car owned by Julian Petty—Lee’s brother. Duhigg ran a limited Grand National schedule from 1950 to 1954 and one race in 1955. In 54 Grand National starts, he finished in the top ten 26 times on all sorts of track layouts—1/2 mile, 5/8 mile, 1 mile, Darlington, Daytona’s Beach Course and the near circular “Big Left Turn” track at Langhorne, PA. He had talent, and many years ahead to show it. Duhigg never got the chance though. In October of 1955, he was killed in an early accident at Salem Speedway in the first ever Midwest Association for Race Cars (which eventually became known as ARCA).

The fourth place finisher was also the winner of the final three NASCAR Convertible championships, from 1955-57. His name was Bob Welborn. Like Donald Thomas (in an earlier post), Welborn’s first Grand National win came with the aid of another driver. October 6, 1957 at Martinsville Speedway, Welborn recorded the victory, but didn't actually drive the car across the finish line. Lewis "Possum" Jones relieved Welborn at the mid-way point of the race, but Welborn got credit for the win.

Lee Petty rounded out the top 5 that day. Although the race had no bearing on the season ending points championship (Herb Thomas had it locked up with 3 races to go starting with the NWS race), it meant a lot to Petty. He and Dick Rathmann were in a tight battle for 2nd. Rathmann struggled that day and finished 24th. Petty went on to finish 2nd in the points standings in 1953.

The race had a reported 13 lead changes between 4 different drivers. Pole sitter (78.288 mph) Elzie Wylie (“Buck”) Baker led the most laps—80. Baker finished in the sixth position. Curtis Turner also led a total of 18 circuits in the race. There were 3 caution periods for 16 laps.

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