October 23, 1955
Top 5 finishers…..
A pair of car owners made their NWS debuts in this race. Pete DePaolo’s 1956 Ford driven by Buck Baker took the pole with a qualifying speed of 79.815 mph and never looked back. For the second straight race, Baker led all 160 laps on his way to his 2nd consecutive NWS win. It was DePaolo’s first win as a NASCAR owner and it was Ford’s first Grand National win at the speedway. DePaolo’s cars would go on to win 21 races in 178 attempts. DePaolo was the nephew of the 1919 Indy 500 champ, Ralph DePalma (those of you who have been to Daytona have probably seen the DePalma name on the front stretch grandstands). Pete DePaolo would also become an Indy 500 champ in 1925. He started the race, was relieved for 21 laps for medical reasons, and returned to finish the race in first place.
3 time Grand National Champ, Lee Petty finished 2nd. Petty’s car was the only other car to finish on the lead lap. Petty was in the middle of a stretch where he finished 4th or better in the season ending championship a remarkable 11 consecutive seasons—and in the 12th season, he finished 6th. But he still was searching for his first NWS win……
Gwyn Staley, brother of track owner Enoch Staley, finished the race in the 3rd position. Gwyn would become a 3 time race winner in the Grand National Series, all wins coming in 1957. Staley was also known for being not only the first race winner at Hickory Motor Speedway in 1951, but also track champion. Staley was also credited for being the last driver to win a NASCAR race at “The Big Left Turn,” officially known as Langhorne Speedway (PA) in 1957. Staley was also a regular in the NASCAR Convertible Series. In 1958, Staley lost his life in a crash on the first lap at Richmond Fairgrounds in a convertible race. In the words of my good friend Paul, “Now there was a boy who could really drive a car!”
The driver finishing in fourth place also has his name on the front stretch grandstands at Daytona. “The Clown Prince of Racing”, Joe Weatherly, ran his first NWS stock car race on this day. Weatherly would go on to be the 1962 and ’63 Grand National Champion. Sadly, in his efforts to become the first driver to win 3 consecutive championships, he was killed in a crash at Riverside, California on January 19, 1964 at the age of 41. Weatherly was quite the character. Some of his shenanigans include taking competitor’s keys from ignitions prior to the start of the race, stealing gas caps from competitor’s cars, and even putting live snakes in competitor’s cars before the races started. He also hung around with Curtis Turner on a regular basis—enough said. The racing world has never seen an individual like Weatherly since.
Carl Kiekhaefer was the second car owner to make his NWS debut. He entered 3 cars in the race. Tim Flock, Fonty Flock and Speedy Thompson finished 5th, 6th and 7th, respectively. The race also marked the final appearance for Fonty Flock in a stock car at NWS. Kiekhaefer’s cars were victorious 52 times in 190 starts over a two year period.
Of the 28 cars entered in the race, 16 were running at the finish. There were 3 cautions periods and the margin of victory was 5 seconds, less than the length of a straightaway. 10,000 were on hand to witness the race, which for the first time, sported a total purse of more that $4,000--$4,285 to be specific. The winner’s share jumped an extra hundred dollars from the usual $1,000 to $1,100.
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