April 3, 1955
“Wilkes County 160

Top 5 finishers…..

A reported 10,000 showed up to watch a small field of just 22 cars take to the track. Only ten of them would be running at the finish. Outside pole sitter, Buck Baker led all 160 laps of this 100-miler, but by the last lap, Dick Rathmann was glued to his bumper and still charging. Rathmann made a final charge off turn 4, but Baker won by 3 feet in the closest finish in series history up to that time. It was Baker’s first Grand National win at North Wilkesboro. He wouldn’t settle for just one win at NWS though. Dick Rathmann’s run was his third straight top 5 at the speedway. It would be Rathmann’s last appearance at NWS. The 1955 season would end up being his last NASCAR season. Rathmann went on to enjoy success in the open wheel ranks.

Finishing 3rd, four laps off the pace was Curtis Turner. In addition to his driving skills, Turner was also a very accomplished, private pilot. Flying was both a hobby and a passion, and at times Turner would to a little “showing off” while in his plane. If he got thirsty while flying, he'd look for a familiar store, and land as close to it as he could get --- even if it meant landing on the road. He'd go inside and buy a bottle of his “beverage of choice”, climb back into his plane, and take off again. He would often notice baseball games being played on the ball fields and would dive low and “buzz” the players by flying just feet above their heads, causing the players to drop to the ground. On one occasion, Turner decided to fly down to Darlington for a race. There was no airfield, so Turner landed on the backstretch, and taxied to the infield. After the race, with his co-pilot, fellow driver and partying buddy Joe Weatherly manning the landing gear, Turner set out to take off. At the critical point of takeoff, Turner yelled to Weatherly, “Are we off the ground yet?” Joe informed him, “I hope so, I lifted the landing gear a long time ago!”

Cracking the top 5 for the seventh time in ten tries, and still searching for his first NWS victory, was 41 year old Lee Petty. He started the race from the 10th position. His 1955 Chrysler finished the race 5 laps behind the leader’s car. Petty was still several years away from his first NWS victory.

The fifth place finisher was Eddie Skinner. He was from Nevada, but ran 72 career races in the Southeast. In four tries at NWS, this 5th place finish was his best. 1955 was his best season. He ran full time that year and finished 7th in points.

Local native Junior Johnson ran in his first Grand National race at the speedway. His finish wasn’t so spectacular—18th. But it wouldn’t take long for Johnson to start enjoying great success at the track.

The winning pole speed of 77.72 mph went to Dink Widenhouse. It was his only pole in his 28 race Grand National career. Engine problems landed Widenhouse in the 19th spot at the end of the day.

Dink Widenhouse

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