The 1950 Season Growing Pains and Growing Up
By Greg Fielden
Things were happening fast for Bill France as the calendar was
flipped to 1950.
The Strictly Stock division was undergoing a name change -- and
the new Grand Nationals took over the headlining role as
NASCAR's premier series. The name Grand National was derived
from England's thoroughbred horse racing event. "Grand National
indicates superior qualities," said a NASCAR statement. France
the 'Strictly Stock' label was more of a guideline for rules;
National' was a dynamic title that would have more appeal to the
Before the early 1950 Grand National schedule had been
established, two races had already been run. Because they were
staged between the end of the 1949 season and the beginning of
1950 slate, they carried no championship points.
Sam Nunis, a promoter whose executive offices were located in
Reading, PA, operated Atlanta's Lakewood Speedway. He directed
Indianapolis-type championship races, Big Cars, Sprint Cars and
Stock Cars. Nunis announced that Lakewood Speedway -- once
tagged the "Indianapolis of the South" -- would host a 150-mile
Strictly Stock race on October 23, 1949. The event was open to
driver who was 21 years of age and held a valid driver's license.
The 1949 NASCAR season had ended on October 16th at North
Wilkesboro. Red Byron had been crowned champion of NASCAR's
new-fangled late model circuit, and he stood to collect a $1,000
prize at NASCAR's victory dinner during Daytona's Speed Week in
Nunis' shotgun scheduling of the Lakewood event caught France
off-guard, but he generously offered to assist Nunis in the
of his 150-miler. He also indicated the door would then be opened
for all NASCAR members to participate.
Attendance on that pleasant autumn afternoon was 33,452, an
astonishing figure which was about 59 percent more than the
number on hand during the 1949 point season. Tim Flock, youngest
member of the Flyin' Flock gang, drove his Oldsmobile past Curtis
Turner in the 127th lap and led the final 24 laps to win the 150-
miler. He pocketed $1,650 for his efforts.
The event was marred by serious injuries to 11 year-old Buster
Henley. Buster suffered fractures to both legs when a wheel came
off Bob Flock's Oldsmobile and bounded into an area heavily
populated by spectators. The contest was so successful at the
turnstyles that Nunis scheduled another race for November 13th.
Once again, France stepped in and assisted Nunis in the direction
Rain interrupted the Strictly Stock return to Lakewood, yet a
of 22,000 showed up. Fonty Flock led the first 22 laps from his
position. On lap 23, Flock was gobbled up in a five car crash in
second turn. Sara Christian, America's leading female race
collided with B.C. Speig and flipped her Oldsmobile on its roof.
suffered a "bruised chest" in the mishap, but her injuries were
serious. Speig broke his left hand in the crash. Other drivers
involved were veteran Carson Dyer, who suffered head and hand
lacerations, and Olin Allen, minor cuts and bruises. Allen
was involved but escaped injury.
Curtis Turner picked up the lead, but a cloudburst halted the
after 39 laps. The remaining distance was scheduled for the
following Sunday, November 20. Turner led the restart, but his
Oldsmobile departed with engine problems about 80 miles into the
event. June Cleveland of Augusta, GA, who had never won a stock
car race of any kind, picked up the lead in the 85th lap and was
front on lap 110 when officials red-flagged the event due to
darkness. Cleveland, driving D.G. Hall's Buick, was declared the
winner and picked up a $1,500 check.
Racing was as wild and wooly as the untamed frontier, and every
race was a showdown at high noon.
Neither Lakewood event carried points to the championship, and
neither one has ever been logged in the 1949 or 1950 season wrap-
ups and rundowns NASCAR often printed. They were listed in the
1950 NASCAR yearbook, but were not included in the race review
for the 1949 season.
Curiously, Tim Flock and June Cleveland received credit for a win
in NASCAR records, yet the cars they drove, Oldsmobile and
Buick, did not get credit for a victory. The driver victories are
reflected in today's NASCAR records, but the car wins are not.
Apparently, they have to be considered as special events which
carried no cham
*"The first lady will not invoke executive
privledge." Mike McCurry
*Things are worse than we thought!