Racing History Minute - April 21, 1962

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Today we are going to travel back to 1962 and take a "beach trip".  The current Myrtle Beach Speedway is located on the same piece of real estate where the Rambi Raceway of 1962 sat back in the day, but the track was quite different then.  In 1962 the track was a half mile dirt track with slightly banked turns and no outside guardrails on the turns.  No need for SAFER barriers, you just ran off the track and into the swamp.  Had to be careful of the alligators, but otherwise chances of personal injury were slim.  Damage to the car was another story but usually, once the swamp water drained, the car was useable again.

Ned Jarrett put his B.G. Holloway 1962 Chevy on the pole for this 100 mile/200 lap race.  Joe Weatherly in the Bud Moore '61 Pontiac would start second.  Nineteen cars started the race.

The references I use for this series does not record lap leaders or many specifics at all about this race, but my Uncle Bobby and I were in attendance.  I do remember a bad crash in the race by Buck Baker driving his Chrysler and that is mentioned in Greg Fielden's record, but my recollection of any other details seem to slipped into oblivion.

Jack Smith took the checkered flag for his third win of the season out of fourteen races thus far run.  Second place was two laps down and third place five laps down. It is worth reporting that Wendell Scott, in only his second season in the Grand National (now Cup) Division ran in the top five, after qualifying sixth, until an A-frame broke on lap 176 and relegated him to a 9th place finish.

Top five finishers were:

1.  Jack Smith, Pontiac, winning $1,000.00

2.  Richard Petty, Plymouth, winning $600.00

3.  Ned Jarrett, Chevrolet, winning $600.00

4.  Tom Cox, Plymouth, winning $300.00 (Tom was a rookie at the time)

5.  Curtis Crider, Mercury, winning $275.00

Sixth through tenth went to Fred Harb, George Green, Frank Graham, Wendell Scott, and Neil Castles.  Other finishers of note were Herman Beam 11th, Joe Weatherly 13th, Buck Baker 16th, G.C. Spencer  17th and Jim Paschal 18th.  

Every time I do one of these History Minutes from back in the 50s and 60s, I am always amazed at the low prize money. While I realize the value of a dollar was much higher in those days, it is still hard for me to believe $200.00 for 7th and payouts like $85.00 for 15th and going down from there, even paid the tire bill.  Giving some thought to that, and the fact that most of these drivers were involved in towing cars to the track, working on the cars at the track, then towing them to the next race, it leaves little doubt that the total dedication of those individuals is part of what is missing in the sport today.

I've heard, first hand, the stories of sleeping in the race cars, of towing all night, racing 100 miles on a rough track then towing all night to the next one.  I've heard the stories of four, five, or six drivers sharing a motel room to save money. I've heard the story of four drivers pooling what they had in their pocket to buy ONE hot dog at the track to split four ways while sharing the ONE coke they had.  Today is race day (Sunday).  While we watch today's race and see those million dollar hauler rigs and those multi-million dollar motor coaches, let's remember from where those came.  Also think about when the race is over, the drivers helicopter to the air port where their private jet will carry them home.  It is because of what folks like Jack, Ned, Richard, Wendell, Buck, and so many others did that has made that possible.   Let us never forget that.

Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future.

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Thank you, Tim, for another great look back. Although I never saw the RAMBI track, I feel like I did after hearing the stories from you, Jack Walker and Bobby Williamson, along with Jack's wonderful photo collection.

I note in the top-5 a couple more nameplates no longer with us besides some we've already discussed. No more Pontiacs or Mercurys.

There was another vehicle in the field that day no longer manufactured - a lone Studebaker driven by Darlington, South Carolina's Frank Sessoms - the 12th place finisher. That RAMBI race was one of just five Grand National starts Frank would make in his career. He'd also drive in 6 Grand National East races.

However, it was in NASCAR's GT/Grand American division that Frank would make a name for himself, running 64 races with our RR member, Wayne Andrews and other such luminaries as Tiny Lund and Little Bud Moore. Frank, would go on to score his lone NASCAR Grand American victory at Richmond in 1969.

Frank and his lone Studebaker jumped out at me from the complete RAMBI race results because I had a personal connection with Frank, who passed in 2007.

When I managed the Wrangler racing programs, in 1981 I approached the pre-ISC Darlington Raceway's two top men, the late Barney Wallace and the late Red Tyler about running a Southern 500 ticket promotion. They really hemmed and hawed and then Darlington PR man, Bill Kiser (the first Pure Oil PR man) suggested something. He reminded Barney and Red how badly Darlington needed an infield media center.

A deal was struck. For $1/year, Darlington leased Wrangler a plot of land in the infield behind pit road where I constructed the first Darlington Media Center, which Wrangler, by contract, owned, on Darlington's land.

By now you are probably wondering how this all involves the 1962 RAMBI 12th place finisher, Frank Sessoms? Well, I was introduced to Frank, who was a carpenter and builder, by the Darlington Raceway owners and I contracted with him to build the first Darlington Media Center. It was Frank Sessom's idea to build the steps to the rooftop observation area of grated steel, to keep all the hi-falutin women in high heels from Myrtle Beach off the roof!

When Wrangler got out of racing following the 1987 season, the $1/year lease on the Darlington land was transferred to Goody's Manufacturing Company and the Media Center given to them.

So, thanks, again Tim for making it personal.

Frank Sessoms - From the Dargan Watts Photo Collection as posted at The Vintage Racer website.

Link below to newspaper story on Darlington, SC's Frank Sessoms' lone NASCAR Grand American win, at Richmond, in 1969 - following a 3-hour scoring protest!!

Dave, Tim,

I moved from N.C. to the Florence area in 1995...Frank Sessoms was running Late Models at I-95 speedway in Timmonsville and was still winning...He was in his 70's. He continued driving on into this century and up until he passed a couple of years back...At the time that I first ran into Frank Sessoms the elder Late Model Driver it was unbeknownst to me that he had competed in the fisrt Southern 500 and was still going strong.

Frank was a pioneer as stated and was a well respected member and driver in this community...Was a fine man that drove 'em hard to the very end. Tim you are right in that alot of people would not know about Frank but to those that did know of him know that he was hardcore!

Thanks for adding your comments William.  What this History Minute is all about is bringing out memories like these.  So much to be honored in our past. 

You know, Dave, I almost mentioned Frank in the run down but then I thought there would be very few, outside of me, who had ever heard the name. Thank you so much for adding your input to this post because Frank was one of those pioneers who earned his position on the list.  I am sorry I did not list him.

i enjojed this tim keep up the history minutes

Thanks, Charles.  I'm happy you enjoyed the post.  I intend to keep this up as long as there is some interest because I am learning so much when others respond with posts that have more information. We are really building a racing history base here and I like that.  Keep reading and keep commenting and I'll keep writing.

Tim, I would attend my first EVER auto race two months from this date, at Rambi. The Grand National division returned June w/Ned winning.

Well, well, Bobby, Uncle Bobby brought me back for that race too.  He loved to go to Rambi Raceway. Not sure why though because he was NOT a beach person.

Tim, I think the Plymouth Thomas Cox drove was an old Petty car. 1960 model that was ran several years later (1965) at the Rockingham Speedway dirt track by Norman "Fat" Cox.

Dennis, I think you're right because somewhere in my memory bank is a conversation with Thomas Cox at one point when he told me he had a couple of Petty cars.  I would always talk to any driver any where and any time and back in those days they would all talk to me.  As The King says, I had to be the most aggrevating fan in racing.

Another great read! Although I have attended many races at MB Speedway I missed the 50-60s
Era racing there. Thanks Tim it was interesting.


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