Racing HIstory Minute - July 27, 1956

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A couple of years ago, one of our RacersReunion Members undertook the venture of "restoring" the Cleveland County Fairgrounds Speedway in Shelby, NC.  Michael W. Smith got it going and Jeff Gilder, head man here at RacersReunion, worked to get a return of vintage stock cars for a special event on a very sunny Saturday afternoon.  It was a beautiful experience, well attended, and enjoyed by all ages there.  A boy, probably 7 years old, was standing next to me in the stands and he absolutely went nuts every time the cars came by him.  I smiled to myself as I thought how he was going to remember that day as he grew older.  I am betting he is begging his dad to take him to the dirt track every weekend. 

Today, we travel back to a day in 1956 when the Grand National boys checked in at the track. Seventeen competitors would qualify for a scheduled 200 laps on the half-mile dirt track.  The key word in that sentence is "scheduled 200" because the scorers got confused mid-race and lost count of laps, so to be certain the fans weren't cheated out of a lap of racing, the race actually ran 201 laps, or 100.5 miles.  Not sure how the drivers felt about that, or if and when they actually discovered the additional half mile added.

Ralph Moody qualified his Pete DePaulo Ford on the pole with a speed of 55.658 mph. Speedy Thompson qualified a Dodge second, Fireball Roberts in another Ford was third, Gwyn Staley's Chevrolet fourth and Herb Thomas rounded out the top five with a Chevrolet.

Speedy Thompson would power his Keikhaefer Dodge to the win with Ralph Moody finishing second on the lead lap and Billy Myers finished one lap down in third.  It is mentioned in the record that Harold Kite, winner of the 1950 Daytona Beach Race "came out of a retirement of several years" to compete in that race and he finished 11th.  You may want to check out the future career of Harold Kite for information I don't wish to disclose here.

Top five finishers were:

1.  Speedy Thompson, Kiekhaefer Outboards Dodge, winning $950.00

2.  Ralph Moody, Pete DePaolo Ford, winning $575.00

3.  Billy Myers, Guy Wilson Mercury, winning $475.00

4.  Fireball Roberts, DePaolo Ford, winning $365.00

5.  Buck Baker, Kiekhaefer Dodge, winning $320.00

Sixth through tenth were Rex White, Gwen Staley, Herb Thomas, Lee Petty and Johnny Dodson.  Remaining finishers, in order were, Harold Kite, Johnny Allen, Jim Paschal, Bill Champion, Blackie Pitt, Billy Carden and Joe Eubanks.   And, for those of you who enjoy keeping up with the unusual sponsor names Jim Paschal attracted, he was running the C.U. Later Alligator Mercury.


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

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Thanks, Tim. Your history minute for today led me to discover an interesting story about the side by side tracks at Harris, NC, which I have posted separately.

Judging by this poster, it looks like the race was originally scheduled to run July 26th. I haven't found an article yet to determine if the race was rained out on Thursday and moved to Friday the 27th.

Source: Cleveland County Fair, page 38

And Ralph Chichester shared a photo of his poster earlier this year in the Cleveland County Fairgrounds group.


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