The Frontstretch: That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (Flag) Past, One Story at a Time: Useless, Just in Time for Fall by Amy Henderson -- Thursday September 8, 2005

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To many people, fall is the season of back to school, apple cider, and brightly colored leaves on the sidewalk.  I find fall somewhat difficult, especially this year, being (gainfully?) unemployed, which takes back-to-school out of my equation.  Summer's over.  I love the crisp cool days, but I do NOT like to cold winter nights they are a harbinger of.  On the other hand, fall is the time when new fashions are introduced to the unsuspecting, and in keeping with that tradition, I have discovered and dusted off a whole bevy of totally useless information about racing and its participants.  Next week, once the top ten have been locked in, we'll look at some fun facts from their backgrounds.  This week, we'll start with the following Fun Fall Facts.

Did you know:

That the first race on a paved speedway marked the unofficial beginning of Fall, 1950?  Well, OK, if you've been reading my column you did.  The race was, of course, the first Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.  You probably also know that the winner was Johnny Mantz.  But the polesitter that day in the field of 75 cars was NASCAR legend Curtis Turner.

That Sports Illustrated paid Turner the compliment of naming him "the Babe Ruth of Stock Car Racing?"

That one then-Grand National race at Richmond more closely resembled a demolition derby than a NASCAR race?  Only one car managed to finish the spring race in 1953: the #42 of Lee Petty.  The average speed in that race?  Just over 45 miles per hour.

That 1963 Cup champ Joe Weatherly had no full-time ride during that season?  Weatherly drove for a total of nine different car owners that season, logging three wins and 35 top-ten finishes along the way.

That current Busch Series driver J.J. Yeley's real first name is Chris?

That driver/owner/championship crew chief Cotton Owens once won 24 NASCAR modified division races in a row?

That, speaking of modifieds, over six championship seasons in that division, Jerry Cook posted top-ten finishes 81 percent of the times that he raced?

That two-time Cup Champion Terry Labonte was nothing if not consistent during his two championship seasons?  Labonte won both titles on the same statistics-two wins and 24 top ten finishes-in both seasons.  Incidentally, the twelve years between Labonte's 1984 and 1996 titles is a NASCAR record.

There you have it.  Some new racin' gems just in time for the autumn season.  Now that we've dredged up some fun facts for this fall, we'll spend next week digging up some specific but useless information on our top ten Cup finishers.  For now-that's history.

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