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Driven to the Past: A 1st For Ford

I’d like to call my readers’ attention to a website, Dayton Speedway Lives. This site contains all kinds of stories about a historic Ohio track that’s gone now. As a matter of fact, it’s a landfill. The site is an effort by some old racers and fans to keep the memory alive, and I love it.

The Dayton Speedway I remember was a high-banked half-mile, actually over a half, and faster than all getout. I’m sure a lot of other people remember it, too. The stories and photos on the site brought back a lot of memories for me. I flagged a few ARCA races there, and even freelanced a couple for Earl Baltes when he was running the place.

The track was built around 1934, as a flat 5/8-mile, and Frank Funk (who also built Salem Speedway and Winchester Speedway, I’m told) converted it to a high-banked half. As near as we’ve been able to determine, the paving came right after World War II.

Dayton Speedway has a special place in NASCAR history, and I owe this story to the people running the website. Six races in the then-Grand National Series were held there, two each in 1950, 1951, and 1952. The winners were people like Dick Linder, Curtis Turner, Fonty Flock and Dick Rathman, who won both in 1952.

The historical connection is with the first NASCAR race held there on June 25, 1950. The winner was a 27-year-old mechanic from Cleveland named Jim Florian. According to the NASCAR records, Florian led laps 119-126 and was passed by Turner, then took the lead back on the 169th lap and led the rest of the way. Linder, who sat on the pole with an average speed of 66.543 mph, finished second in an Oldsmobile. Buck Barr was third, Turner fourth and Art Lamey fifth. Other notables in the top 10 were Duane Carter (seventh) and Lee Petty (eighth).

Why is this finish so notable? Florian was driving a 1950 Ford, and it marked Ford’s first victory in NASCAR’s premier circuit. In fact, Turner and Petty quickly protested the finish (Joe Weatherly is also mentioned on the website as protesting, but he’s not in the NASCAR rundown), not believing that they had been outrun by a flathead Ford. I’m not sure about the Oldsmobiles, but I’m almost positive that Petty’s 1949 Plymouth was a flathead six, as probably was Lamey’s Plymouth.

Funny, there’s no mention of Petty protesting Herschel Buchanan, who finished two spots ahead of him in a 1948 Nash.

The inspection took until 4:00 a.m., apparently with every bolt being checked. NASCAR officials ruled that the Ford was “…as stock as stock could be” and was officially declared the winner. Florian also made a lasting impression in victory lane when he emerged from the car nude from the waist up. He said it was “hotter than hell” in the car and he decided to take off his shirt. A new rule requiring at least a t-shirt was the result.

Florian’s car was owned by Skip Krauslock of Cleveland. The car was sponsored by Euclid Ford of Cleveland, and was reportedly donated to the Cleveland Police Department. This was Florian’s only win in NASCAR, but it was a memorable one.

Oh, almost forgot… this was also NASCAR’s first race on a completely paved track. The beach-road course at Daytona was only half pavement.

Maybe I can pull some Dayton stories out of my failing memory in the next week or so. Let’s see, there was the wasp nest in Charley Glotzbach’s car that time…

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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