NASCAR Garage Memory Lane: Convertibles NASCAR Garage Several makes and models of cars have graced the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit over the years. Richard Petty made the Dodge Charger famous in the mid-to-late 70s, and the Pontiac Catalina...
NASCAR Garage Memory Lane: Convertibles NASCAR Garage
Several makes and models of cars have graced the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit over the years. Richard Petty made the Dodge Charger famous in the mid-to-late 70s, and the Pontiac Catalina gained exposure on the track through drivers like Fireball Roberts. The Ford Thunderbird may quickly become a memory, although some teams still have a few hanging around.
Another car that had a good run but disappeared from the NASCAR racing circles is the convertible. NASCAR's convertible division didn't last long -- from 1956 until '59) -- but during that time, one man dominated the division.
Bob Welborn started out in a 1949 Plymouth sent to pasture by Lee Petty. In his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut in 1953 at Martinsville, the engine blew and Welborn failed to finish. He did, however, catch the eye of another Petty, Richard's brother, Julian.
Welborn's and Julian Petty's partnership led to three very successful years on NASCAR's short track circuit. In 1956, Welborn took the short track title, and in the same year, he won the championship in the brand new convertible division as well.
In 1957, Welborn didn't run the short tracks, instead concentrating on his '57 Chevy convertible in that division. The racing enhancements were all done by Petty. The chassis and engine were both finished in the Petty shop and, with the day's maximum allowable 283 cubic-inch power plant, Welborn posted another 40 top-10 finishes, four second-place runs and eight victories, including one streak of five trophies in a row.
In 1958, old reliable No. 49 carried Welborn to his third straight convertible championship, including 10 first-place finishes. Welborn also holds the distinction of winning the very first event on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway. That was the 100-mile qualifying race in February of 1959, and that earned him the pole for the very first Daytona 500.
(The NASCAR Garage television program can be seen each week on TNN: The Nashville Network. The program will air on Sunday, Feb. 22, at 9 a.m. and again at 4 p.m. Check your local listings.)
Courtesy of NASCAR Online