In 1959, Lee Petty, a resident of Level Cross, North Carolina, won 11 races, including the inaugural Daytona 500, on short tracks and superspeedways and earned his third NASCAR premier series championship.
Petty was in his 11th year of racing in NASCAR’s premier series after making his first start during the inaugural season of competition in 1949. He fielded his own Oldsmobile and Plymouth with help from sons Richard and Maurice Petty, as well as nephew Dale Inman.
Richard Petty was also in his second season of NASCAR compe- tition after winning rookie-of-the-year honors in 1958.
Lee Petty had already claimed championships on the elite stock car circuit in 1954 and again in 1958. He was on top of his game as the defending champion and was poised to put together another successful season.
His closest rival, Cotton Owens of Spartanburg, South Carolina, was also a mechanic-turned driver and had established himself as a winner on many southern short tracks. Owens managed to score a victory at Richmond Raceway late in the season, while his 22 top-10 finishes kept him in the title hunt with Petty.
From the beginning of the season, Petty set the pace after winning the Daytona 500 over Johnny Beauchamp in a controversial photo-finish. Like Owens, Petty also performed well and kept his name at the top of the win column.
After 10 additional victories on short tracks, Petty secured his third title by winning two of the final three races of the year. All told, Petty logged 27 top-five finishes and 35 top-10 results in 42 starts that season. He won the title over Owens by 974 points.
PRESIDENT: DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
NO. 1 BOX OFFICE: BEN-HUR
NO. 1 SONG: “THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS,” BY JOHNNY HORTON
GALLON OF GAS: 25¢
POP CULTURE: HAWAI’I BECOMES THE 50TH STATE
LEE PETTY, DRIVER OF THE NO.42 Petty Enterprises Oldsmobile and Plymouth, was a careful racer while managing to keep his cars up front throughout the 44-race NASCAR schedule. Petty only fell out of eight races that year due to broken axles, engine issues and one crash. The 45-year old driver kept his overall plan in sight and captured his third title with overwhelming dominance. It came through careful driving and careful maintenance of his cars.
ON FEB.22, 1959 , PETTY battled Johnny Beauchamp for the victory in the inaugural Daytona 500, crossing under the checkered flag with Joe Weatherly alongside, one lap down. Both Petty and Beauchamp went to Victory Lane with the win initially going to Beauchamp. Three days later, a photograph shot near the start-finish line proved Petty was the winner. He was given the winner’s trophy at his home in North Carolina.
THE 1959 OLDSMOBILE LEE Petty owned and maintained from his Level Cross, North Carolina, shop, producing 11 wins, 27 top-five finishes and 35 top-10 results. The 1959 Pontiac Cotton Ow- ens owned and maintained at his shop in Spartanburg, South Carolina, producing one win, 13 top-five results and 22 top-10 finishes.
DATE | LOCATION | WINNER
November 19 | Champion Speedway | Bob Welborn
February 20 | Daytona International Speedway | Bob Welborn
February 22 | Daytona International Speedway | Lee Petty
March 1 | Orange Speedway | Curtis Turner
March 8 | Concord Speedway | Curtis Turner
March 22 | Lakewood Speedway | Johnny Beauchamp
March 29 | Wilson Speedway | Junior Johnson
March 30 | Bowman Gray Stadium | Jim Reed
April 4 | Columbia Speedway | Jack Smith
April 5 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Lee Petty
April 26 | Reading Speedway | Junior Johnson
May 2 | Hickory Speedway | Junior Johnson
May 3 | Martinsville Speedway | Lee Petty
May 17 | Trenton Speedway | Tom Pistone
May 22 | Charlotte Fairgrounds | Lee Petty
May 24 | Fairground Speedway Nashville | Rex White
May 30 | Ascot Stadium | Parnelli Jones
June 5 | Hub City Speedway | Jack Smith
June 13 | Greenville-Pickens Speedway | Junior Johnson
June 14 | Lakewood Speedway | Lee Petty
June 18 | Columbia Speedway | Lee Petty
June 20 | Wilson Speedway | Junior Johnson
June 21 | Richmond Raceway | Tom Pistone
June 27 | Bowman Gray Stadium | Rex White
June 28 | Asheville-Weaverville Speedway | Rex White
July 4 | Daytona International Speedway | Fireball Roberts
July 21 | Heidelberg Raceway | Jim Reed
July 26 Charlotte Fairgrounds Jack Smith
August 1 | Rambi Raceway | Ned Jarrett
August 2 | Charlotte Fairgrounds | Ned Jarrett
August 9 | Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville | Joe Lee Johnson
August 16 | Asheville-Weaverville Speedway | Bob Welborn
August 21 | Bowman Gray Stadium | Rex White
August 22 | Greenville-Pickens Speedway | Buck Baker
August 29 | Columbia Speedway | Lee Petty
September 7 | Darlington Raceway | Jim Reed
September 11 | Hickory Speedway | Lee Petty
September 13 | Richmond Raceway | Cotton Owens
September 13 | Sacramento Fairgrounds | Eddie Gray
September 20 | Orange Speedway | Lee Petty
September 27 | Martinsville Speedway | Rex White
October 11 | Asheville-Weaverville Speedway | Lee Petty
October 18 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Lee Petty
October 25 | Concord Speedway | Jack Smith