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1956:

Kiekhaefer's Chryslers Dominate

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Article Contents

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By Ben White

Buck Baker and Herb Thomas proved best throughout the 1956 NASCAR Cup Series season, collecting a combined 19 victories during the 56-race schedule. Both drivers were title contenders throughout the year.

Businessman Carl Kiekhaefer came into NASCAR in 1955 with quite a bit of money and plenty of resources. Veteran driver Tim Flock easily won the Cup Series title in one of his cars.

The pressure of driving for Kiekhaefer, however, caused Flock to suffer stomach ulcers. He quit the team 10 races into the 1956 schedule, prompting Kiekhaefer to hire Thomas as his replacement. The updated racing stable now included cars for Baker, Thomas and Alfred “Speedy” Thompson.

Today, historians compare Kiekhaefer’s operation to a large factory effort while at the time all other teams were fielded out of backyard garages. No one could compete with such wealth and status.

Baker won the 1956 Cup Series championship with Thomas finishing second and Thompson third. Thomas left the Kiekhaefer operation in July because of being sent out west to race.

On Oct. 23 at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Shelby, North Carolina, Thomas was badly injured in a crash while driving his own Chevrolet. Thomas was leading the points when he was sent into the guardrail by contact from Thompson’s car.

Thomas was gravely injured while Baker went on to win the race. Thompson and Baker were accused of teaming up on Thomas. Baker was eventually cleared, but Thompson was given the wrath of the fans.

Jack Smith, Thompson and Baker won the final three races with Baker claiming the Cup Series title. Kiekhaefer’s cars won 30 of the 56 races, including the final five.

Thomas recovered from his injuries during the offseason.

1956

PRESIDENT: DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

NO. 1 AT THE BOX OFFICE: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

MOVIES TO WATCH: AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS AND THE KING AND I

NO. 1 SONG: “HEARTBREAK HOTEL” BY ELVIS PRESLEY

GALLON OF GAS: 30 CENTS

POP CULTURE: PRESIDENT DWIGHT EISENHOWER SIGNS THE FEDERAL AID HIGHWAY ACT, CREATING THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM.

BEST DRIVER

Driving a white Chrysler owned by Carl Kiekhaefer, former Charlotte city bus driver Buck Baker went to Victory Lane 14 times in 1956. Baker also accumulated 39 top-10 results in 48 starts that season. He was the class of the field at every track where he raced and was clearly the fan favorite. Baker claimed the championship by 586 points over former teammate Thomas, who did not compete in the final three races.

BEST RACE

On Sept. 3, Curtis Turner finally won the Southern 500 after eight seasons of entering the prestigious event at South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway. Turner passed Marvin Panch on lap 202 of the 1.375-mile oval and never looked back. Turner led four times for a total of 255 of 364 laps. Seventy cars started the race with Turner lining up in the 11th position. Buck Baker earned the pole with a speed of 119.659 mph.

TOP CARS

Buck Baker’s Kiekhaefer Chrysler won 14 times in 48 starts to claim the 1956 NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Speedy Thompson’s Kiekhaefer Chrysler topped eight races with 29 top-10 results en route to third in the standings.

1956 Season Recap

DATE | LOCATION | WINNER

Nov. 13 | Hickory Speedway | Tim Flock

Nov. 20 | Charlotte Speedway | Fonty Flock

Nov. 20 | Willow Springs Speedway | Chuck Stevenson

Dec. 11 | West Palm Beach Speedway | Herb Thomas

Jan. 22 | Arizona State Fairgrounds | Buck Baker

Feb. 26 | Daytona Beach and Road Course | Tim Flock

March 4 | West Palm Beach Speedway | Billy Myers

March 18 | Wilson Speedway | Herb Thomas

March 25 | Lakewood Speedway | Buck Baker

April 8 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Tim Flock

April 22 | Langhorne Speedway | Buck Baker

April 29 | Richmond Raceway | Buck Baker

May 5 | Columbia Speedway | Speedy Thompson

May 6 | Harris Speedway | Speedy Thompson

May 10 | Greenville-Pickens Speedway | Buck Baker

May 12 | Hickory Speedway | Speedy Thompson

May 13 | Orange Speedway | Buck Baker

May 20 | Martinsville Speedway | Buck Baker

May 25 | Lincoln Speedway | Buck Baker

May 27 | Charlotte Speedway | Speedy Thompson

May 27 | Portland Speedway | Herb Thomas

May 30 | Redwood Speedway | Herb Thomas

May 30 | New York State Fairgrounds | Buck Baker

June 3 | Merced Fairgrounds | Herb Thomas

June 10 | Memphis-Arkansas Speedway | Ralph Moody

June 15 | Southern States Fairgrounds | Speedy Thompson

June 22 | Monroe Fairgrounds | Speedy Thompson

June 24 | Portland Speedway | John Kieper

July 1 | Asheville-Weaverville Speedway | Lee Petty

July 4 | Raleigh Speedway | Fireball Roberts

July 7 | Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds | Lee Petty

July 8 | Sacramento Fairgrounds | Lloyd Dane

July 21 | Soldier Field | Fireball Roberts

July 27 | Cleveland County Fair | Speedy Thompson

July 29 | Montgomery Speedway | Mavin Panch

Aug. 3 | Oklahoma State Fairgrounds | Jim Paschal

Aug. 12 | Road America | Tim Flock

Aug. 17 | Old Bridge Stadium | Ralph Moody

Aug. 19 | Bay Meadows Race Course | Eddie Pagan

Aug. 22 | Norfolk Speedway | Billy Myers

Aug. 23 | Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds | Ralph Moody

Aug. 25 | Coastal Speedway | Fireball Roberts

Aug. 26 | Portland Speedway | Royce Haggerty

Sept. 3 | Darlington Raceway | Curtis Turner

Sept. 9 | Chisholm Speedway | Buck Baker

Sept. 12 | Southern States Fairgrounds | Ralph Moody

Sept. 23 | Langhorne Speedway | Paul Goldsmith

Sept. 23 | Portland Speedway | Lloyd Dane

Sept. 29 | Columbia Speedway | Buck Baker

Sept. 30 | Orange Speedway | Fireball Roberts

Oct. 7 | Tennessee-Carolina Speedway | Fireball Roberts

Oct. 17 | Charlotte Speedway | Buck Baker

Oct. 23 | Cleveland County Speedway | Buck Baker

Oct. 28 | Martinsville Speedway | Jack Smith

Nov. 11 | Hickory Speedway | Speedy Thompson

Nov. 18 | Wilson Speedway | Buck Baker

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