By Ben White
In 1949, Red Byron and team owner Raymond Parks earned their spots in NASCAR history by logging two wins, four top-10 finishes and one pole position en route to the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series championship.
The 1949 season was the first for NASCAR’s Strictly Stock division, known today as the NASCAR Cup Series. Under the leadership of “Big” Bill France. the sanctioning body was incorporated on Feb. 21, 1948.
The inaugural season of eight races on tracks in five states began at a half-mile dirt oval in Charlotte, North Carolina. On June 19, 1949, 33 cars entered the 200-lap event with Glenn Dunaway, of Gastonia, North Carolina, initially flagged the winner. However, illegal rear leaf springs under his Ford gave second-place finisher Jim Roper of Kansas the victory.
Red Byron topped series race No. 2 at the 4.1-mile Beach and Road Course in Daytona Beach, Florida, on July 10 over Tim Flock. Bob Flock, of Atlanta, won on the dirt oval in Hillsboro, North Carolina, on Aug. 7.
Curtis Turner tamed the field at Pennsylvania’s Langhorne Speedway on Sept. 11, while Jack White won in Hamburg, New York, on Sept. 18 and Byron notched his second victory in Martinsville, Virginia, on Sept. 25.
Lee Petty was victorious in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 2 while Bob Flock earned his second victory at North Wilkesboro Speedway to close the season on Oct. 16.
Byron was crowned champion over Petty by 122 points at race’s end. Finishing third was Bob Flock, followed by Bill Blair, Fonty Flock, Ray Erickson, Tim Flock, Dunaway and Frank Munday.
Byron only raced in nine additional Cup Series events through 1951. The Alabama native passed away on Nov. 11, 1960.
PRESIDENT: HARRY S. TRUMAN
NO. 1 SONG: “RIDERS IN THE SKY” BY VAUGHN MONROE
MOVIES TO WATCH: WHITE HEAT AND THE THIRD MAN
GALLON OF GAS: 27 CENTSPOP CULTURE: GEORGE ORWELL INTRODUCES HIS DYSTOPIAN NOVEL, “1984,” IN WHICH A FUTURE TOTALITARIAN STATE UTILIZES GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE TO VIOLATE THE CITIZENS’ FREEDOMS.
Red Byron, wheeling an Oldsmobile fielded by Atlanta businessman Raymond Parks, won two of the eight races en route to the inaugural championship in what is now known as the NASCAR Cup Series. An Alabama native, Byron suffered severe shrapnel wounds to his left leg during World War II, and his race car was modified so he could use his injured leg to operate the clutch. Lee Petty finished second in the standings with Bob Flock third.
On Sept. 11, southern moonshiners Curtis Turner, Bob Flock and Red Byron showed the northern spectators their driving skills on the circular dirt track in Langhorne, Pa. The trio led numerous times with Turner holding the point for 60 laps, followed by Flock with 52 and Byron with 15. In the end, Turner pulled away and collected the $2,250 first-place money. Lee Schmidt, of Milwaukee, Wis., also led 73 of the race’s 200 laps.
Carrying the No. 22, Red Byron’s 1949 Oldsmobile was the top car of the 1949 season with two wins and four top-10 results in six starts.
Driving the No. 42 car fielded by Petty Enterprises, Lee Petty’s 1949 Plymouth recorded five top-10 finishes, including a single victory.
1949 Season Recap
DATE | LOCATION | WINNER
June 19 | Charlotte Speedway | Jim Roper
July 10 | Daytona Beach and Road Course | Red Byron
Aug. 7 | Occoneechee Speedway | Bob Flock
Sept. 11 | Langhorne Speedway | Curtis Turner
Sept. 18 | Hamburg Speedway | Jack White
Sept. 25 | Martinsville Speedway | Red Byron
Oct. 2 | Heidelberg Speedway | Lee Petty
Oct. 16 | North Wilkesboro Speedway | Bob Flock