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The very first NASCAR Strictly Stock Car race at North Wilkesboro Speedway
October 16, 1949
A reported 10,000 were in attendance to witness the 8th and final race of the 1949 NASCAR Strictly Stock Series held at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Robert “Red” Byron walked away the points champion for the season. He was also the points champion the previous season in 1948 when the modifieds were run. After being shot down from a mission as a B-24 tail-gunner in WWII, he wasn’t given much of a chance to walk again because of the damage he sustained to his left leg. He spent over two years in military hospitals while doctors tried to rebuild his left leg.
Obviously, the Heart of a Champion is stronger than the leg. Byron pretty much coasted to the season championship during that race. He started 22nd and finished 16th in the 22-car field in the 1949 Wilkes 200. Starting 21 spots ahead of Byron, on the pole, was Kenneth Wagner with a qualifying lap of 57.563 mph on the dirt surface.
The famous Flock brothers showed up that day. The youngest, Tim, struggled to a 19th place finish, while brothers Bob and Fonty enjoyed success. Bob was the victor in his Bob Christian owned ’49 Oldsmobile and Fonty finished third in a ’47 Buick. Lee Petty finished in second between the two brothers in a ’49 Plymouth. Clyde Minter and Herb Thomas completed the top 5. Minter was the first driver and currently only one of two, to record 4 top five finishes in his first five race attempts.
Car owner Bob Christian not only fielded the winning car, but also had two other cars entered in the race. Curtis Turner finished 9th and Sara Christian came 12th. Sara Christian was the first female to compete in a NASCAR Strictly Stock race at Charlotte in June of 1949. Pioneer Louis Smith (who recently passed away), had been running with “the boys” for some time, ran her first race at Daytona in July of that same year.
Christian is the only female credited with a top 5 finish in a NASCAR race, at Pittsburgh on Oct. 2, 1949, 2 weeks before her NWS appearance.