The mooted division for Strictly Stock, put on hold while manufacturers recovering from war built sufficient stocks of ‘full-fendered’ cars, held its first race in June 1949 at Charlotte Speedway, back then a three-quarter-mile dirt oval. Its winner was Glenn Dunaway of Gastonia, North Carolina – until his ’47 Ford was discovered to be fitted with strictly illegit springs.
Writs were writ and it went to court. The feud between France and his extended family of outlaws had begun.
Colarado-born Robert ‘Red’ Byron from Anniston, Alabama, was the inaugural champion despite a severe limp, legacy of his being badly shot-up in a Consolidated B-24 Liberator during WWII.
His car’s owner Raymond Parks, a ’shiner with Southern hospitality manners, insisted that the old Oldsmobile be repaired and polished between races. He also coined the phrase about starting with a huge fortune in order to make a small one from motor racing.
Yet when Lee Petty became the first three-time Grand National champion 10 years later – by which time the series had expanded from eight to 44 races – it was possible to make a good living at it. Petty’s winnings for that season were $49,291; his Rookie of the Year son Richard cleared $8,110. It sure beat working in a mill – cotton or saw- – or breeding chickens, or whatever else it had taken to make ends meet.
Petty Enterprises, from a cramped shed propped by cedar poles, had put Randleman, North Carolina, on the map.