1960-1961 NASCAR Grand National Series (partially found footage of NASCAR races; 1960-1961)

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Program for the 1960 Daytona 500, which also promoted the other Daytona races.

Status: Partially Found

The 1960 and 1961 NASCAR Grand National Series were respectively the 12 and 13th seasons of NASCAR's top-level stock car series. The 1960 edition saw Rex White claim the championship, while Joe Weatherly edged out White in the 1961 championship. These series hosted races which became to the first NASCAR events to receive television coverage.

1960 Daytona Races

On 31st January 1960, the pole position race for the Daytona 500 and compact car events commenced. Serving as the preludes to the main event on 14th February, these races became part of television history, as they were the first NASCAR races to be televised.

Heading into the Daytona 500 on 14th February, a variety of races were set to commence as part of Speedweeks. On 31st January, the Grand National Pole Position race would commence to decide the front row for the Daytona 500. Other events, including a compact car race, a 2-lap women's compact car event, and a Le Mans start sports car event would also be conducted. CBS therefore decided that these races would be perfect to televise. Not only would it provide comprehensive racing coverage, but it would also give CBS the opportunity to learn how to properly cover racing events, which back then were notably difficult to capture for television.[1]

Thus, with the broadcast being produced by Hugh Beach, the network sent a crew of over 50 to cover the event, and it would be broadcast as part of CBS Sports Spectacular.[2][1] Among the crew included Walter Cronkite, a CBS anchorman who had competed in sport car events, included the 1959 12 Hours of Sebring.[1] Also present was Art Beck, CBS' director for network operations and fellow sports car enthusiast.[3][1] The pits interviewer was Bud Palmer, who would also provide occasional colour commentary according to Racing-Reference.[1] However, other sources claim he was the host. [4]

CBS decided to first capture some races held on the 30th, so as to provide filler in the case of a lack of action on Sunday.[1] The Sunday broadcast was expected to attract around 17 million viewers, which ultimately turned out to be correct.[5][1] As a result of the broadcast's success, a few NASCAR races would be televised throughout the 1960s, before more regular broadcasts began during the 1970s.[1] CBS would also start to televise NASCAR events in the next few decades, starting with the 1979 Daytona 500, CBS' broadcast being the first flag-to-flag coverage of the race.[6][1]

The CBS Coverage

Racing-References's nascarman History provides a detailed report of what was broadcast by CBS.[1] The Sunday broadcast began at 15:00, and lasted for an hour and half.[1] It started with a tape of Cronkite driving a Lotus Xi at a top speed of 130mph across the Daytona Speedway.[7][1] As something that would become a regular feature of not just NASCAR, but for motor racing as a whole, Cronkite would commentate as he drove along the Speedway, with footage being recorded from the passenger's seat with the intention to give the audience a feeling of just how quick the vehicles could go at Daytona.[1] Following this, the final lap of an SCCA Regional sports car race was shown live, Ed Rahal being victorious in a 1957 Jaguar D-Type, following on from his first at the Speedway on 5th September, 1959.[8][1]

The main event for the broadcast would be the first of Daytona 500's two qualifying races.[1] This one would help decide the pole position for the 500. In a 10-lap race pitting Cotton Owens, Jack Smith, Fireball Roberts, and Bobby Johns, it ultimately saw Owens in a Pontiac become victorious after having overtaken Smith via the bottom of the backstretch to win via a car length on the final lap.[9][10][1]

The next two races featured Le Mans starts, which is a type of standing start where the driver must run to the other side of the track, unlock their car, get in and start their machine, before driving away to start the race.[11][1] The first was a women's compact race, essentially a re-do of a women's race held on Saturday.[1] Denise McCluggage went into the lead with her Volvo at the start, but would be passed by the Plymouth Valiants of Vicki Wood and Barbara Bundy at turn one.[1] Bundy would then overtake Wood just before the inside track on lap 1, and would comfortably remain in the lead for the rest of the race, ahead of Wood and McCluggage.[12][1]

The other race featuring a Le Mans start was a one-lap men's sports car event, this time focusing on mainly on the Le Mans gimmick with Rahal also winning this event.[1] The final race televised by CBS was the first of two men's compact races.[1] Like with the women's event, the Plymouth Valiants proved to be the fastest, with Marvin Panch dominating the race from start to finish to claim victory and earn $1,900 in prize money, more than $17,500 when adjusted for modern inflation.[1]

12th February NBC Broadcast

In addition to CBS' ground-breaking broadcast, NBC also hastily decided to broadcast an event at Daytona that same year. On 12th February, NBC televised the Autolite Challenge Race, a sprint that the Autolite themselves would be in control of by selecting the drivers that would compete. Sources conflict on its length; The Earnhardts: A Biography states that it was a four-mile ten-lap event,[13] whereas Stock Car Racing History claims it was 10-miles and only four laps for a total broadcast time of five minutes. Regardless, it was televised on NBC as part of NBC's Today via tape delay, with Johnny Beauchamp winning after having narrowly passed Ned Jarrett and winning by an inch.[14]

1960 Daytona 500

The 1960 Daytona 500 was the 5th race of the 1960 NASCAR Grand National Series. Occurring on 14th February at the Daytona International Speedway, the race would ultimately by won by Junior Johnson in a 1959 Chevrolet, claiming his sole win at the event. The event is also historic for being televised by CBS, becoming the first major NASCAR race to be broadcast.

It was the 2nd running of the event, with the annual race typically lasting 500 miles in length.[15] Since its inception in 1959, the Daytona 500 has become the most prestigious race on the Cup Series calendar, including being defined as "The Great American Race", offering the largest prize pot and generally defining a driver's career.[16] The race would be one of four 1960 Grand National races at Daytona International Speedway to award points.[17] The others included the Firecracker 250, which occurred on 4th July was won by Jack Smith in a 1960 Pontiac;[18] and the Twin 100s,[19][20] which also helped determine who qualified and the starting order for the Daytona 500.[21]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Cotton Owens winning the pole position in a 1960 Pontiac with a speed of 149.892 mph.[15] The Twin 100s then commenced; Fireball Roberts led from start to finish in a 1960 Pontiac to claim $1,000 in prize money in the first race, ahead of Owens, with 1960 Ford driver Bob Burdick taking third.[22][19] In the second race, Jack Smith also dominated the entire duration of the event in a 1960 Pontiac to claim the $1,000.[20] Bobby Johns finished second in a 1959 Pontiac, with 1960 Chevrolet driver Jim Reed taking third.[22][20] The starting order for the Daytona 500 was therefore decided, with Smith lining up ahead of Roberts in second and third respectively, after Smith posted a higher average speed.[15][19][20] Meanwhile, Junior Johnson started 9th out of 68 competitors, after finishing fifth in the first Twin race.[15][19] Johnson was not considered a favourite to win, with Roberts, Buck Baker, and Richard and Lee Petty being deemed the most likely to be victorious heading in.[23]

The Race

With the starting order decided, the 1960 Daytona 500 commenced on 14th February.[15] Roberts achieved a strong start, taking the lead on the first lap and holding onto it for the first 19.[22][15] Smith took over for the next eight, losing it to Johnson on lap 29.[15] The race's early stages was generally an open competition for the lead until Tom Pistone moved into the first position on lap 55 and held it for 26 consecutive laps.[15][22] A few laps beforehand, Roberts retired following an engine failure.[15][22] Additionally, this Daytona 500 would become notorious for some of its crashes, caused mainly from hind winds coming in from the nearby beach.[24][23] Among those included George Green, whose 1958 Chevrolet caught fire, forcing him to make a hasty retreat.[23][24][15] He escaped injury, but Tommy Herbert was not so lucky following a serious crash after 118 laps in a 1960 Ford.[24][23][15] After smashing into the back straightaway, the car broke apart with its engine pulling free and the front end assembly taking flight.[23][24] Pappy Crane meanwhile rolled his 1959 Chevrolet trying to avoid the accident.[24][15] Crane escaped injury, but Herbert suffered a broken hand and an eye injury.[23]

On lap 81, Rex White in a 1960 Chevrolet ended Pistone's time as the leader.[15] However, Johnson would move past into the first position on lap 90, defending it for 45 consecutive laps.[15] Then, 1960 Plymouth driver Richard Petty impressed by taking the lead off of Johnson, leading until lap 164 before his father Lee moved ahead, also in a 1960 Plymouth.[22][15] Lee Petty was unable to maintain it for long though, with Johns making a move on lap 170.[22][15] He maintained it until lap 192, when Johnson achieved the final lead change.[15] It came under unusual circumstances, when a wind event caused Johns' rear window to blow, causing the car to spin.[23][22][24] While his car proved undamaged aside from the rear window, it caused Johns to lose his seven second lead over Johnson.[22][24] Johnson was able to achieve the final lead overtake, with some speculating that Johnson, who is credited for discovering drafting, had found the principle during this race.[22][23] He started to build a sizeable gap to Johns for the remaining laps, crossing the line with a 23-second lead to claim victory and $19,600 in prize money.[22][24][15] Johns held on to finish second, with Richard pipping his father to third.[15]

Post-race, Johnson donated his winnings to charity.[22] His car owner John Masoni justified the decision with "we're in this racing game for fun, not profit".[22] The 1960 edition of the Daytona 500 is known for being the slowest instance of the event, with an average speed of around 124 mph.[22][24][15] The resulting crashes at the event also forced NASCAR to cancel 100 mile events at the Palmetto Speedway in Miami, and Hollywood Speedway in Hallandale, to give teams more time to prepare their vehicles.[22]

1961 Firecracker 250

The 1961 Firecracker 250 was the 32nd race of the 1961 NASCAR Grand National Series. Occurring on 4th July at the Daytona International Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by 1961 Pontiac driver David Pearson, whose 154.294mph speed was a stock car world record at the time. The race also has television significance, as it was the first ABC broadcast of a NASCAR event.

It was the third running of the event, with its name a reference to the fact it was held on the United States' Independence Day.[25] It was also the fourth 1961 NASCAR Grand National Series event to be held at Daytona International Speedway,[26] after the Twin 125s and the Daytona 500, which in 1961 occurred on 26th February and was won by Marvin Panch.[27] The Firecracker 250 also has ties to the modern Coke Zero Sugar 400 race, having dropped the Firecracker name in 2019.[25]

Prior to the race, four qualifying events occurred, similar to the Daytona 500's Twin 125s. Fireball Roberts driving a 1961 Pontiac won the first race after leading all 10 laps. His pole time of 157.15mph was enough to win the pole position for the main event.[28][29] Pearson and Panch, the latter driving a 1960 Pontiac, battled for the lead in the second race, with Pearson achieving an overtake on lap 4 to win the race and qualifying second in the race with a pole time of 156.222mph.[30] Joe Weatherly dominated the third race with his 1961 Pontiac, with his 155.4mph speed being enough for third in the main event.[31] Finally, Banjo Matthews in a 1961 Ford overtook Jim Bennett's counterpart to win the fourth race, qualifying fourth in the Firecracker 250 after setting a 155.065mph speed.[32]

The Race

With the starting order decided, the 1961 Firecracker 250 occurred on 4th July. The early stages saw Roberts and Weatherly fighting for the lead, with four lead changes by lap 17. However, following lap 80, both drivers began to fall down the pack, eventually finishing 5th and 6th respectively. Instead, a duel for the first position primarily centred upon Pearson and Fred Lorenzen in a 1961 Ford, with Lorenzen assuming the lead from Roberts on lap 81. Eventually, Pearson achieved an overtake on his opponent on lap 99, though faced intense pressure throughout the final lap. Ultimately, Pearson held on by an auto's length to claim victory and $8,050 in prize money.[33] His 154.294mph speed set a stock car world record for the time.[34] Meanwhile, Jack Smith in a 1961 Pontiac finished third, a lap down from the leaders, in a race that featured no cautions.[33]

ABC Coverage

Aside from Pearson's stock car speed record, the 1961 Firecracker 250 also proved historic from a television standpoint, as on 8th July 1961, ABC broadcast a one hour highlights package of the race on its Wide World of Sports.[35] Initially, ABC faced difficulties convincing NASCAR officials, including founder Bill France Sr.. In 1960, CBS televised a few races at Daytona prior to the Daytona 500. Despite the broadcast being the first instance of televised NASCAR, it was deemed a disaster, with long-time race commentator Chris Economaki noting the many terrible reviews, and how France Sr. was outraged over the announcers' lack of knowledge about the sport.[36]

Because of the CBS broadcast, NASCAR officials were not willing to let ABC broadcast a race. However, a higher monetary offer and the promise to provide better, more intelligent coverage, helped convince NASCAR officials.[36] For this broadcast, France Sr. recommended that Economaki call the race, which proved to be the latter's major break into sports commentary.[37] Indeed, he contributed greatly towards the broadcast's success and later airings on Wide World of Sports, which often were quick highlights edited to provide a quicker pace for the race. Thus, Economaki would commentate on races, including the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, for four decades,[37] while ABC continued to broaden its coverage of NASCAR over the next few decades. Whereas the 1961 Firecracker 500 was the only 1961 race to be broadcast,[38] ABC later broadcast the 1962 race, as well as that Series' Daytona 500 and Southern 500.[39]

Availability

While newsreel footage of the compact race is publicly available, the CBS broadcast is now considered lost media. According to Racing-Reference, a kinetoscope of the broadcast may still exist,[40] though the chances of it or any CBS film of the event being recovered is now intensely slim.[40] This is because tapes of recorded television events back then were usually wiped and reused due to the immense cost of storing them.[41] The NBC footage has likely suffered the same fate.

Meanwhile, the 1960 Daytona 500 holds the distinction of being the first major NASCAR race to be broadcast.[42] According to NASCAR on TV, up to an hour of the race was televised by CBS as part of its CBS Sports Spectacular, although it is unknown when the broadcast occurred.[43] This broadcast has yet to publicly resurface, and just like the 1960 Daytona races, there is the possibility that it could have been wiped.[40] However, the possibility of the broadcast remaining in kinetoscope form remains.[40] Nevertheless, all Daytona 500s have at least some footage that is publicly available courtesy of the DVD set Daytona 500: 50 Years The Greatest American Race.[44] Additionally, over 17 minutes of coverage from Dynamic Films is also available to view. Finally, while confirmation that an ABC broadcast of the 1961 Firecracker 250 has been achieved,[35] no footage of the race is known to be publicly available.[45]

Gallery

Videos

Surviving clip of the men's compact race.
nascarman History discussing the lost 1960 Daytona Races broadcasts (4:55-5:34)
Dynamic Films coverage of the 1960 Daytona 500.
1960 Daytona 500 highlights.
Further footage of the 1960 Daytona 500 (please note the crash at the 2:35 mark actually came from the Sportsman race held a day prior).

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 Archived Racing Reference providing a substantial lookback at the 1960 Daytona Races and its television coverage.
  2. ESPN countdown stating that the event was broadcast as part of CBS Sports Spectacular. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  3. Television review for the CBS broadcast, noting Walter Cronkite and Art Beck's enthusiasm for sports cars. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  4. Richard Petty: The Cars of the King crediting Bud Palmer as the host for the event. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  5. 1001 NASCAR Facts: Cars, Tracks, Milestones, Personalities stating the broadcast drew around 17 million viewers. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  6. Fox Sports crediting the 1979 Daytona 500 broadcast as the first flag-to-flag coverage of the event. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  7. Road and Track detailing Walter Cronkite's drive along the Daytona Speedway. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  8. Vintage Racecar noting Ed Rahal's SSCA Regional sports car win. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  9. Cotton Owens Garage noting Owens was on pole for the 1960 Daytona 500 as a result of this qualifying race. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  10. Gettyimages providing a photo of Owens being congratulated for earning the pole position. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  11. Car Magazine defining a Le Mans start. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  12. Newspaper clipping detailing the women's compact race. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  13. The Earnhardts: A Biography detailing the NBC broadcast. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  14. Stock Car Racing History detailing the NBC broadcast and the Autolite Challenge Race result. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  15. 15.00 15.01 15.02 15.03 15.04 15.05 15.06 15.07 15.08 15.09 15.10 15.11 15.12 15.13 15.14 15.15 15.16 15.17 15.18 15.19 Racing-Reference detailing qualifying and race results for the 1960 Daytona 500. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  16. Sportskeeda detailing the Daytona 500 and its importance to NASCAR. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  17. Racing-Reference detailing the 1960 NASCAR Grand National calendar. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  18. Racing-Reference detailing the results of the 1960 Firecracker 250. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Racing-Reference detailing the results of the first Twin 100s race. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Racing-Reference detailing the results of the second Twin 100s race. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  21. Draftkings Nation detailing the purpose of the Twin races. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  22. 22.00 22.01 22.02 22.03 22.04 22.05 22.06 22.07 22.08 22.09 22.10 22.11 22.12 22.13 22.14 RacersReunion providing a detailed account of the qualifying races and the Daytona 500 itself. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 23.6 23.7 The Early Laps of Stock Car Racing detailing the 1960 Daytona 500, the incidents, and Johnson's usage of drafting to win. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 24.5 24.6 24.7 24.8 Gold Thunder providing an account of some of the incidents that occurred during the 1960 Daytona 500. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  25. 25.0 25.1 Forbes detailing the origin of the Firecracker 250, and its reporting on its 2019 name change. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  26. Racing-Reference detailing the 1961 NASCAR Grand National Series calendar. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  27. Racing-Reference detailing results for the 1961 Daytona 500. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  28. Racing-Reference detailing the results of the first qualifying race. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  29. Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet detailing the main race's start order and results. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  30. Racing-Reference detailing the results of the second qualifying race. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  31. Racing-Reference detailing the results of the third qualifying race. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  32. Racing-Reference detailing the results of the fourth qualifying race. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  33. 33.0 33.1 Racing-Reference detailing the start order and race results of the 1961 Firecracker 250. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  34. The New York Times reporting on the race, and how Pearson broke the stock car world record speed. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  35. 35.0 35.1 NASCAR on TV detailing the 1961 Firecracker 250 ABC broadcast. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  36. 36.0 36.1 The Hollywood Reporter detailing the challenges ABC faced when broadcasting the 1961 Firecracker 250. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  37. 37.0 37.1 The Hollywood Reporter detailing how the ABC broadcast of the 1961 Firecracker 250 was Economaki's first major commentary break. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  38. NASCAR on TV noting the 1961 Firecracker 250 was the only 1961 race to be broadcast. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  39. NASCAR on TV listing the 1962 Cup Series broadcasts. Retrieved 4 Jan '22
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 Racing-Reference detailing how a kinetoscope of the 1960 Daytona Races may still potentially exist. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  41. Old Time Review detailing the practice of wiping. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  42. The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR noting the 1960 Daytona 500 was broadcast by CBS after the proceeding Daytona races. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  43. NASCAR on TV detailing the CBS broadcast of the 1960 Daytona 500. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  44. Daytona 500: 50 Years The Greatest American Race 2008 containing highlights of the race. Retrieved 11 Apr '22
  45. Austin LaPlante's YouTube playlist of NASCAR events from 1949-1971, noting no footage of the 1961 Firecracker 250 is currently accessible. Retrieved 4 Jan '22