"Strictly Stock"
The Champions of 1955 & 1956

by Dan Elliott

Speedy's D-500-1 #500-B. During the race with Buck leading, Speedy hooked Herb's Chevrolet as it was passing on the very narrow track and spun him sideways so that oncoming cars would t-bone Herb's car. Involved in the accident were Jack Smith, Billy Myers, Tiny Lund, Ralph Moody, Lee Petty and a few others. Thomas was critically injured and in a coma. He managed to pull through over a long period of time, but people in the NASCAR community were very angry with the Kiekhaefer team for what they initially concluded was an intentional act. Baker won the race and Thompson was 4th. After the race, Buck considered quitting for the season because of what had happened to Herb, but in the end, he decided to stick it out. Rumors over the years have suggested that perhaps Carl bought Herb a new 300B after the incident as a goodwill gesture, but these are unsubstantiated. The car perhaps was mistaken for the one Carl probably bought Herb after the Langhorne race on April 22.
      After a 371 day run, the 1956 season ended on November 18 at Wilson, NC. Even this race was controversial. Carl had three entries: Buck in 300B #300-B, Speedy in 300B #300 and Jack Smith in D-500-1 #500. Joe Weatherly, who was driving a 1956 DePaolo factory Ford, was leading the race when he concluded he could avoid a final pit stop. Although he ran out of fuel on the last lap, he was able to coast across the finish line two cars lengths ahead of Buck. As Weatherly continued coasting, Baker was first to pass the scoring stand where the official clock was located further down the track. Carl protested Weatherly's first place award and convinced NASCAR to give the win to Baker, who probably didn't need the points by that time to be crowned Grand National champion. Undoubtedly, though, Carl wanted this win in his last outing, knowing that there was a good chance he wouldn't race in the 1957 season. Although it is not known whether Carl provided bonuses to Baker for winning the important championship like those given to Frank Mundy, Speed Age did report a short while later that Baker owned a 300B as his personal automobile. This 300B likely was the car Carl bought for Buck after the Langhorne race on April 22.

      As previously mentioned, AAA had discontinued race sanctioning in1955, but NASCAR, who merged with SAFE to initiate NASCAR Convertible Circuit racing in 1956, ran a total of 43 convertible races to give the public and promoters more stock-bodied racing for which they were clamoring after the demise of AAA racing; the circuit lasted through 1959. Carl's driver Frank Mundy participated in 13 and won 6 of these races in Dodge D-500-1's before Carl pulled out because he thought the racing was unsafe. The cars were hard to prepare, according to the following Speed Age account: "Even Carl Kiekhaefer, who had such success with Chryslers and Dodges on the Grand National circuit (16 wins in a string), found that preparing a Dodge D-500 convertible for Frank Mundy was a difficult task. As one driver pointed out: 'There are two reasons why the convertibles are having trouble finishing those long events. First, the cars aren't stressed as strongly as the hardtops and things keep falling apart. Second, this is a new circuit and the mechanics are still learning the tricks of the game. In 1957 you'll see a finer circuit.'"

      As the 1956 season ended, fan and driver discontent with the hard-core Detroit and Kiekhaefer involvement was still boiling. A November, 1956 Speed Age article written by Tim Flock entitled: "Detroit Go Home!" made the case: "Some folks say that stock car racing won't be as colorful without the drama of all that factory competition, but I think they're forgetting that a man runs a lot harder for his family than he does for any corporation. One thing that is already showing up on the circuit is the small fields. There have been times when we would have twice as many cars in a race as we do now.

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