"Strictly Stock"
The Champions of 1955 & 1956


by Dan Elliott


six cars were on the late model circuit: Ford, Chevrolet, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Mercury and Pontiac. Gone were the big, booming Chryslers. Also missing was Dodge's powerful D-500, Buick, Lincoln and the Studebaker Golden Hawk. 'The race line-ups are beginning to look like a low-priced used car lot,' complained one promoter in the south. 'We need the appeal of the fancy-priced cars again. Who wins beside Ford and Chevy? Nobody. Their monopoly might hurt the gate as much as Kiekhaefer's string of 16 straight wins last year.'"
      The context of the 1955 and 1956 seasons is made clearer when one realizes the effects these seasons had on the 1957 and later seasons Because of the single carburetor rule change mentioned above, Detroit formally exited racing in June via an AMA edict issued so as to quiet insurance companies, the US government, safety advocates and others. It also provided the mechanism for Ford, Chevy and others to agree on a "draw" before anyone lost too much face, and money! Carl perhaps anticipated such an end result to the inevitable and extensive factory participation before the 1955 season ever started. By striking quick and hot with a full-bore race car exactly at the date of the 1955 Daytona, Carl and Chrysler had suckered Ford and Chevy into a fight they would find difficult to win in the short term. In the slightly longer term, Carl quit the field a winner and left the Detroit giants out on a limb that was sawed-off behind them by Bill France with his new rule! Speed Age explains the early 1957 season: "The surprise maneuver from France's office knocked right off the tracks some of Detroit's prize speed plums; The supercharger, which developed at least 300 HP on Ford's 312-cubic-inch engine, and gave Ford an early-season edge on half-mile tracks, the "Ramjet" fuel-injection innovation which along with better valving and ignition, hopped Chevrolet to 283 hp and gave it acceleration that swept the Daytona Beach trials; the Studebaker supercharger, triple carbs on Oldsmobile and Pontiac, dual carbs on Mercury, Plymouth Fury and Dodge D-500-1". Although Carl seemed bitter about race fan reaction to his winning team, he certainly atoned for what Ford had handed him during the Mexican Road Races! Detroit's only consolation: Carl spent a small fortune to play the game!


      In the 1 years between mid February 1955 and mid November 1956, Kiekhaefer and Chrysler presented a domineering performance on the Grand National circuit that resulted in 22 Grand National wins in 1955 and 30 wins in 1956. This says nothing of the impressive AAA circuit and Convertible circuit wins. A Speed Age quote provides context for just how commanding the team's Grand National performance was in 1956: "Chrysler was the top car on the NASCAR circuit last year. The thunderous 300-B won 22 races with only 85 cars entered over the year. Ford entered 412 cars and won 14, while Chevrolet entered 389 cars and won only 3 races." This is particularly telling since very few teams raced 300B's, and only the Kiekhaefer team won races driving them. Not mentioned in the quote is Dodge, the official number two car in top finishes. Although the number of D-500's entered during the 1956 season is not available here, of the 74 Kiekhaefer team top-five finishes, 30 were Dodge D-500-1, 6 were Chrysler 300 and 38 were Chrysler 300B.


      So how did the Kiekhaefer team produce such dominance? A generic description offered by Speed Age in August 1957 explains: "Why can't Joe Leadfoot, a smart, aggressive driver with a clever mechanic, compete on even terms with the Detroit aces? The cars are supposed to be 'stock'---no expensive gimmicks. How can Detroit make them run faster than Joe? The answers are: (1) preparation, with matched engine


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