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Stock Car History Spotlight: Bob Welborn

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ARA is pleased to present its first Stock History Spotlight subject: Bob Welborn.  Bob Welborn won the first Daytona 500 qualifying race held February 20, 1959 and thus was the polesitter for the 1959 Daytona 500.

Bob Welborn was the NASCAR Convertible champion in 1956, 1957, and 1958 and was the runnerup for the NASCAR Short Track Late Model title in 1953 and 1955.  He ranked fourth in NASCAR Sprint Cup points in 1955.  Named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, Robert Joe “Bob” Welborn was born on May 5, 1928 and died August 10, 1997 at the age of 69.

A major part of Welborn’s career and his earliest victories came in the NASCAR Short Track Late Model series.  The series is poorly documented but ARA has been able to construct what appears to be a fairly complete list of the races and racewinners (primarily from National Speed Sport News, Illustrated Speedway News, and Speed Age on microfilm) and draws on this research to document this important part of Welborn’s career.

In 1953 Welborn finished second in Short Track Late Model points and twenty-fourth in Sprint Cup points.  Welborn won three 1953 Short Track Late Model events, all in Canada!  He won July 25 at Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition track, September 7 at Stamford Park, and September 30 at Toronto CNE.  The first two victories listed his winning car as Plymouth; no listing has been located for the Sepember 30 victory but it was probably in a Plymouth as well.

Welborn ranked eleventh in 1954 Short Track Late Model points.  He won the March 14 race at Fayetteville, North Carolina’s Champion Speedway.  He also won the June 24 ARCA (then MARC) race at Sportsman Park in Ohio.  Each victory came at the wheel of a Plymouth.

Welborn was runnerup for the 1955 Short Track Late Model title with five race victories, each scored in a 1955 Chevrolet.  Three of the wins came at Peach Bowl in Georgia, one at Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina, and one at Hollywood Speedway in Florida.  Bob also placed fourth in 1955 Sprint Cup points, contesting thirty-two races of the 45-race season.  He posted no victories but earned twelve Top Five and twenty-four Top Ten finishes.

In 1956 Bob Welborn won his first NASCAR Convertible title, scoring three victories in his Chevrolets.  Bob won at Champion in Fayetteville, at Hickory and at Greensboro.  Welborn won the title on consistency as Curtis Turner won twenty-two races but failed to win the title.  Welborn also ranked twenty-seventh in 1956 Short Track Late Model points with a win at Peach Bowl and eighty-fourth in Sprint Cup points.

Bob Welborn won his second consecutive NASCAR Convertible title in 1957.  He won six Convertible races, all from May 31 through June 26 driving his Chevrolets!  His victories came at Old Bridge in New Jersey, at Weaverville and Peach Bowl in the south, at Monroe County Fairgrounds in New York, at Bowman Gray, and at Philadelphia Stadium in Pennsylvania!  Welborn also scored his first Sprint Cup victory October 6 at Martinsville.  The race was a combination event for Convertibles and Cup cars and Welborn started his Chevrolet convertible second and led the first 183 laps.  At mid race he was relieved by Lewis “Possum” Jones and Jones led laps 249-500 to win by fourteen seconds over Jimmy Massey in a Ford convertible.  Lee Petty’s Oldsmobile was third, two laps down, and the first Cup car!

Welborn’s third consecutive Convertible title was achieved in 1958 with a strong performance as he scored eight race victories in Chevrolets.  His convertible wins came at Bowman Gray, Weaverville, and Hickory in North Carolina, in South Carolina at Columbia, Greenville, and Myrtle Beach, and back in North Carolina at Wilson and Salisbury.

Bob also scored five Cup wins in the 1958 season.  He drove Chevrolets to victory at Champion in Fayetteville, at Martinsville, Greensboro and Bowman Gray, and at Myrtle Beach.  Combining his Convertible and Cup wins, he won five times in April 1958, twice in May, three times in July, once in August, and twice in September for a total of thirteen victories in six months!

In 1959 Bob Welborn won three Cup races and placed seventeenth in Cup points.  He won at Champion in Fayetteville on November 9, 1958 in a race that counted for the 1959 title, then won the Daytona 100 qualifier for the Daytona 500, and won August 16 at Weaverville.  Welborn won two Convertible races in 1959, at Columbia and Weaverville on consecutive days (May 16 and 17) and finished eleventh in Convertible points.

As he wound down his career, Welborn ranked sixteenth in 1960 Sprint Cup points, fourteenth in 1961 Sprint Cup points, fifteenth in 1962 Sprint Cup points, and fortieth in 1963 Sprint Cup points.

In 1962, in addition to his limited NASCAR Cup schedule, Welborn competed in the April 1, 1962 ARCA (then MARC) race on the Virginia International Raceway road course.  Driving a 1962 Pontiac, Welborn finished second to Curtis Turner’s 1962 Ford and ahead of third-placed Dick Hutcherson in a 1962 Ford.

In late 1963, Welborn joined the Petty team as driver of their second Plymouth  On October 5, 1963 he finished third at Tar Heel Speedway; Richard Petty won with Joe Weatherly second.  Welborn also finished fourth at South Boston on October 20, 1963 (Petty won with David Pearson second and Weatherly third) and second (to Weatherly) at Orange Speedway in Hillsboro, North Carolina on October 27, 1963 in the final Top Two finish of his Cup career.

All told, Welborn scored nine Cup victories, ten Short Track Late Model victories, and twenty Convertible wins for a total of thirty-nine wins in major series NASCAR competition.

Bob Welborn Race Victories

DATE SANCTION SERIES VENUE CAR
07/25/53 NASCAR Short Track LM Toronto CNE Julian Petty 1951 Plymouth
09/07/53 NASCAR Short Track LM Stamford Park CDN 1949 Plymouth
09/30/53 NASCAR Short Track LM Toronto CNE
03/14/54 NASCAR Short Track LM Champion / Fayetteville NC 1951 Plymouth
06/24/54 ARCA Sportsman Park OH 1950 Plymouth
05/01/55 NASCAR Short Track LM Peach Bowl 1955 Chevrolet
05/19/55 NASCAR Short Track LM Peach Bowl 1955 Chevrolet
07/23/55 NASCAR Short Track LM Bowman Gray 1955 Chevrolet
09/09/55 NASCAR Short Track LM Peach Bowl 1955 Chevrolet
12/10/55 NASCAR Short Track LM Hollywood Speedway FL 1955 Chevrolet
04/08/56 NASCAR Convertible Champion / Fayetteville NC Welborn Chevrolet
04/22/56 NASCAR Convertible Hickory Welborn Chevrolet
04/29/56 NASCAR Convertible Greensboro Welborn Chevrolet
05/03/56 NASCAR Short Track LM Peach Bowl 1956 Chevrolet
05/31/57 NASCAR Convertible Old Bridge Speedway Welborn 1957 Chevrolet
06/02/57 NASCAR Convertible Weaverville Welborn Chevrolet
06/07/57 NASCAR Convertible Peach Bowl Welborn Chevrolet
06/14/57 NASCAR Convertible Monroe County FG NY Welborn Chevrolet
06/22/57 NASCAR Convertible Bowman Gray Welborn Chevrolet
06/26/57 NASCAR Convertible Philadelphia Stadium Welborn Chevrolet
10/06/57 NASCAR Winston Cup Martinsville Welborn Chevrolet
04/05/58 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion / Fayetteville NC Julian Petty Chevrolet
04/07/58 NASCAR Convertible Bowman Gray Julian Petty Chevrolet
04/13/58 NASCAR Convertible Weaverville Julian Petty Chevrolet
04/20/58 NASCAR Winston Cup Martinsville Julian Petty Chevrolet
04/26/58 NASCAR Convertible Hickory Julian Petty Chevrolet
05/11/58 NASCAR Winston Cup Greensboro Welborn Chevrolet
05/24/58 NASCAR Winston Cup Bowman Gray Julian Petty Chevrolet
07/12/58 NASCAR Convertible Columbia Julian Petty Chevrolet
07/19/58 NASCAR Convertible Greenville Julian Petty Chevrolet
07/27/58 NASCAR Convertible Myrtle Beach Julian Petty Chevrolet
08/23/58 NASCAR Winston Cup Myrtle Beach Julian Petty Chevrolet
09/07/58 NASCAR Convertible Wilson NC Julian Petty Chevrolet
09/14/58 NASCAR Convertible Salisbury NC Julian Petty Chevrolet
11/09/58 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion / Fayetteville NC Julian Petty Chevrolet
02/20/59 NASCAR Winston Cup Daytona Welborn Chevrolet
05/16/59 NASCAR Convertible Columbia Welborn Chevrolet
05/17/59 NASCAR Convertible Weaverville Welborn Chevrolet
08/16/59 NASCAR Winston Cup Weaverville Welborn Chevrolet

Bob Welborn Driver Point Standings

YEAR SANCTION SERIES RANK
1953 NASCAR SHORT TRACK LATE MODEL 2
1953 NASCAR WINSTON CUP 24
1954 NASCAR SHORT TRACK LATE MODEL 11
1955 NASCAR SHORT TRACK LATE MODEL 2
1955 NASCAR WINSTON CUP 4
1956 NASCAR CONVERTIBLE 1
1956 NASCAR SHORT TRACK LATE MODEL 27
1956 NASCAR WINSTON CUP 84
1957 NASCAR CONVERTIBLE 1
1958 NASCAR CONVERTIBLE 1
1959 NASCAR WINSTON CUP 17
1959 NASCAR CONVERTIBLE 11
1960 NASCAR WINSTON CUP 16
1961 NASCAR WINSTON CUP 14
1962 NASCAR WINSTON CUP 15
1963 NASCAR WINSTON CUP 40

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