On the morning of Labor Day, 1950, 20,000 spectators lined up to watch the race for five dollars a ticket. The seventy-five cars got the green flag, and there was dust everywhere. Tires squealed and engines roared, as NASCAR drove into history. Soon, everyone realized what was going to be the biggest problem of the day: tires. Tires wore so quickly on the asphalt/sand surface that many teams ran out. Car owner Bud Moore said, "About everybody ran out. We went out in the infield and jacked up spectators cars and took the tires off them." At first everyone drove on the inside flat part of the track because they didn't know what the banking of the 1.25 mile track would be like to drive on. However, they soon found out that by driving on the banking, they could save their tires.
After six hours and thirty-eight minutes the Southern 500 had its first winner. Johnny Mantz, the slowest qualifier, won the race by running laps that were consistently slower than the others, thereby saving his tires. He was passed many times but made pit stops much less than the others. He took the lead at lap fifty, and never lost it, finishing 9 laps ahead of second place Fireball Roberts.
Throughout the 1950's, NASCAR grew steadily mainly on the short dirt tracks of the south. On July 12, 1958 a tall, lanky, personable young man started in his first NASCAR race for convertibles in Colombia, South Carolina. His father, Lee Petty, had been racing the NASCAR circuit for years. Now it was his son's turn, as Richard Petty finished sixth in his first NASCAR start. He would return.
Richard Petty, the undisputable "King of NASCAR" holds an amazing two hundred record win. His two hundredth win came at Daytona International Speedway on July 4th, 1984 with President Ronald Reagan, the first President to attend a NASCAR race, in attendance. Petty holds seven season championships, and seven victories in the prestigious Daytona 500. Many called him the "People's Champion", who was always willing to sign an autograph, but businessman enough to represent the sport to big business. In 1967, he won an amazing twenty-seven races in forty-eight starts. Even more amazingly, in that season he won 10 races in a row! Petty retired from driving in 1992 after gaining 549 top five finishes in more than 1000 starts. He now is a car owner for three NASCAR Winston Cup teams, one of which is driven by his son, Kyle.
Near the end of the 50's racing on the Daytona Beach was becoming scarce as businesses were setting up shop on the section of beach that held races. For a few years prior to this, France had been dreaming of a "racing palace", a track even greater than Indy.