New NASCAR Book Is ‘50 Firsts’ of Its Kind

  • 50 First Victories — NASCAR Drivers’ Breakthrough Wins is the latest motorsports-themed book offering from Octane Press.
  • The 244-page book is co-written by Autoweek senior motorsports writer Al Pearce and Autoweek contributor Mike Hembree.
  • The book, which is set for an August 1 release, shares beyond-the-headlines stories of NASCAR Cup Series racers’ first wins in the Cup Series.

    Mention Motorsports Hall of Fame of America member Tiny Lund to veteran NASCAR writer Al Pearce, and a flood of stories come to mind.

    The first of those stories might just be Lund’s 1963 Daytona 500 victory. Lund’s breakthrough win not only came in the sport’s biggest race, it is noteworthy as it was Lund’s first race win in the NASCAR Cup Series.

    There’s something special about a racer’s first Cup win. Just ask any driver.

    Or ask Pearce—a writer who has shared first-win stories with readers for more than half a century.

    tiny lund nascar wood bros supersub 1963

    Tiny Lund proved to be a super-sub for Wood Brothers Racing at Daytona in 1963.

    RacingOneGetty Images

    “I still think the Tiny Lund story is one of my favorites,” Pearce said. “He only got that ride from the Wood Brothers at Daytona in ’63 because he helped get another driver out of a wreck. And the fact that he went out and won the 500 with that ride, I thought that was a cool story.”

    The Lund story is definitely made-for-Hollywood magic. Ten days before the Daytona 500, driver Marvin Panch flipped his 7-liter Ford/Maserati sports car in Turn 4 at the Daytona International Speedway. Moments later, several drivers who witnessed the crash, including the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Lund (so that’s why the called him ‘Tiny’) ran to the scene. There, Lund helped pull Panch from out of the burning, upside-down car. Later, Panch—from his hospital bed—suggested the Wood Brothers to give Lund a shot to drive for their team in the 500. The rest is Daytona 500 history, as they say.

    Lund, himself, would die in a crash at Talladega 12 years later.

    “Tiny’s story sort of stuck with me,” Pearce said. “I didn’t know him well, but I knew him. The Tiny Lund story was the one, I think, that touched me the most.”

    richard petty

    Richard Petty’s first win came in 1960.

    RacingOneGetty Images

    The NASCAR Cup Series has had at last count 203 different drivers experience a first Cup win. And each of those first wins comes with a rarely told story beyond just the minutiae of laps, margin of victory and all the numbers that come with racing. Drivers may not remember every one of their Cup wins, but they certainly remember their first.

    That is the premise of the new book, 50 First Victories — NASCAR Drivers’ Breakthrough Wins, which is the latest motorsports offering from Octane Press. The 244-page book is co-written by Autoweek senior motorsports writer Pearce and Autoweek contributor Mike Hembree, and it gives the beyond-the-headlines stories that might even been missed on race day.

    The book is the 15th for Pearce, who saw his first race in 1966 and who covered his first race in 1969. Pearce have written about NASCAR for Autoweek since 1973. Hembree, a seven-time National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year, has covered the sport for nearly four decades. He’s authored 14 books.

    “I’ve seen a bunch of the first wins we write about in the book,” Hembree said. “And what’s remarkable to me is how different those wins generally are from all the others. You have guys who will later in their careers—seven or eight years in—finally win the Daytona 500 or the Southern 500. And you know, and those are obviously big, but a lot of them will still tell you, ‘that first one, that’s that’s the one I’m going to remember.’ “

    The book is a veritable who’s who of racing royalty and includes first-win stories from Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mario Andretti, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliot, Benny Parsons. There’s also first-win stories of maybe some lesser-known drivers—at least lesser known to some of the sport’s newer fans— including Jim Roper, Rex White, Paul Goldsmith and Tim Flock. And there’s plenty of room for stories from some of today’s future hall of famers, including Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson.

    “I think the one that that kind of stood out for me was was Benny Parsons,” Hembree said. “It was because of the circumstances. He won his first race in 1971 at South Boston in Virginia. And it was Mother’s Day, so his kids weren’t there. So after the race, he calls home to tell the family that he won, and his youngest son is on the phone and asks, ‘Was Richard Petty there?”

    “His son knew that Richard won like every other week back then.”

    The book is loaded with pictures and takes the reader right past the numbers and right to the good stuff—the stories of those first race wins that put many superstars on the racing map.

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