Tom Higgins Scuffs
(Edited for space)
Fireball Roberts. George Halas and Red Grange. Sid Luckman.
Gayle Sayers and Walter Payton. William "Refrigerator"
Perry. What can they possibly have in common? All were
winners in Chicago.
Roberts won at Soldier Field, the storied stadium in the
nation's "Second City" that's home to the National Football
League's Chicago Bears, founded by Halas and led through
varying periods by Grange, Luckman, Sayers, Payton and
Perry. It's true.
Generally lost in the mist of time is the fact that NASCAR
staged a 100-mile race at the great arena on July 22, 1956.
The Soldier Field track covered a half-mile.
According to auto racing historian Greg Fielden, a
quarter-mile cinder racing surface was put in place at the
stadium in 1935, nine years after the facility opened. The
asphalt half-mile track was created in 1956 and remained in
place until '67. A .375-mile track followed in '68, but was
torn out in '70 when protesters objected to the city, which
and runs Soldier Field, being involved in motorsports.
won the only pole of his career prior to the NASCAR race in
1956 in Chicago. His speed is among the records lost over
the decades. Myers was to live only two more years,
succumbing to a heart attack on April 12, 1958 while racing
at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, his hometown.
Myers' brother, Bobby, had died in a horrific crash the
previous September during the Southern 500 at Darlington
Roberts started third in a Ford fielded by Peter DePaolo.
No where in the record books can it be found how many laps
Roberts led, nor when he was in front. His winning average
speed is available, however--61.037 mph.
Jim Paschal was the runnerup in a Mercury, followed
by Ralph Moody in a Ford. Then came Speedy
Thompson and Frank Mundy in Dodges fielded by the
legendary Carl Kiekhaefer.
The top five finishers completed all 200 laps.
Of the quintet, only Mundy survives. He's 89 now. The
colorful Mundy's real name, by the way, is Francisco
Melendez. He adopted the Frank Mundy monicker, in
part, to gain acceptance among Southern fans.
Other notable drivers in the Soldier Field race were Buck
Baker, Paul Goldsmith, Lee Petty, Herb Thomas, Fred Lorenzen
and Tom Pistone.
Baker, who finished sixth, a lap down, left Chicago with a
224 point lead over Thomas in the chase for NASCAR's top
title. Baker was destined to win the crown in 1956 and
again in '57.
Almost unbelievably, NASCAR's foremost division appeared in
Illinois only one other time from its founding in 1949 until
That other race was held at Sante Fe Speedway, a half-mile
dirt track at Willow Springs, on July 10, 1954. Dick
Rathman won it in a Hudson.
Chicago, one of the nation's major population centers,
justifiably became part of the NASCAR schedule again six
years ago, giving avid stock car racing fans in the upper
midwest a venue to visit close to home.