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Jimmy Florian
Ford's First NASCAR Win
Born:
September 25, 1923      Died: February 14, 1999
Home: Cleveland, OH

Born September 25, 1923 in Cleaveland, Ohio, Jimmy Florian drew very little attention when he elected to enter the NASCAR ranks.

Florian entered the NASCAR Grand National Division competition in 1950 campaigning his No. 27 Ford sponsored by Euclid Motor Co. Onlookers scoffed that Florian had brought a knife to a gun fight campaigning a flathead Ford against the Oldsmobile “Rocket” overhead valve engines.

Florian paid the scoffers little attention displaying the attitude of David in the face of the giant, Goliath. Florian proved his metal by charting a respectable third place finish in his first outing in the NASCAR Grand National Division at Langhorne. He then qualified on the pole at Canfield Speedway in Canfield, Ohio and finished 6th.

An 8th place finish then followed at Vernon Fairgrounds in Vernon, New York.

If Florian did not have any better finishes for the year, he had proved the flathead Ford could still compete in the Grand National ranks. But on June 25, 1950, Jimmy Florian, the 27 year old mechanic from Cleveland, Ohio did what many thought was impossible. He beat Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly, and Lee Petty in the 100-lap NASCAR Grand National event at Dayton Speedway in Daytona, Ohio -- giving Ford its first win in the series.

With 35 laps to go, Florian passed Curtis Turner and had established a half-lap advantage by the time the race was over.

Turner, Weatherly, and Petty quickly protested. They could not believe that they have been outrun by a flathead Ford. But at 4 A.M., after careful inspection, NASCAR officials declared the Ford was as stock as could be. The win was official, David had taken down Goliath with a flathead Ford.

 

Florian made a lasting impression in victory lane when he emerged from his car - he was shirtless. In his 10 starts in the 1950 NASCAR Grand National Division, Florian recorded 1 win, 3 top-5s, and 6 top-10s.

Florian returned to Grand National competition in 1951 driving Don Rogalla’s Oldsmobile in 3 events. He also campaigned his own No. 27 Ford in 6 events recording a fourth place finish on the 1-mile dirt track at Bainbridge Speedway in Bainbridge, Ohio and another fourth place finish at the ˝-mile dirt track at Pine Grove Speedway in Shippenville, Pennsylvania. He charted 2 top-5s and 5 top-10s in the 1951 NASCAR Grand National Division.

In 1952, Florian campaigned his own No. 18 Oldsmobile at West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach before swapping to a Ford for Jacksonville, Columbia, Atlanta, and Macon. He picked up 2 top-10s for the season. Florian returned to the NASCAR Grand National ranks for one final event in 1954 driving his No. 15 Hudson at Daytona Beach finishing 37th.

Despite retiring from the NASCAR ranks, Florian continued to race midgets and sprint cars. In his 60’s, he participated in the VARC (Vintage Auto Race Cars) exhibition races. He finally retired from racing completely at 70 years old, selling his vintage sprint car at age 72.

Jimmy Florian passed away after a battle with cancer in February 1999. He was 75.

March 10, 2007  
By Allen Madding

  Insider Racing News

 

Ford's First Official NASCAR victory came in 1950 at Dayton Speedway in Ohio when Cleveland mechanic Jimmy Florian, driving for the Euclid Motor Co., 1950 Ford Custom Coupe. scored his only win and took home a $1,000 check for his efforts.

Ford Motor Company's affiliation with NASCAR goes all the way back to the first Grand National race at Charlotte Speedway in 1949, which was won by Glenn Dunnaway's Ford -- later to be disqualified -- handing the victory to Jim Roper's Lincoln.

In 1950 Ford offered a formal “police package” for its Deluxe and Custom series sedans with unique, heavy-duty and high-performance parts not available to civilian buyers. Beefy frames, extra-capacity radiators and huge brakes were among the usual upgrades.

The cars sponsor Euclid Motor Co, donated the car to the Police Chief after
Jimmy Florian, went back to Dirt track Cart racing.

++++++++++++++++++

Denny Hudock, Cleveland, OH Writes: I happened on your site today. Really neat. As on old-time racer and a fan as a youngster, the names of two of my boyhood heroes grabbed me as I looked through your All-Time winners list of NASCAR drivers. Being from Ohio (Cleveland), I watched both Dick Linder and Jimmy Florian race as a youngster. Jimmy Florian's unique claim to fame in his one win at the Dayton Speedway is that it was the first win in NASCAR for a Ford! It was a 1950 Ford #27 owned by Skip Krauslack of Cleveland and sponsored by Euclid Ford. Jimmy ran a few more races in 1950 and 51 with NASCAR, but returned to a successful career locally driving midgets. He passed away last year. When he raced at Darlington in 1950, he flew there from Cleveland in his open-cockpit bi-plane. Jimmy was a real character.

 

Here are two pictures of Jimmy Florian taken the Dayton Speedway in 1950. The one showing Jimmy shirtless caused NASCAR to adopt a rule that drivers had to wear at least a T-shirt when racing. Jimmy said: "it was so damn hot, I just took the shirt off to keep cool".

 

 

 

 

The other shot shows Jimmy and car owner Skip Krauslock. This was Ford's first win in NASCAR. Unfortunately, Jimmy never received many accolades from Ford, and by the time they tracked him down for the 100th Anniversary in racing celebration, he had passed away. Jimmy drove a few more NASCAR events in the 50's, then concentrated on racing more locally in Shorty Christiansen's 17X Olds powered Chevy Coupe and returned to the Midgets where he and owner Dick Swartzlander tore up the Midwest until the mid-60s. Jimmy drove a few late model races in the 70's and then retired. He was active in the Vintage American Race Cars Club until his passing. It was always fun to be around Jimmy and to listen to the many stories of his early years after returning from WWII racing the roadsters, midgets and stock cars. He was truly one of a kind.

JIMMY FLORIAN NETS FORD'S FIRST WIN

It was considered an upset then and would probably be looked upon the same way today. Jimmy Florian beat NASCAR legends Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly and Lee Petty in a thrilling 100-lap feature to claim the first NASCAR Winston Cup victory for Ford on June 25, 1950 at Dayton Speedway.

As memorable as Florian's victory was, he made an equally big impression on victory lane when he emerged from his car shirtless -- another NASCAR first.

Florian, who was a 27-year-old mechanic at the time of his big win, passed away at the age of 75, February 1999 after a battle with cancer. He was sponsored by Euclid Motors and made a name for himself around his native Cleveland, Ohio, driving primarily midget and sprint cars.

Bill Whitley was Florian's closest friend -- ever since World War II. Whitley, who is currently 77 years old, owned a couple of cars with Florian and knew him better than anyone. A truck driver in the early fifties, Whitley is now retired and lives in Winston-Salem, N.C. He recalled that magical day in 1950, along with some of his other favorite Florian memories.

WHAT CAN YOU RECALL FROM THAT FIRST RACE WIN IN 1950: "He did win that race in a Ford. It was a car originally that belonged to the chief of police in Detroit and Euclid Ford got a hold of it and it was a 1950 Ford. The night that he won the race against (Curtis) Turner, (Joe) Weatherly -- all the big boys were there -- and he just outdrove them that's all. We talked about that for years and years and years. I kept telling him there was no way he could outrun those Oldmobiles with a flathead Ford, but we had been running on that track seven nights a week in midgets and sprint cars and it was just a fact that we were very familiar with it (the speedway) and they weren't. He just outdrove them."

WAS THERE A CERTAIN POINT WHERE YOU KNEW JIMMY HAD THE RACE WON? "With about 35 laps to go he passed Turner for the last time and stayed in front. He was about a half lap ahead when the race was over. I remember a whole lot about it because it was four o'clock in the morning before we got paid because Turner, Weatherly, (Lee) Petty -- the whole bunch -- they protested saying there was no way they could have been outrun with a flathead Ford. That was the year they came out with the rocket Oldsmobile engines -- overhead valve engines -- and they were really tough. But the Ford was just as stock as it could be."

DID THEY HAVE A POST-RACE INSPECTION? "Oh yeah. They even checked with Ford Motor Company to make sure it wasn't an illegal engine. Ford sent a letter back to Euclid Ford saying that the car was just as legal and as stock as it could be."

WELL, IT WAS A POLICE CAR AT ONE TIME SO IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE FAST, RIGHT? "In the old days the police cars weren't any different, it was just designated to the police department but they weren't any different in the old days. Later on they came out with high dollar police cars, but back in the forties and the fifties you just put the name on it and went with it."

ONE OF THE INTERESTING NOTES TO THAT RACE WAS THE FACT JIMMY ARRIVED IN VICTORY LANE WITHOUT A SHIRT ON. WHY DID HE DO THAT? "It was hotter than hell, that's all there was to that. The rulebook back then...you didn't have any rollbars...you didn't have to have a seatbelt if you didn't want it and the seat had to be just like it came out of the factory...a plain old seat and they're uncomfortable. You couldn't do anything to the car back then. For ventilation you had to run with the windows down and that was the main reason why he was shirtless. He thought that was the greatest because he had all the protection in the world around him. We ran a midget and sprint car back then and you had to have something on because you were getting hit by rocks. That was the main reason for that."

WHAT WAS YOUR ROLE WITH JIMMY WERE YOU LIKE HIS CREW CHIEF? "We owned two or three cars together. I drove a Hudson Hornet back then and I had another Ford that he drove for awhile. We just swapped off back and forth. I had an Oldsmobile that he took to Darlington to run and he put on a show there with it, too. He came from 69th up to second place in about 40 laps in the first race they ever ran there before somebody hit the wall and got tangled up with him. He put that old Ford on the pole at two or three races. It wasn't just that night in Dayton. He stuck that thing on the pole at two or three places and got two or three thirds out of it and two or three seconds out of it."

IF YOU HAD TO WAIT UNTIL 4 A.M. TO GET PAID WERE YOU CELEBRATING ALL THAT TIME? "Well, not really. We kind of took it as just an everyday thing like we expected to do it. You were coming from down south up north running on a track against a driver that's running there every night -- seven nights a week and sometimes in the afternoon. You just can't plan on falling in there and outrunning somebody like that because Jimmy was a terrific midget driver. We had one track where out of 75 races he had 71 feature wins. As far as I'm concerned, he just outdrove them. The car, really, I don't know if it probably would have been a wagon he would have done the same thing because he was in his prime."

WHAT KIND OF GUY WAS JIMMY? "I tell you one thing, he was always happy. He always had a smile. There was nothing that ever got him down. Cancer finally brought him down, but I knew him pretty well. Our telephone bill over a period of 50 years was out of sight. Even though I lived down here (in Winston-Salem, N.C.) and he lived up there (Cleveland, OH), sometimes three times a night he'd call me. That's the kind of friend he was."

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE JIMMY FLORIAN STORY? "There would be too many. You could write anything in the world about him. As the nights go by I always seem to dream about him a little bit."

THE THING ABOUT JIMMY IS THAT HE RACED EVEN INTO HIS SIXTIES IN VINTAGE CARS, RIGHT? "We did that every year. We've always done that. We'd take a sprint car and go somewhere and run oldtimers races. We did that all the time. As old as he was, with a sprint car he'd still make some of them look like they didn't belong there. He was pretty good."

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF? "I drove a truck most of the time when I wasn't racing. I ran the Grand National Circuit down here in the fifties and sixties. You'll find me stuck around the record book in certain places. In the old days I had some 10ths and some eighths and even one time I think I had a third behind Weatherly and Ned Jarrett. You don't get very close unless you've got a lot of money behind you. Even in the old days when the Flock boys came out, they had a factory deal, and Petty had a factory deal."

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN WINSTON-SALEM? "I've been here since about 1957. I came through here. I was on my way back to Ohio from Florida and I stopped off here because my brother-in-law was working here. I stopped off here and went to work for Ford for awhile and started fooling around with racing again. One thing led to another and I ended up buying one of Rex White's old cars, his old championship car and I ran that for awhile."

DO YOU GET TO ANY WINSTON CUP RACES? "No. If you know anything about old race car drivers, they never will sit in the stands. I've never sat in the stands in my life. We used to say if you want to go see the race get on the track so you can see what's happening up front."

NANCY ROSE (FLORIAN'S SECOND DAUGHTER)

YOUR DAD DID RACE HIS WHOLE LIFE, DIDN'T HE? "Yes, all the way through. That was his passion. That is what he loved. He loved racing and flying and when he couldn't fly he could still race with the Vintage Auto Racers. They didn't have an age limit and he still wanted to go fast. He still had to beat everybody and be the fastest and that's the way he was until a couple years before he died."

WHAT AGE DID HE STOP RACING? "He raced until he was 70. When he was 72 he sold the car (a vintage auto racing sprint car). He had a sprint car that he sold to somebody in the northern Ohio area."

DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH YOUR DAD IN RACING? "My first job was in the body shop. This was back in the early sixties and that was unusual for a girl, but that was my first profession. My job was working in his garage cleaning and doing stuff. He would paint and I would just prep the cars, get the bondo on them and sand them and prime them. Then, he would just do the final finish coat. We always had vehicles up until the day he died. I think he had a station wagon and a pickup truck and he always had more than one car. He was constantly working on stuff."

DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU WENT WITH HIM TO A RACE? "From the time I was a baby that was all we did. We have pictures too. We followed him on the southern circuit for a while. We lived in Massachusetts and then when that circuit was done we went to Florida and did the Florida and south circuit for a while. Then we came back up here (to the Cleveland area). I was in kindergarten so that would have roughly been in the late fifties. Then we moved around and he mostly did New York, like Little Valley, and the speedways around the area here. Then he just mainly did Cloverleaf and the tracks around Cleveland in the early sixties. I would travel with him at that time and that was our weekend thing. That's what we did. I can remember when I was traveling around with him in my early teens and he was racing for other people. He could go anytime anywhere and not even have a car. He would just show up and they would put him in a car when he got there."

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO WATCH HIM RACE AT AGE 68 OR 69? "These VARC (Vintage Auto Race Cars) cars were exhibitions with just some heat races. There were no features or anything like that because these guys didn't have that kind of stamina. They were all my dad's age, but the races would be mostly held at fairgrounds that had dirt tracks because they were the old midgets, the old sprint cars with wheels different sizes."

YOU WERE BORN SHORTLY AFTER HE WON FORD'S FIRST RACE IN 1950, WEREN'T YOU? "That's right, it was about a week after. He won that race on June 25 and my birthday is July 9. But the earliest recollections I have are of getting up at the crack of dawn and he would pack us up and we would go driving in the car. It was nothing for us to drive from Cleveland down to Florida non-stop. That was the regimen. We'd just get up and we'd be up and down travelling all over the place. We lived in the car. The backseat was not a seat. There were three of us girls and they just set it up as a bed because we spent a lot of time in the back of the car."

IT MUST HAVE BEEN FUN WHEN YOU WERE LEARNING TO DRIVE YOURSELF. "I had my first car when I was 11 and it was one of those Jeep's with a four-speed on the floor. We had 10 acres and lived next to the airport in Willoughby (Ohio) and our 10 acres ran parallel to the runway, so we had all this space to just drive. We would just ride it around in the yard, so I could drive way before I could reach the pedals. I remember having to sit on the edge of the seat, I wasn't able to sit all the way back because I was too small. When I did go to take my driver's test I remember the instructor said, 'You've been driving a while haven't you.' It was just natural. I wasn't nervous, I just got in the car and drove. The thing is all of us in our family drive with our right and left foot. We don't drive with just the right foot and that just comes from the way my dad drove. He taught us the right foot was gas and the left foot was brake and that's how we all drive. I think if I had to take the test now they'd flunk me."

JIMMY FLORIAN FAMILY BACKGROUND
 
Lived in the Cleveland, Ohio area and had four children -- three daughters and a son. Terri Ritz, his oldest daughter, lives in Longwood, FL; Nancy Rose, middle daughter, lives in Medina, OH; Chris Nelson, youngest daughter, lives in Salem, OR; son James II also lives in Medina, OH.

1950 NASCAR STANDINGS (TOP 10)
Rank Driver Points
1. Bill Rexford 1959
2. Fireball Roberts 1849
3. Lee Petty 1590
4. Lloyd Moore 1398
5. Curtis Turner 1376
6. Johnny Mantz 1282
7. Chuck Mahoney 1218
8. Dick Linder 1121
9. Jim Florian 801
10. Bill Blair 766

Jimmy Florian Strictly Stock DRIVER Statistics

Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn Miles
1950 26 10 of 19 1 3 6 1 1060 40 2,695 9 33.0 13.7 850.2
1951 27 9 of 41 0 2 5 0 0 0 1,100 27   13.4 0.0
1952 28 6 of 34 0 0 2 0 283 0 175 48 19.5 18.0 188.0
1954 30 1 of 37 0 0 0 0 34 0 25   49.0 37.0 139.4
4 years 26 1 5 13 1 1377 40 3,995   30.8 15.5 1177.6


Jimmy Florian Strictly Stock OWNER Statistics

Year Driver Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn Miles
1950 Jimmy Florian 10 1 3 6 1 1060 40 2,695 9 33.0 13.7 850.2
1951 Jimmy Florian 6 0 1 3 0 0 0 1,100 27   13.3 .0
1952 Jimmy Florian 6 0 0 2 0 283 0 175 48 19.5 18.0 188.0
1954 Jimmy Florian 1 0 0 0 0 34 0 25   49.0 37.0 139.4
4 years 23 1 4 11 1 1377 40 3,995   30.8 15.7 1177.6

Florian 1950 Race Stats

Race Site Cars St Fin # Sponsor / Owner Car Laps Money Status Led
3 Langhorne 28   3 27 Euclid Motor Co.    (Jimmy Florian) Ford 144/150 700 running 0
5 Canfield 29 1 6 27 Jimmy Florian Ford 193/200 200   0
6 Vernon 23   8 27 Jimmy Florian Ford  /200 125   0
7 Dayton 25   1 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian) Ford 200/200 1,000 running 40
8 Rochester 25   4 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian) Ford 192/200 400 running 0
10 Hillsboro 27   19 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian) Ford  /100 0   0
11 Dayton 28   22 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian) Ford  /195 0   0
12 Hamburg 33   26 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian) Ford  /200 0   0
13 Darlington 75 65 41 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian) Ford 331/400 0 spindle 0
18 Winchester 13   7 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian) Ford  /200 150   0

10 starts, 1060 of 2045 laps completed (51.8%), 40 laps led

 Win:     1 ( 10.0%)     Average start:  33.0     Total Winnings: $2,575
 Top 5:   3 ( 30.0%)     Average finish: 13.7     (excluding bonuses)
 Top 10:  6 ( 60.0%)     DNF: 1
 

Florian 1951 Race Stats

Race Site Cars St Fin # Sponsor / Owner Car Laps Money Status Led
9 Canfield 38   30   Don Rogalla Oldsmobile  /200 25    
12 Dayton 29   20 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian ) Ford  /200 25   0
14 Grand Rapids 21   8 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian) Ford  /200 100    
15 Bainbridge 34   4 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian ) Ford  /100 350   0
21 Toledo 33   9 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian) Ford  /200 75   0
29 Dayton 31   7   Don Rogalla Oldsmobile  /200 125   0
33 Shippenville 20   4   Don Rogalla  Oldsmobile  /200 350 running  
38 Jacksonville 22   22   Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian ) Ford  /200 25    
39 Atlanta 31   17 27 Euclid Motor Co.   (Jimmy Florian ) Ford  /100 25   0

 9 starts, 0 of 1600 laps completed (0.0%), 0 laps led

 Win:     0 (  0.0%)     Average start:     ?     Total Winnings: $1,100
 Top 5:   2 ( 22.2%)     Average finish: 13.4     (excluding bonuses)
 Top 10:  5 ( 55.6%)     DNF: 0
 

Florian 1952 Race Stats

Race Site Cars St Fin # Sponsor / Owner Car Laps Money Status Led
1 W. Palm Beach 27   21 18 Jimmy Florian Oldsmobile  /200 25    
2 Daytona Beach 61   42 18 Jimmy Florian Oldsmobile  /37 0   0
3 Jacksonville 29   12 18 Jimmy Florian Ford  /200 25   0
6 Columbia 22   10 18 Jimmy Florian Ford  /200 50 running 0
7 Atlanta 24 18 10 18 Jimmy Florian Ford 93/100 50 running 0
8 Macon 28 21 13 18 Jimmy Florian Ford 190/198 25 running 0

6 starts, 283 of 935 laps completed (30.3%), 0 laps led

 Win:     0 (  0.0%)     Average start:  19.5     Total Winnings: $175
 Top 5:   0 (  0.0%)     Average finish: 18.0     (excluding bonuses)
 Top 10:  2 ( 33.3%)     DNF: 0

Florian 1954 Race Stats

2 Daytona Beach 62 49 37 15 Jimmy Florian Hudson 34/39 25 running 0

1 start, 34 of 39 laps completed (87.2%), 0 laps led

 Win:     0 (  0.0%)     Average start:  49.0     Total Winnings: $25
 Top 5:   0 (  0.0%)     Average finish: 37.0     (excluding bonuses)
 Top 10:  0 (  0.0%)     DNF: 0
 


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