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Pieces of the Past: Close, but No Cigar

June 21, 2023

History is full of close calls. The Cleveland Indians nearly won the World Series but didn’t. The local dirt track nearly became a national shrine. But it didn’t. It’s one of those stories in racing that is a perfect illustration of almost.

It was 1958. NASCAR had been around for nearly 10 years. One of the founding fathers of the association was a car dealer from Findley Lake, New York named Julian Buesink. He was the car owner of a 2-man team of local drivers: Bill Rexford, and Lloyd Moore. Rexford was from Chautauqua Valley and Moore from Frewsburg. What historians ignore is Rexford was the second man to win the Grand National title. Today it’s the NASCAR Cup Title. Had he been the first…..Well you can just imagine.

In 1957 Buesink petitioned NASCAR to schedule a race at his home track, Stateline Speedway. He had some influence with NASCAR president Bill France. France was short $500 for the first ever Grand National event and Buesink covered the difference. Buesink developed a great relationship with several of the top drivers of the era too. I might add that about 5 years later he recruited a kid to drive for him by the name of Caleb. You know him better as Cale Yarbough.

It’s 1958, and one of the drivers had promised his oldest son he could drive in a race when he turned 21. The kid was just a couple days shy of the target age. Dad refused to let the youngster take the wheel that Saturday night. He’d have to wait another week and start his career in Ontario. This outraged the young man and when the father pulled into the pits for tires he refused to help.

The lengthy pit stop opened the door for Shorty Rollins and he won his first and ONLY NASCAR Grand National Race of his career. True to his word the son got his start the following week in Canada. The son is RICHARD PETTY! Imagine the distinction our local speedway might have had! Close, but no cigar.

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