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Curator's Corner / Historic Moments

Kansas’ Strangest NASCAR Stat

This one little statistical anomaly is proof positive of how hard it is to win races in NASCAR.

NASCAR heads back to Kansas Speedway this weekend for a double-header of the Camping World Truck Series and premier series races, culminating with the – and we are not making this up – Buschy McBusch Race 400 premier series battle on Sunday.

Now, you’d be correct if you’d guessed that Kansas has not produced a lot of NASCAR drivers. Or more precisely, not a lot of NASCAR race winners.

The first NASCAR Strictly Stock Division race was run on June 19, 1949, at Charlotte Speedway, with Kansas native Jim Roper declared the winner. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Kansas started off strong in NASCAR. At the very first Strictly Stock Division (now premier series) race on June 19, 1949, Halstead, Kansas, native Jim Roper was declared the winner of a 200-lap race on the old 0.75-mile Charlotte Speedway dirt track, near where Charlotte-Douglas International Airport stands today. The entry blank from that race can be viewed in Heritage Speedway at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Roper drove from Kansas to Charlotte in the same car he won the race in, a borrowed 1949 Lincoln. At the end of the race Gastonia, North Carolina, native Glenn Dunaway took the checkered flag three laps ahead of Roper. But Dunaway’s car failed post-race inspection because it carried heavy-duty “bootlegger” rear springs, and NASCAR declared Roper the winner.

Jim Roper only won one race in his NASCAR career, but it was a big one – the first one. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

After the race, Dunaway’s car owner, a moonshiner named Hubert Westmoreland, sued NASCAR over the DQ, but a judge threw out the case, upholding the sanctioning body’s right to set and enforce rules and regulations regarding its races.

But that isn’t the strangest part of the story.

The strangest part of the story is how long it took another Kansas native to win a NASCAR race.

It didn’t happen later in the 1949 season.

Or in the next year.

Not 5 years later.

Not 10 years or 20 years later.

Not even 25 years later.

Or 50 years later, if you can believe that.

After Jim Roper’s historic victory, the next Kansan to win a premier series race was Clint Bowyer, more than 58 years later at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Photo courtesy of Chris Troutman/Getty Images

After Roper won the very first premier series race, the next Kansas native to win at NASCAR’s highest level was Emporia’s favorite son, Clint Bowyer, who captured the 2007 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 16, 2007.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s more than 58 years between premier series race victories.

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That’s more than 58 years between premier series race victories.

— Tom Jensen

A whopping 21,273 days, to be exact.

And that, friends, is a very long time indeed.

To this day, Roper and Bowyer remain the only Kansas drivers to win premier series races.

But believe it or not, there’s an even longer gap in NASCAR history.

On November 20, 1955, Chuck Stevenson of Sidney, Montana, won an 80-lap race on the 2.5-mile Willow Springs Speedway road course in Lancaster, California.

Although he is the only Montana native to win a premier series race, Chuck Stevenson was better known as an open-wheel racer in the 1950s and ‘60s. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Since that time, no one from the state of Montana has won another premier series race. So when the green flag waves at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, it will be 23,905 days since a Montana driver rolled into Victory Lane.

And finally, two wacky last footnotes: Stevenson never entered another premier series race, and his car owner Carl Dane, never won again.

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Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.