Shelby County racing legends featured in book about Daytona 500

News, Sports

October 3rd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Three local racing legends from Shelby County are now the feature characters in a brand new NASCAR book. Former Council Bluffs resident and author John Havick has written The Ghost of NASCAR to tell the story of the first Daytona 500 in 1959. Havick says there are three men, who were an intricate part of the book. It’s about 3 racers in Harlan, Johnny Beauchamp, Dale Swanson and Tiny Lund. Beauchamp and Lund both won the Daytona 500 and Swanson was a great mechanic and built engines for drivers in several states.”

Havick built an infatuation with the sport when his grandfather sold his car to an aspiring racecar driver in the 50’s named Johnny Beauchamp and as a boy, Havick decided to see how the car performed. The book depicts the controversial ending to the 1959 Daytona 500 in which two drivers, Beauchamp and Lee Petty claimed victory. Havick said Beauchamp was in the lead for most of the race.

“He stayed up near the front for most of the race. Then suddenly around lap 149, Lee Petty appears out of no where and racing right by Beauchamp and the last 50 laps this is how it went along. They flashed near the finish line close together. No one said except the flag man and the owner of NASCAR Bill Frentz said Beauchamp won the race and then there was all this trouble afterwards.”

The lack of technology back in those days did not help the controversy as it took three days before NASCAR announced Petty the winner of the race. To this date, the debate rages on between fans and drivers about who actually won the 1959 Daytona 500. Havick said one of the details about the race is how drivers kept their lap count. “Some of the people in the pits believed when Petty pitted, his lap counter had failed and counted it as a lap and that brought him up.”

The author said he had stacks of old newspaper articles and programs from his childhood that helped him start his research for the book. The Ghosts of NASCAR is on sale in bookstores or directly from the University of Iowa Press online at www.uiowapress.org. Author John Havick will be making an appearance to discuss the book in Harlan this (Thursday) evening at the Harlan Library from 6:30pm until closing.

(Joel McCall/KNOD)