Jim Reed Nascar Racing History 1947-1961
Jim's No 7 at The Darlington Museum
Jim Reed, A 5-time NASCAR champion, dominated the Short Track division of NASCAR in the 1950’s. He claimed the championship in the division from 1953 thru 1957, for both driver and car owner, a record that still stands as the longest consecutive championship by any driver.
Jim began racing after World War II at the age of 21. He drove midgets, sprints, modifieds and roadsters before moving to the Grand National Division in 1949. From 1951 to 1963 he started 206 Grand National races, won 59 times, and finished in the top ten 44 times. He finished second in the prestigious Southern 500 in 1956, fourth in 1957, and won in 1959.
When NASCAR came North in 1949 Jim was ready with a ’46 Ford Coupe and won the first 100-mile 400-lap race on a ¼-mile bank in Richmond, VA. In 1950 the drivers complained about Jim still using a straight-axle car, so the car was ruled out the next year. Switching to a ’51 Ford Police Special Jim continued his winning ways with 11 wins in 1953. During these years his cars were driven back and forth to the tracks, from Canada to Georgia and as far west as Ohio, wherever the NASCAR Circuit took them. Jim bought a new ’54 Ford and raced it 5 times; placing 1st, 2nd and other top 5 finishes but was not happy with the car. He switched to a ’53 Hudson Hornet, winning 9 firsts and 2 seconds in 12 races, and the Short Track Championship.
In 1955 a new Chevy Coupe was purchased by Jim, the last new car he had to buy. Mauri Rose, Chevy’s new racing engineer, provided several cars and engines during the rest of that season, the first cars Chevrolet actually sponsored and used for advertising. Jim delivered the Short Track titles in ’55 and ’56 to Chevy and finished 2nd at Darlington and 5th at Daytona Beach in ’56.
In the Fall of ’56 Indy winner Peter DePaolo, who headed the Ford race team, lured Jim away from Chevy by offering to build three cars for him. One was to be raced on the west coast and the other two were for the east coast circuits. Jim flew cross-country to make the races and won 6 short track races for Ford before Chevy convinced the Automobile Manufacturers Association to vote to ban direct support of stock car racing. Even without factory support Jim won the 1957 Grand National Short Track championship in a Ford Fairlane.This was Fords’ first championship.
1958 was an independent year (again) using his two left-over 57 Fords. There were many people tired of the Short Track Championship going to New York, and as a result the California points were split from the National points so Jim brought the West Coast car back to the East. Several Grand National wins and ½ dozen Short Track wins came in ’58.
1959 Win 1959 marked Chevy’s under-cover return to racing, and a call to Ed Cole, then-Chevy president, resulted in a trip to the Factory to pick up a new 348-cubic inch Impala Coupe. With 6 weeks to get ready for Daytona’s new track, Jims’ #7 finished 7th behind the more powerful Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles. ’59 brought wins on all sized tracks. Most notable was the Labor Day Darlington Southern 500. This was before power steering was used and with a track temperature of 140 degrees. #7 was the only car in the top 5 without a relief driver. You don’t see that happening today. Goodyear Tire chalked up their 1st major win and that brought a tire contract. Chevrolet Engineering provided cars and parts only through 1961. Through 1963 it got a little lean because of expenses rising and it became increasingly more difficult to make a profit without the Short Track division. A wreck while driving a Ford in late ’63 caused broken vertebrae and in ’64 Chevrolet offered him a car but he turned it down. He started the truck dealership in 1965.
Jim was an outstanding driver and an equally outstanding mechanic. He applied his knowledge in the development of horsepower with his education in the fundamentals of handling and controlling the race car, to let the car work for him. He coupled his intelligence with his driving skills and let the car work for him. But, faced with the financial hardship of an independent, Jim had to make a decision – remain up North and build a business or move South and race. He decided to let his racing career become part of Stock Car history and devote his efforts to Jim Reed’s Truck Sales and Service in Peekskill, New York. Starting in 1965 using his racing connections with GM, Jim opened a GMC dealership in Peekskill, NY. In 1987 he acquired a Mitsubishi Franchise that has been so successful that the GMC was no longer desirable and he sold it off to be an exclusive with Mitsubishi. He has been 1st or 2nd in sales mostly ever since. Jim is very happy with the product and his relationship with MFTA.