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Race Card #81-Arnie Beswick wasn't the only "Fast Farmer".

In the early days of Grand National racing a few names stood out. Some for their hair raising driving style, some for their equally hair raising partying styles. And some, like Curtis Turner, for both and then some. But for a consistant and productive driver, few were the equal of soft spoken NC farmer turned race driver, Herb Thomas.

After finishing the first season for the new cars Herb was in 25th place in the points. That would see a marked improvement in later seasons. He would finish the '50 through '56 seasons in 11th, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd and 5th respectively.

While leading the points in '56 Thomas was involved in a serious crash at Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Shelby NC. With only three races to go in the season a race was added to the schedule only 10 days before the event by Carl Kiekhaefer in an effort to help his driver, Buck Baker, catch Thomas in the point race.

Thomas was clipped by another Kiekhaefer driver, Speedy Thompson, midway through the hundred mile event. A multi car crash followed with several drivers knocked out of the event. But Thomas would be gravely injured and miss the remaining races and lose the championship to Buck Baker.

To his credit, Buck had to be firmly talked into finishing the season because he thought with Thomas out he had an unfair advantage. While it turned out well for Baker, as he won the championship, it was the last nail in the coffin for the Kiekhaefer racing effort.

It is said that Kiekhaufer quit after the '56 season because he had nothing else to prove. But with the booing of his cars because they seemed to win every race and his lack of, then very important, "folksy ways" now called "people skills" prevelent in stock car racing in those days he had become to feel like an outsider and a very unwelcome outsider at that.

"Mr. K" left stock car racing at the end of the '56 season a winner to pursue other interests and Herb Thomas left racing at the end of the '57 season. The first three time winner of the Southern 500 announced his retirement at the same race he had been injured a year earlier. The two time national champion had only started two races that season. The first was at the one mile paved track at Raleigh NC where he started 9th and finished 46th with brake problems. His last Grand National start was at the unlikely location of Lincoln Speedway in New Oxford PA. Starting 18th, and finishing 28th due to a bad hub, he took home $25 for his last payoff as a professional driver.

 
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