Full disclosure: I know both authors of this work of history and I’m familiar with the vast sweep of their output and knowledge. Al Pearce and Mike Hembree represent nearly 100 years of combined experience in covering American motorsport and its history, one of our favorite topics. So it was rewarding to see these gentlemen combine their nearly endless knowledge to tell the stories of 50 breakthrough wins by the elite of NASCAR, going back to when Bill France Sr. first attempted to organize stock car racing into something coherent. 50 First Victories, a 236-page review, appropriately begins in the right place: With the story of Jim Roper, who hauled all the way from Kansas to win NASCAR’s first Strictly Stock race at the old Charlotte Fairgrounds, which came after the supposed winner was tossed for bootlegger-style weight jacking, which was then prohibited.
As the cover makes clear, the book is an episodic march through the generational greats that have made up the Cup series’ history, with deep dives into some of the luminaries whose names are still spoken with quiet respect. Our personal favorite will always be the tale of Tiny Lund, who won the 1963 Daytona 500 in storybook fashion after the Wood Brothers’ regular driver, Marvin Panch, was critically burned in a sports car preliminary and personally asked the Woods to put rideless Lund in the seat. Second fave for us is Harry Gant, an utter terror in Sportsman type racing who snapped an out-of-sight Cup losing streak in 1982, fittingly at Martinsville, thus becoming NASCAR’s “Mr. October.” This is a hugely entertaining and easily digestible book at 236 pages from Octane Press.