In 1955 A VW Beetle Entered Two NASCAR Stock Car Races And Came In #6 and #8

no photos of the real races exist; this is a photoshop by Fuzzyman


A look at NASCAR’s 1955 short track championship season stats shows something unexpected: Volkswagen is listed in ninth place in the manufacturer’s points standings. That’s all due to a 1955 VW that was entered in two NASCAR late model stock car races and finished in the top ten both times; #6 in the first event and #8 in the second. It took a special exemption by NASCAR’s contest board to allow the 36 hp VW in these 200 lap races against 200+ hp big American stockers, held at the Contra Costa, California quarter-mile dirt track.

The naysayers predicted that the little Beetle’s air-cooled engine would never survive. Or be crushed by the big American cars. Or just left in their dust. They had to eat their words. And some even had to eat the Beetle’s dust.

I ran into this totally coincidentally, perusing a January 1956 Motor Life scan. There was an article about the upcoming stock car season, and how Chrysler was 9again) set to dominate the long tracks and Chevrolet (again) the short tracks. What caught my eye was Volkswagen, at number nine, as well as Jaguar, at number ten (more on that later). That seemed really odd, so I asked my CC super-sleuth, George Ferencz to see if you could dig up any old newspaper stories or pictures. As usual, he came through, with flying colors.

Here’s an article leading up to the first race, on June 5, and the VW gets in the headline. The Beetle was entered by Guido Ginochio of Contra Costa. Veteran driver Jim Graham, who the article identifies as a VW dealer in San Francisco, piloted it.”I feel that the reliability and handling characteristics of the Volkswagen will offset the horsepower advantage of the American cars. It will be easier on tire wear and expect to go all the way without a pitstop.” Graham said.

The article states that NASCAR only gave this exemption to Ginochio’s VW for the Contra Costa track.

Here’s a poor quality photo of Graham “tinkering” with the engine in the VW.

And another article on the upcoming race. Another unusual entrant was Fifi Scott, a young woman. There was a lot of pushback from the other drivers about letting her race, as this was “a man’s sport”, and race car drivers were notoriously superstitious about such things. The article on the left “On Second Thought” discusses the brouhaha over Scott’s entry in the race. She had already driven in a number of midget and “hardtop” races in California.

This article confirms that the VW also raced in a second event for late model stock cars on August 14, this time with 250 laps. Based on the standings, the Beetle came in #8 this time.

Strictly speaking, this was not the first time a VW raced in a NASCAR-sanctioned event, as this photo from 1953 attests. It was at Langhorne Speedway (in Pennsylvania). The 30 hp 1953 VW came in #19 in a field of 35, earning driver Dick Hagy $40.00 in prize money.  The other car is a Jaguar XK-120; there were several Jaguars and a couple of Porsches entered, and a Jag came in #6.

Another XK-120, piloted by Al Keller, won the the “International 100” NASCAR race that took place at Linden airport track on June 13, 1954.


These VWs were Herbie’s legitimate predecessors.