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Stock Car Revolution

Mercury Stock Car Article600w

We found this great article on Carl Kiekhaefer, founder of Mercury Marine in the March, 2016 edition of Muscle Machines Magazine. Follow this link to view the article online and see a history of awesome pictures!

Photography for the article was courtesy of Mercury Marine.

Stock Car Revolution

Carl Kiekhaefer’s groundbreaking preparedness and determination set the NASCAR world ablaze in just two years.

Feature Article from Hemmings Muscle Machines

March, 2016 – By Matthew Litwin

According to NASCAR’s history books, Elmer Carl Kiekhaefer, founder of Mercury Marine, suddenly plunged into stock car racing when he arrived at Daytona Beach in February 1955, with a single car and no driver. NASCAR’s newest car owner hired 1952’s series champion Tim Flock and proceeded to rewrite the business of full-body racing in America. But Kiekhaefer’s on-track success didn’t happen overnight, as lore suggests.

Kiekhaefer, a native of Wisconsin, got his first documented taste of auto racing when he entered a pair of Chrysler Saratoga Club Coupes in the 1951 La Carrera Panamericana, driven by established legends John Fitch and Tony Bettenhausen. By 1953, Kiekhaefer had expanded to a four-car effort, and joining Fitch were Reginald “Speed” McFee, Bob Kurf and Frank “Rebel” Mundy. A year later, Kiekhaefer primed a Chrysler for Bettenhausen to compete in the AAA’s stock car division, resulting in a dominating win at Wisconsin’s famed Milwaukee Mile.

Having mastered the logistics of organizing a competitive team for international and domestic races, Kiekhaefer turned to the rapidly expanding NASCAR stock car series to promote his outboard motors. But due to Bill France’s dispute with the AAA, its drivers were not permitted to race in NASCAR unless a letter of exclusivity was signed, which would prevent Bettenhausen from competing in lucrative open-wheel races, including the Indy 500.

Undeterred, Kiekhaefer prepared a 1955 Chrysler 300 for NASCAR and, as mentioned, hired Flock. Their instant success prompted Kiekhaefer to expand, entering multiple meticulously prepared Chryslers or Dodges in most races. The effort resulted in the 1955 and ’56 NASCAR championships–snapshots of which we present here–for Flock and Buck Baker, respectively. In just two years, the outboard motor magnate also amassed a staggering 52 wins as team principal, along with 52 poles and 139 top-10 finishes by 11 drivers in just a combined 190 starts–a NASCAR record at the time.

Yet, success came with a price. His team’s dominance angered fans and competitors alike, baffling Kiekhaefer. Compounded by pressure from factory-backed teams and rising costs, Kiekhaefer left the sport before the ’57 season commenced.