It is a surprise to many people, but a Jaguar won a NASCAR race. This race victory took place in Linden, New Jersey during a race held on June 13, 1954. The race was NASCAR’s first “road” course race and technically it was a road course, but it was actually held at an airport Linden. The race was known as the “International 100 Mile Race.” The layout the Linden race track used is shown below.
On that day 21 cars in the 43 car field were non-American cars, including 13 Jaguars, 5 MG cars, one Austin-Healey, one Morgan, and one Porsche. This was not the first time that foreign cars had raced in a NASCAR race before. On June 21, 1953 “foreign” cars had participated in a race at Langhorne, but that race had been won by Dick Rathmann in a Hudson.
In the race at Linden, it is surprising to me that the fastest qualifier was NASCAR star Buck Baker in an Oldsmobile 88, with another NASCAR star, Herb Thomas, qualifying second in a Hudson. A Jaguar driven by Eric Peterson qualified third. That two NASCAR large American stock cars could out qualify a Jaguar on a road course is impressive. The eventual winner, Al Keller, qualified seventh in a Jaguar that was owned by renowned bandleader, Paul Whiteman. Keller was a journeyman racer who had won a NASCAR race that March in Savannah, Georgia and later had solid career in Indy car racing.
The Jaguar Won The NASCAR Race At New Jersey In 1954
When the race started Baker and Thomas fought for the lead, but around the halfway point Keller’s Jaguar took over the lead and lead for the final 28 laps, finishing about 1/2 mile ahead of Joe Eubanks in a Hudson. Buck Baker in his Oldsmobile 88 wound up in third position. Jaguars finished in fourth, fifth, and sixth positions.
NASCAR clearly decided that road courses with “foreign” cars was not where they wanted to go. However over the years, NASCAR has added some road course races to its schedule. In 1958 there was another NASCAR race that included non-American cars at the Riverside, California track. At that race, two Citroëns, a Renault and a Goliath competed. The Citroëns finished 18th and 19th, and the Goliath finished 27th, while the Renault posted a DNF. No other “foreign” cars appeared again in NASCAR races until 2007 when Toyota began to race in NASCAR.
Keller went on to compete in some additional NASCAR races and raced five times in the Indianapolis 500 between 1955 and 1961. His best finish was 1961 when he finished 5th. On November 19, 1961 Al Keller was killed while taking part in an Indy car race at the Phoenix track.
The Jaguar victory in the NASCAR race in 1954 is not a victory that commonly shows up in Jaguar racing records, but it was the last NASCAR victory by a “foreign” car for more than 50 years until Toyota began NASCAR racing.
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