NASCAR Cup Series (1949-1957)
Fort Payne, AL native Truman Fontell Flock was one of NASCAR’s most colorful characters, competing in what is now the NASCAR Cup Series from 1949-1957. He had 19 wins, 33 poles and 83 Top 10s in 154 starts. The year before Cup racing started, Flock beat Ed Samples and Red Byron for the 1947 National Championship Stock Car Circuit title. In 1949, Flock won 11 features and the NASCAR National Modified Championship. That same year, a Daytona Beach Road Course event became the only one in NASCAR history contested by four siblings, Fonty, Bob, 1999 inductee Tim and sister Ethel. In 1951, Flock was runner-up to Herb Thomas for the Cup title despite shading the 2017 inductee in wins, Top 5s, Top 10s, poles and laps led. Flock won the following year’s Southern 500 wearing a T-Shirt and Bermuda shorts, which became his trademark. He retired after a 1957 Southern 500 crash that caused the death of Bobby Myers. Flock was inducted in the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.
By Buz McKim
Truman Fontell Flock was a member of the famed Flock Family of daredevils. His father was a tightrope walker and bicycle racer, and his sister Reo was an airplane wing walker. Brothers Tim (Class of 1999) and Bob along with sister Ethel were stock car drivers while brother Carl was a speedboat racer.
Fonty’s driving career began before WWII and picked back up following the war after serving four years in the Army Air Force. He was the 1947 national stock car champion and, in 1948, won a series-high 15 races, finishing second by only 33 points to champion Red Byron (Class of 2020) in NASCAR’s first season. (That inaugural NASCAR championship was for Modifieds. The first Strictly Stock – now Cup Series – championship came the following year.)
Flock got much of his early driving experience making moonshine runs through the hills of North Georgia. “I used to deliberately seek out the sheriff and make him chase me. It was fun, and, besides, we could send to California to get special parts to modify our cars, and the sheriff couldn’t afford to do that.”
Scoring a runner-up spot in 1949 in the first Strictly Stock event he said, “I went into that little old race in North Carolina in this car that was so stock I couldn’t have made her go 80 if I had to catch the promoter running away with the prize money.”
At the next race, on the Daytona Beach and Road Course, Fonty was one of four Flocks in the starting field, including sister Ethel, the only time four siblings have contested a Cup race.
He ended the 1949 season as NASCAR Modified champion. In the first three years of the category, Flock won an astonishing 34 times in just over 100 starts.
His most successful Cup season was 1951, when he came second in the standings to Herb Thomas despite edging the 2017 inductee in wins, Top Fives and Top 10s.
Overall, Flock won 19 Cup races and 33 poles in 154 starts, a winning percentage (12.3%) that puts him #12 all time, just behind Lee Petty (12.7) and ahead of Rex White, Jimmie Johnson, Bobby Isaac, Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt and Joe Weatherly. Petty, Allison, Gordon, Earnhardt and Weatherly are all inductees.
A natural showman, he was a crowd-pleaser with his Saturday matinee hero mustache, white button-down shirt, Bermuda (“Burmooda”) shorts, knee socks and wingtip shoes. He was known to win a race, climb on the car and demand the band play “Dixie.” At Columbia, South Carolina in March 1955, Flock took the first NASCAR premier series win for Chevrolet.
After his driving career he went to work for NASCAR as its national fan club director and found the land on which Talladega Superspeedway now sits. He later entered the insurance business in Nashville, Tennessee.
Flock died July 5, 1972 after a nine-year battle with cancer.
Said Atlanta International Raceway superintendent Alf Knight, “I guess Fonty did more for the sport of stock car racing than any driver who ever lived. He took it out of the cow pastures around the south and made folks all over the country take notice.”
Buz McKim is considered NASCAR’s pre-eminent historian, having held that position at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. He’s written several books and today is host of the weekly Legends of Racing Radio Show from Racing’s North Turn Restaurant in Ponce Inlet, FL.
Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher