Tim flock & the Mighty Chrysler 300


By Cody Dinsmore

I recently got married on May 4th, on what turned out to be a perfect day. Many variables made up the reasons it was a perfect day. One of which was getting to marry my best friend, and two, for the car I got to drive away in. It was a replica of the Chrysler 300 that pioneer racer and Hall of Famer, Tim Flock, piloted to his second NASCAR Grand National Championship in 1955. For me and my now wife, that particular car holds sentiment.  For the historian in me, the car represents a season of NASCAR dominance that held records for years. 

Let's go back to February of 1955. Atlanta's Tim Flock, who was declared NASCAR’s Grand National Champion as recent as 1952, went to Daytona Beach as a modest spectator. Tim, who was the youngest of the ‘Fabulous Flock Brothers’, abruptly decided to retire from driving following the Daytona Beach race a year prior in 1954. During that race, he was paired with a new team, driving a #88 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 and cruised to victory in the Grand National (Cup Series) race on the beach. At the time it was Tim’s first real win on the beach; he was initially flagged the winner in the 1952 Modified race, but was disqualified due to a technicality. That’s a story for another time.  Unfortunately, he would also be disqualified again following the 1954 race for a carburetor infraction. So having his win taken from him twice in three years, Tim decided enough was enough and his driving days were over. At that point, he had already won a championship and nearly 20 wins at the highest level of the fledgling NASCAR. He would still support both older brothers Bob & Fonty in their respective racing endeavors, but Tim was through….or so he said.

By the end of 1954, Flock had found himself back behind the wheel of a racecar for four races at the end of the season. His first race back, he qualified pole and finished second. 

So when the 1955 edition of the Daytona Speedweeks rolled around in mid February, Flock was in attendance, but without a ride. Also in attendance with a car, but no driver was a Mr Carl Kiekhaefer, of Wisconsin. Kiekhaefer was the owner, founder and inventor of Mercury Marine  (Then known as Kiekhaefer Mercury), which produced some of the world’s finest outboard boat engines. His company found great success in post war America and he wanted to capitalize on getting his name out to new eyes. He had dabbled in some brief racing events, entering cars both in the La Carrera Pan American road race in Mexico and several AAA sponsored stock car events, each time entering a Chrysler product. Wanting to tap into the fast growing NASCAR series, he bought a brand new Chrysler 300, numbered 300 and set off for Daytona complete with mechanics, engineers and a truck full of parts. The only problem was, he had no driver, but knew he’d find someone to drive at Daytona. The races on the beach were the biggest event of the year, often having more than 70 cars enter the Grand National race, and well over 100 in the modified/sportsmans race. When Kiekhaefer and crew arrived in Daytona, they put the new, shiny, long and white 300 on display for all to see, much like it was at a car show. The 300 was a new car offered by Chrysler and it was certainly a hot rod in disguise. It offered a 331 cubic inch hemispherical v8 (or Hemi for short), dual four barrel carburetors and host of other modifications from the factory that was good enough for 300 horsepower. That’s not a lot now, but in 1955, that was nearly unheard of. Sure it was a 4,000 lb car, but with an engine like that, it was sure to perform!

Remember earlier when I said Tim Flock was in Daytona without a car, and Carl Kiekhaefer was in Daytona without a driver? 

Once someone pointed out to Kiekhaefer that Tim Flock was at Speedweeks and without a ride, he bolted into action. He immediately located Flock and being the natural businessman he was, went to work on the ‘sale’. Flock had seen the 300 parked just the day before and commented on how that was sure to be a good racecar, but was unaware of the driver situation. Kiekhaefer offered the seat to Tim, but Flock was uninterested in driving again although he was impressed with his setup. Carl knew he couldn’t let Tim walk away. He was a fan favorite that was just over two years removed from his championship. Carl wanted to be the best, and he knew he had to have the best.  He offered Flock a $40,000 salary to be the top driver in his team for 1955! That was absolutely unheard of, but Flock knew with an operation like he saw and a company like Mercury Outboards, he had to take this opportunity.  In that era, it was highly uncommon for a driver to get paid a salary. In the early days of stock car racing, if a racer drove someone else’s car, they were lucky to keep the modest prize money, split it or keep the trophy. For reference, $40k from 1955 adjusted to today’s inflation rate is just shy of $468,000. 

So Tim Flock was once again on the entry list for a Daytona Beach race. His first time in the 300, for qualifying, he shattered a previous record. While the actual race was two miles on the beach, and two miles on highway A1A, the roads weren’t blocked until the day of the race. For all qualifying attempts, participants would do a standing mile on the beach, turn around, and run it back. Flock and his Hemi-powered 300 set a qualifying speed of 130.293 mph, over 7 mph faster than the previous record. And keep in mind, this was essentially a stock production automobile. 

In the race, Flock excelled on the long 2 mile straightaways, but would lose his momentum in the turns. The Chrysler had an automatic transmission (on the dash nonetheless) and could not downshift nearly as quickly and efficiently as the other cars with a standard transmission. Flock’s closest competitor that day was Daytona’s own, Fireball Roberts, driving the #M-1 Fish Carburetor Buick, wrenched by legendary mechanical wizard, Red Vogt. Fireball would go on to claim victory in the 160 mile race, a whole 1:14 ahead of Flock.  Fireball accepted the winner’s trophy and Tim accepted second place. Atleast he was able to finish this time. However, upon the post race technical inspection, officials found that the pushrods inside of the Roberts car had been ground down and polished. According to NASCAR’s rule book, that was illegal and the win would be disqualified, just as what happened the year prior. This time however, Tim Flock was finally the beneficiary of a technical inspection following a win at Daytona. Having been disqualified the year before and had his win stripped, now he was moved up from second to first place. 

In their first race together, Flock & Kiekhaefer won the pole and the race, the biggest of the year. And that was pretty much the theme of the year for the pair. In a 45 race season, Flock was entered in 38 events, won 18 races, 18 poles, and finished in the top ten 32 times. A season record that stood until 1967. By season’s end, he was declared NASCAR’s Grand National Champion for the second time in just four years. 

Carl Kiekhaefer, having a limitless budget, soon added more employees and cars to his team. By mid season, he hired Tim’s brother, Fonty, to drive a second car (#301) and even older brother Bob, for one race towards the end of the season. Frank Mundy won the AAA Stock Car Championship that year driving a 300 for the team and would make occasional starts in NASCAR with them as well. By season’s end, the Mercury Outboard team was quickly becoming the modern day Hendrick Motorsports. They had the fastest, most pristine cars and a team of engineers and mechanics, (not just wrench turners). Each member had a uniform and each car had it’s own truck it was transported in, as well as a dedicated truck full of any part the team might need. They were also the first cars in NASCAR to have corporate sponsorship, albeit from the teamowner’s pocket. 

For 1956, Tim Flock once again dominated Daytona Speedweeks, by putting his Chrysler on pole and winning the race. Kiefkhaefer made sure his name was known by entering SIX cars in the event - four Chryslers and two Dodges. Tim drove the #300-A, Fonty in #500-B, Charlie Scott (the first African American in NASCAR Grand National) in #300, Buck Baker in #301, Frank Mundy in #300-B and Speedy Thompson in #500.  Confusing right? 

Tim would only compete in 8 races in the Chrysler in 56’ before having a falling out with Carl. He did win three races however. Buck Baker became the #1 driver for the team, and just like Flock did before, would become Grand National Champion for 1956. 

Following the 1956 season, Kiekhaefer got out of NASCAR team ownership. In just two seasons, his team won everything there was to win. Two NASCAR Championships, 52 races (including 16 straight wins), 48 poles, two Daytona Beach races and a AAA Championship.

In their day, the Chrysler 300 was a rare car that was a proven winner. Just over 1400 were built for 1955 and even less out there today. That’s one of many reasons I was proud to pilot one away from my wedding. It also was the very first racecar I got to ride in at 11 years old. Back in 2007, as a young history nerd, I was asked if I would be interested in riding in that car in the Moonshine Festival racecar parade in Dawsonville Ga. Much like the hours leading up to my own wedding, I was so excited and nervous that I made myself sick. Getting to ride in that mighty 300 in the parade, and barely being able to see out the window, was such a thrill. The following year, I got to ride in the car again for the parade. Fast forward to 2021, it was the first time in many years that the Day Family (who owns this tribute) had brought the car to Dawsonville. Now being much older, they asked if I wanted to drive the car in the parade, of course! 2021 was also the year I started dating my now wife, Stevie, and in turn was the first vintage racecar that she got to ride in as well. Since then, it’s been on display at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville where I, like many of our guests, have the luxury of admiring it on a daily basis. 

When it came time to plan our wedding, and a getaway car was discussed, I had a few options, but only one was at the very top of the list. The one detail that sealed the deal was, as avid fans of the Cars movie franchise, Pixar used the 300 as a minor character in a racing scene with ‘Doc Hudson’ in Cars 3. So, a small diecast version of the Cars 300 was acquired and was used as our cake topper. So many little details that helped make Tim Flock’s #300 the ideal wedding getaway car for us. 

It was the first racecar I got to ride in as a child and the first car to begin a new chapter in life. It certainly holds a special place both to me and in the history books. It’s also a great reminder of why Tim Flock is remembered as one of the all time greats.