25/9/1923 - 14/2/1999
Jimmy Florian was a little known mechanic when he started racing in the NASCAR Grand National Division in 1950 driving a flathead Ford. He went on to take Ford's first NASCAR win later in the year at the Dayton Speedway. Jimmy Florian died 23 years ago, he was 76 , He would have been 99.
Jimmy Florian was a little known mechanic, born in Cleaveland, Ohio, when started racing in the NASCAR Grand National Division in 1950 driving Skip Krauslack's flathead Ford sponsored by the Euclid Motor Company. He had been racing midgets before moving up to the big league.
He was given little chance against the Oldsmobile Rocket overhead valve engines but soon got the attention of other drivers when he finished third in his first race at Langhorne. He put the flathead on pole at the Canfield Speedway in Ohio and finished 6th and came 8th at the Vernon Fairgrounds, New York. Then on June 25 at Dayton Speedway he scored Ford's first win in the series. With 35 laps to go, he passed Curtis Turner to take the lead and built up a half lap advantage by the finish. Unable to accept that they have been beaten by a flathead Ford, Turner, Weatherly and Petty all protested. But after NASCAR officials inspected the car it was declared completely stock and the win was official. Florian emerged from his car in victory lane wearing only white trousers. He had decided that it would be more comfortable not to wear a top on the hot and muggy day and, since NASCAR rules didn't require one, he drove shirtless.
In 1950 he made a total of ten starts in NASCAR Grand National Division scoring 1 win, 3 top 5s and 6 top 10s.
In 1951 he drove Don Rogalla’s Oldsmobile 3 times and also campaigned his own Ford in 6 races recording a fourth place finish on the 1-mile dirt track at Bainbridge Speedway in Ohio and another fourth place finish at the ½-mile dirt track at Pine Grove Speedway in Shippenville, Pennsylvania. He had 2 top 5 finishes and 5 in the top 10 during the 1951 season.
In 1952, Florian he raced his own Oldsmobile at West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach before switching back to a Ford for Jacksonville, Columbia, Atlanta, and Macon. He picked up 2 top-10s for the season.
He only raced once in 1954 driving a Hudson at Daytona Beach, finishing 37th.
He retired from NASCAR Grand National but continued to race midgets and sprint cars. In his 60s, he participated in the Vintage Auto Race Cars exhibition races, finally retiring from racing completely at 70. He sold his vintage sprint car two years later.
Jimmy Florian passed away after a battle with cancer in February 1999. He was 75.