August 13, 1916|
Halstead, Kansas, U.S.
|Died||June 23, 2000
Newton, Kansas, U.S.
|Cause of death||Heart and liver failure caused by cancer|
|Achievements||Winner of first NASCAR Strictly Stock Series race|
|NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career|
|2 race(s) run over 1 year(s)|
|Best finish||16th (1949)|
|First race||1949 Race No. 1 (Charlotte)|
|Last race||1949 Race No. 3 (Occoneechee)|
|First win||1949 Race No. 1 (Charlotte)|
Christian David "Jim" Roper (August 13, 1916 – June 23, 2000) was a NASCAR driver. He lived in Halstead, Kansas. He is most known as the winner of the first NASCAR Strictly Stock (now Sprint Cup) race.
Roper lived at his grandfather's horse farm in Halstead. Roper was interested in playing basketball until his grandfather purchased a Chevrolet Pontiac car dealership and gave a 1930 Chevy to Roper. Roper said "I raced that thing seven nights a week, even in the middle of winter, on a figure-eight dirt track, the kind you pass in the middle both ways. I could get that Chevy up to speeds of 60 to 70 miles per hour."
Roper purchased a midget car in 1944. He was first able to use the car after World War II, since all racing was halted in the United States during the war. He drove numerous types of cars after the war. He won the Beacon Championship at CeJay Speedway in Wichita, Kansas in 1947 in a track roadster. He also raced on the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) circuit in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Missouri.
Roper heard about the first race at a three-quarter mile dirt track in Charlotte, NC by reading a note about it in Zack Mosley's The Adventures of Smilin' Jack comic strip in his local newspaper. Roper convinced local car dealer Millard Clothier to drive two of Clothier's Lincoln cars more than 1000 miles to Charlotte to compete on June 19, 1949. Roper finished in second to winner Glenn Dunaway, completing 197 of 200 laps. Chief NASCAR inspector Al Crisler disqualified Dunnaway's car because car owner Hubert Westmoreland had shored up the chassis by spreading the rear springs, a favorite bootlegger trick to improve traction and handling . Roper was credited with the win in NASCAR's first Strictly Stock race. Westmoreland sued NASCAR, and the judge threw out the case. NASCAR tore down Roper's motor after the race, so he had to get a replacement motor to drive back to Kansas. Clothier kept the winner's trophy.
He used the same car to finish fifteenth in NASCAR's third race in his only other NASCAR start. He finished sixteenth in the 1949 final points standings.
Injury and end of racing career
He continued racing in midgets in Kansas until he broke a vertebra in a sprint car accident in Davenport, Iowa in 1955. He decided to retire after his injuries healed. "It was over for me then," he said, "so I flipped a half-dollar (coin) to decide whether to raise horses in Texas or Washington. Texas won." He later became a professional flagman and built racecars. On June 23, 2000, he died in Newton, Kansas from heart and liver complications related to cancer.
- "50 Years of Speed". American Media Operations. 1997. p. 10.
- Motorsport.com: News channel
- "Racer Jim Roper, 83, Winston Cup Series' Pioneering Winner". The New York Times. July 1, 2000. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- Newton Reents, Jennifer (June 24, 2000). "First NASCAR race winner dies at age 83 in Newton". The Newton Kansan. Newton, KS. Archived from the original on 2003-07-08. Retrieved 2013-10-30.