short track racing


A great piece from Bob over at 4Ever3 on the importance of local race tracks. It reminds me a lot of what the Petaluma Fairground track went through.
Folks moving next to a race track and then complaining about it. We lose short tracks and home tracks each and every year. It sucks.

This is one of the things that means the most to me in my quest to try to ensure people understand how important race track heritage is. Local history, local pride and local legends are alive at every home town track.

Clickity! The Tale of a Grandstand

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I was very excited, as one might guess, to learn that the History Channel was going to air a documentary (docu-drama) on Bowman-Gray Stadium. The advertising for the show before it aired, boasted that 61 years of tempers and hard racing made Bowman-Gray part of the “holy land” of racing. And it does. And it is the oldest sanctioned track. The stories, the rivalries and the feuds which are a part of the track can be traced back through the history of stock car racing in North Carolina..

Which they totally and utterly ignore.

Madhouse completely disregards any history that the track represents and instead focuses on the lives of two racers and their bitter rivalry. Which is fine. Except that it is the History channel. I don’t think that I could be anymore disappointed in the series.  Rather than focus on a part of America that is still stereotyped and exploring the contributions of stock car racing to American history and rather than celebrating a real American institution (61 years is not that far off from 100 years of stock car racing!) the program focuses on what can only be perceived from the outside as a whole bunch of rednecks.

Stock car racing is a passionate, intense sport. And yes, there is the cultural element that most people negatively stereotype as rednecks. But you know, all these elements can be explored in such a way which actually examines what makes stock car racing exciting and what makes such a unique and important part of American culture.

The second episode is tonight. I will catch it on the second roll through at 11. I wish that I could say that I was excited to see it. Other than the racing clips which feed my need for the racing season to start up again, there is very little that Madhouse can offer.

Well, and defending my master’s thesis. Apparently, they think that I do, in fact,  know something about historic race tracks. And that I can defend my research in an academic setting. One of these days, dear readers, I hope someone at the new and upcoming NASCAR Hall of Fame, or NASCAR or a team or someone in motorsports feels the same way!

I got to defend my thesis out at Martinsville Speedway. It was a beautiful day for it. Perfect for talking about stock car racing heritage and why its important. After 3.5 hours (yes, really) of defending my stuff, I headed out to Bowman-Gray Stadium. Lots of fun Saturday night short track racing. Hi to my new friends out there!

And to make sure that  I got my fill of NASCAR’s first tracks, I spent Sunday morning walking around Occoneechee Speedway. The only stock car track to be listed on the National Register. Yes, Indy is on there, but they  wouldn’t let us come play until 1994, so we’re just going to let Occoneechee have its own honor.

I need to find some good early pics of Occoneechee. It was a ghost track, until Preservation North Carolina and HOST stepped in to save it. Its now a beautiful walking trail- part of a larger one actually.

Oh well, heck! Ask and you shall receive. If you go take a peek at the Eno River Valley Home page, there it is! What the track used to look like!  http://www.enoriver.org/eno/parks/occspdwy.htm

I will upload my pics, and you can see the changes in the landscape. The track was closed in 1968, when some of the more uptight citizens didn’t take too kindly to having the roar of stock car engines in their county. Occoneechee held races from 1948 until 1968. Big Bill France purchased the lot (and incidentally, sold it to Preservation North Carolina, giving it a second life) and added it to the schedule. According to the brief history on their website, 17,000 folks showed up to watch the cars along the one mile dirt track.

Bob Flock won that first Strictly Stock race in his 48 Olds. It was  the third race of the season.

As I walked along the track, I fancied that I was the only one of the handful of folks out there that day that was a race fan. Two joggers, two dog walkers. All going the wrong direction for a race track. 😀

My best surprise of the day was coming up on the concrete bleachers. I knew that they were there, I had seen pictures…but the site of this rural ruin, a piece of stock car racing history, well, it took my breath away. Went and sat up at the top for a long time and thought about the cars going by. Go visit! Its free, its beautiful and its racing history! We like that! I was excited that I got to get to three of eight (!) of the first tracks that NASCAR raced at, ever. If I had more time this weekend, I would have gone on out to North Wilkesboro again, just for the heck of it.

Pictures? ok!

When stories about race tracks losing a date come up, poor Martinsville is always at the top of the list.

They’ll say its old, its small, its not in a “media market” or some similar nonsense. Articles mention that its the last track from the first year of NASCAR (Darlington came around one year later) but the significance of Martinsville is often downplayed.

Articles instead like to point out things  like a shiny new casino that might be built at Kansas and insist that race fans want slot machines instead of good racing. Of course race fans won’t notice if there’s no good racing, they’ll be too busy yanking on the one arm bandit.

This time, its different. An article from ESPN Insider (via Jayski) actually mentions the possibility of a date change and says that Martinsville is safe.

Yes, its just a column, but its a remarkable change in tone.
The author notes that Bristol’s repaved surface has made Martinsville one of the last tracks with real racing. Of course, wouldn’t it be nice if the Powers that Be really put some stock into that kind of thought…short track racing..we like it, yes?

I am excited that a very positive economic impact study for Martinsville was just released, and that there are articles or columns like this out there.
We’ll see. I just thought that it was an exciting change.

Interesting blurb on North Wilkesboro too. Positive and negative at the same time. I will get to that either tonight or tomorrow.

Or hell, just give me some good short track racing.

It’s time to head on back for some Saturday night racing at Richmond!

Some easy stats for Richmond for now. The original dirt track of the fairground measured more accurately at a true 1/2 mile and was paved over and lengthened during the summer months of 1968.

The track was redone again in 1998- when it went from a half mile (well, really a .625-er) to .75 mile track.

David Pearson won the last dirt track race, Richard Petty won the first race on the newly paved surface and in the modern era Rusty Wallace dominated the track.

More later!