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Early Stock Car Racing History


Curtis Turner Museum of Racing Legends

Curtis Turner Museum of Racing Legends, at the VA Museum of Transportation, Roanoke VA

Early Stock Car Racing History

The early days of auto racing in America became a popular hobby in about the 1890s on the open roads between towns. The cars were big called open wheeled and steering them was troublesome so there were frequent wrecks. In 1904 the first auto race in the state of Virginia was held on a horse track in Norfolk. The VECAA, [Virginia East Coast Automobile Association] the organizing sponsor from the Tidewater area, had originally wanted to hold races on the beaches of Virginia and North Carolina competing with the beach races already being run on Daytona’s hardy beaches. However, they demurred to the horse track as the Virginia and North Carolina sands made for too soft a beach course. Fairgrounds began to be noticed as good alternatives for auto racing and became more popular racing outlets by 1916 as was the case at the Virginia State Fairgrounds of Richmond.

By the mid 1930s auto racing had become even more of an organized sport. Although it gained in popularity thru the years it was very dangerous for onlookers as many standing by the roadside lost their lives from the big cars crashing off the road. Some of the first known speed trials were organized on Ormond Beach, FL before they later moved to the Salt Flats of Utah.

Also during the 1930s America went through the Prohibition era where legal liquor was not available anymore. Since people still wanted liquor, moonshine was born in the south to supply that demand. Of course the drivers were needed who could drive fast and well and didn’t mind being occasionally chased by the law. Hence, the birth of outrageous driving in the south on the mountainous back roads of Virginia, and the Carolinas, as well as in Georgia and Florida and even up into the north.

That outrageous driving taught many daring young men how to drive quite well! One young fellow from Floyd, Virginia learned how to drive a school bus at 10 from his Uncle Cam, so his Dad let him ride with a moonshine runner one day to see if he was ready to ‘haul shine’.  Well, he loved it and hence began a new career to help out the family business. This young man learned to drive so well and so fast by hauling moonshine over those mountainous winding roads that after he left that business that he went on to become a legendary driver in stockcar racing, and later in NASCAR; and that young daring man was, Curtis Turner.

Although Stock car racing went silent during the war years it resurfaced in 1945 with slimmer cars and a new zeal for speed. The first post war race in Virginia was held at the brand new Southwest Virginia Speedway on May 11, 1947. This track was a half mile dirt oval and the very first track ever built just for the purpose of stock car races.