This weekend, NASCAR begins its 63rd year of racing at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem. It is the oldest NASCAR sanctioned racing series, and has had enormous success from the beginning to today. By the end of the season, Bowman Gray will have outdrawn all but a handful of the biggest NASCAR superspeedways in attendance for the year.
But few know that Winston-Salem had another early NASCAR track, originally known as the Winston-Salem Speedway, and eventually, the Peace Haven Speedway. Thanks to a local patron who grew up near the speedway site, we now know a great deal about this half mile dirt track that was located near the intersection of Peace Haven and Country Club Roads, off what is now Lynnhaven Drive.
The track, billed as North Carolina’s fastest, opened on Monday, July 5, 1948. The $2,500 purse was backed by local promoter Alvin Hawkins and NASCAR founder Bill France. NASCAR legend Curtis Turner won the first feature race, beating out such other fabled drivers as Tim and Fonty Flock, from Atalanta, Buck Baker and Fireball Roberts. Area drivers who would become local legends, such as Pee Wee Martin and Mocksville’s own Shorty York, participated.
After the race, Turner, who averaged over 70 miles per hour in the finale, said “This Winston track is the best in the country.”
In the decade or so of its existence, the track attracted many other local and area superstars, including the Myers brothers, Billy and Bobby, and Leon Sales, from Winston-Salem; Perk Brown, from Leaksville and Jimmy Lewallen, Jimmy Paschal and Robert “Handlebar” Walden from High Point.
The speedway also hosted national level motorcycle races. Zach Reynolds, RJR’s grandson, raced there as a teenager.
Our patron has posted a number of terrific images on his Flick’r site. To see them, go here. And be sure to send vibraswirl an e-mail thanking him for the many hours he has spent scrolling through microfilm in the North Carolina Room. It is this kind of individual dedication that enhances our view of the past.
For an interesting take on the current scene at Bowman Gray Stadium, including the long standing feud between the Myers and Miller families, as portrayed in Madhouse on the History Channel, see Jesse Kiser’s article in Yes Weekly here. Also see Tommy Bowman’s article, Stadium Racing to Start on Saturday here.
————————————————————————————————————————–Oops! Somebody got upside down. This image from Peace Haven Speedway hangs on the wall of J. S. Pulliam’s Barbecue in Ogburn Station, near the airport. If you are a hot dog nut and have never been to Pulliam’s, you must go there soon.