Promoter Alvin Hawkins driving an early pace car
WINSTON-SALEM, NC - This Saturday at Bowman Gray Stadium will be a momentous event 67 years in the making: The Madhouse hosts its 1000th event of NASCAR racing action.
Two of the men who started NASCAR, Bill France Sr. and Alvin Hawkins, had a vision of a regular weekly racing showcase to build up a fan base for the sport. And on May 18, 1949, they followed through by holding the first ever NASCAR race at Bowman Gray Stadium.
As NASCAR’s first and longest running weekly track, the legendary quarter-mile has been part of the history of NASCAR from the very beginning. The list of winners reads like a who’s who of racing, and the overwhelming majority of NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees have some connection to the Stadium.
Richard Petty won his 100th race at Bowman Gray Stadium. “It was one of the highlights of my career to win the 100th race and also to win it basically on our home track,” said Petty. “I think Bowman Gray stands out because it was an original NASCAR race track. They started even before we had Cup racing.”
Richard Childress fell in love with racing hawking peanuts from the stands and then later taking the wheel himself. “I have so many memories - from a kid selling peanuts and popcorn to driving racecars,” said Childress. “It was a lot of family stuff with it – and that’s the way Bowman Gray Stadium is,” said Childress.
“Short track racing is really close and tight racing and bumping and banging and sliding – and all of that makes a better race driver at the end of the day,” said Childress.
Junior Johnson won at the Stadium four times. “It’s such a part of everybody’s life in Winston-Salem and around. If they stop running at Bowman Gray, you might as well stop running in North Carolina almost - because that is the backbone of the sport,” said Johnson. “I’m just glad I got to race on it and do as good as I did.”
Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett never won at Bowman Gray Stadium, although he usually finished well. “There’s always a lot of action. That’s what fans go to races for is to see action. And sometimes you have to bump somebody out of the way to get around them,” said Jarrett. “It’s just good family entertainment.”
“It’s amazing that they have been able to sustain a top notch operation for so many years and a great fan base. When I was racing there, I had no idea that we would see the track go into its 1000th running. That’s absolutely amazing. But again, that goes back to the management, to the competition, the drivers, their familes – everybody that was involved It took so many things to make it what it has been and what it continues to be today,” said Jarrett.
The historic 1000th event occurs this Saturday at Bowman Gray Stadium. And fans can see it all for the best price in town – it will be Two Dollar Ladies’ Night. All women are admitted for only two dollars to see twin 50s for the Brad’s Golf Cars Modified Series, as well as racing for the Farm Bureau Insurance Sportsman Series, the Q104.1 New Country Street Stock Series, and the McDowell Heating & Air Stadium Stock Series.
The first 1000 fans will receive a custom, limited edition pennant commemorating the 1000th event. All participating competitors will receive a certificate personally signed by members of the France family. And in honor of the 1000th event, one lucky fan will win a $1,000 Diamond Ring from Hayes Jewelers. Gates open at 6:00 for practice, and the first race begins at 8:00 PM – this Saturday night. Ticket prices, directions, and more information can be found online at www.bowmangrayracing.com or by calling (336) 723-1819.