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The Southern 500: Racing Memories

Southern 500.

I had taken a liking to NASCAR Racing in 1952 when I listened to the 1952 Daytona Race. This was back when it was run on the old Beach Course. Later, I listened to my first Southern 500.

I only lived about 50 miles from the track in Darlington, South Carolina.

In 1956 my first cousin and I talked our parents into letting us hitch-hike to Darlington and go see the race. After begging, they finally agreed to let us go.

On Sunday afternoon, a friend took us down to where US Highway 1 and Highway 52 divided. From there, we got a ride to south of Society Hill, SC. Later, we managed to get a ride to the racetrack.

When we got to the track we went to get our tickets, walked around and found a place we to sleep (though we did not get much).

The next morning, we found a place to get something to eat, and afterward made our way to our seats in the grandstands.

When the race started, Speedy Thompson was on the poll with Marvin Panch. Panch took the lead for the first lap, but Thompson soon took over. Tim Flock led for a while too, but Panch soon pulled back out front.

Curtis Turner led for about two laps, and I was rooting for him to win. Turner and Little Joe Weatherly were driving two 1956 Fords painted just alike, except for their numbers, of course.


Drivers such as Lee Petty, Buck Baker, Fireball Roberts, Tim Flock and his brother Fonty, Rex White, Paul Goldsmith, Junior Johnson, Hurb Thomas, Ralph Moody, and of course Curtis Turner and Little Joe Weatherly, all raced that afternoon. But no one was going to catch Turner.

I can still hear the track announcer calling the race “here comes Turner riding high wide and handsome off of turn 4, down the front straightaway into turn 1 high-wide and handsome off turn 2. Down the back straightway into turn 3 and back into turn 4 high wide and handsome down the front straightaway for the win.”

It was a great race, and thankfully, we did not have much trouble getting home after the race. In fact, we got a ride all the way back to Hamlet.

The next year I had my drivers license and drove to the track to see the 1957 Southern 500, and again in 1958.

Howard Richardson is a Richmond County native, writer, blogger, and NASCAR enthusiast/columnist.

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