When NASCAR was organized in late 1947, there was not an abundance of purpose-built race tracks available. Many of the early tracks were at local fairgrounds that hosted numerous other events.
As the sport grew with the superspeedway at Darlington, the search continued for venues that offered permanent seating and more spectator comfort. And now, as NASCAR gets ready to launch its 2022 season with the exhibition Clash on Feb. 6 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, these past stadium events are worth revisiting.
NASCAR found a home at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem, North Carolina, in 1950, a tradition that continues to this day, hosting weekly events. The 0.25-mile track at the football stadium hosted 29 Cup Series races from 1958 to 1971. The Cup race at Bowman Gray on Aug. 6, 1971 is the last time the Cup series competed on a 0.25-mile track.
NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers dominated at Bowman Gray. Rex White was a six-time winner; Junior Johnson, Glen Wood, and Richard Petty had four wins each. David Pearson had three.
Soldier Field in Chicago was famous for auto racing in the days before it became the home for the Chicago Bears. Initially a cinder track, several configurations inside the stadium held contests for “Hot Rods” and Midget Cars. NASCAR stars “Tiger” Tom Pistone and Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen competed in stock cars at the famous stadium before moving south to compete in the Cup Series.
On July 21, 1956, Fireball Roberts won a 100-mile Cup event at Soldier Field that featured 25 entries. Billy Myers, a veteran racer at the Bowman Gray Stadium, was the pole winner. Including Roberts, five drivers made it to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the field. Five drivers failed to finish due to brake problems, a common problem on such a short track.
Soldier Field also hosted the NASCAR Convertible Series three times, with Tom Pistone and Curtis Turner winning in 1956 and Glen Wood winning in 1957.
The NASCAR Cup Series also held an event at a stadium built for baseball. Located in Asheville, North Carolina, McCormick Field hosted the Cup series on July 12, 1958. There were 15 drivers in the main event on the 0.25-mile track. In the heat races, Lee Petty’s car ended stuck nose-first into a baseball dugout. Petty’s car was recovered, and he finished fourth in the 150-lap feature event. Jim Paschal was the winner averaging 46 miles per hour, edging Cotton Owens by a car length. Rex White finished third.
Since 2008 Ken Martin has held the role of Director, Historical Content, for NASCAR Productions in Charlotte.