Raleigh Speedway

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Raleigh Speedway (officially Southland Speedway nicknamed Dixie Speedway by fans[1]) was a one-mile (1.6 km) oval race track which opened in 1952 one mile (1.6 km) north of Raleigh, North Carolina in Wake County. It was the second superspeedway ever built (the first being the 1.366-mile (2.198 km) Darlington Raceway at Darlington, South Carolina). It was also the first lighted superspeedway and the first track on which NASCAR sanctioned night-time races. The track had a long and narrow shape, like a paper clip, with the front and back straights about 500 feet (150 m) apart and the straightaways about 1,850 feet (560 m) long. The turns were banked at 16° and the straightaways were flat.[2]

History[edit]

The track opened in 1952 as Southland Speedway. Its first major event was a 200-mile (320 km) AAA sanctioned IndyCar race held on July 4, 1952. That race was won by Troy Ruttman in an Offy powered Kuzma. From 1953 the track was known as Raleigh Speedway. NASCAR races were held at the track from 1953 to 1958. On the 1/4-mile (0.4 km) infield track there were weekly Modified an Sportsman races on Fridays. Occasionally, the Sportsman and Modified's ran on the one-mile (1.6 km) track. The Grand National series ran 100, 250, and 300-mile (480 km) races yearly (twice in 1955). The final three Grand National races were held on July 4, 1956, 1957, and 1958. When the Daytona International Speedway opened, the July 4 Grand National event moved to that track. Shortly thereafter, the Raleigh Speedway closed due to noise complaints from residents of nearby neighborhoods. The track was demolished in 1967. Most of the track site is now The Seaboard Industrial Park with the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (CSX) siding occupying the former location of the front straight. About 90' of the backstretch remain in the woods just southwest of the Progress Energy substation on Tarheel Drive.

Major race results[edit]

RaceDateFieldWinnerYear/MakeDistancePursePole Speed (mph)Race Speed (mph)
Raleigh 2001952-07-04 Saturday (Independence Day)24Troy RuttmanKuzma-Offenhauser200N/AN/A89.778
Raleigh 3001953-05-30 Saturday (Memorial Day)49Fonty Flock1953 Hudson300$13,10076.23070.629
Raleigh 2501954-05-29 Saturday (Memorial Day)†35Herb Thomas1954 Hudson250$9,15076.66073.909
N/A1955-08-20 Saturday29Herb Thomas1955 Buick100$6,07578.72276.400
N/A1955-09-30 Friday36Fonty Flock1955 Chrysler100$4,28582.09873.289
Raleigh 2501956-07-04 Wednesday (Independence Day)36Fireball Roberts1956 Ford250$13,42582.58779.822
Raleigh 2501957-07-04 Thursday (Independence Day)53Paul Goldsmith1957 Ford250$17,17583.37175.693
Raleigh 2501958-07-04 Friday (Independence Day)55Fireball Roberts1957 Chevrolet250$16,60583.89673.691

[3][4]

† 1954 Memorial Day, then always celebrated on May 30, fell on a Sunday. So, the 1954 Grand National race was held on Saturday, May 29.

Fatalities[edit]

The only fatalities at the track occurred during a night race on September 19, 1953. Drivers Bill Blevins (Ford) and Jesse Midkiff (Burlington, North Carolina) were killed during the start of a combined Modified and Sportsman race. Blevins car would not start as the 60-car field took off. He got a start from a push truck, but stalled and came to a stop in the racing line at the exit of turn two on the backstretch — perhaps under the mistaken assumption that he would get another push-start. Blevin's dark maroon car went unnoticed by race officials as the green flag waved. Some in the crowd noticed the stalled car and yelled and pointed, but the flag man never noticed. The remaining 59 cars exited turn two at full speed. One car ran into the back of the stalled car starting a chain-reaction crash. Blevin's car burst into flames, and with only two fire extinguishers at the track it took considerable time to get the fire put out. There was no way to get the driver out of the car with flames shooting 100 feet (30 m) into the air. Blevins and Midkiff were killed, and several other drivers suffered lesser injuries. At least 15 cars were severely damaged. It took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to clear the track, after which the race was shortened to 170 miles (270 km) and won by Buddy Shuman.[5][6]

Trivia[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The News & Observer: Raleigh could have been a NASCAR contender http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/05/08/474283/raleigh-could-have-been-a-nascar.html
  2. ^ Brow, Alan E., The History of America's Speedways, Past & Present, America's Speedway, 2006, ISBN 0-931105-61-7
  3. ^ ChampCarStats.com http://www.champcarstats.com/races/195203.htm
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Racing-Reference.info http://racing-reference.info/trackdet?trk=105&series=W&show=1
  5. ^ Motorsport Memorial http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/query.php?db=ct&q=circuit_a&n=3067
  6. ^ E-mail by Raymond James, dated 2006-11-14
  7. ^ Jayski's Silly Season Site http://www.jayski.com/next/2000/2000-dover.htm
  8. ^ Fielden, Greg, NASCAR Chronicle, 2003, ISBN 0-7853-8683-1
  9. ^ Arcticboys Metropolitan Advertising Graphics http://www.arcticboy.com/Pages/arcticboysmet.html
  10. ^ NASH-CAR.COM http://www.nash-car.com/media.html
  11. ^ Racing-Reference.info http://racing-reference.info/rquery?id=thomahe01&trk=105&series=W

Coordinates: 35°49′39″N 78°36′38″W / 35.82750°N 78.61056°W / 35.82750; -78.61056