By Eddie Samples
Posted in Feature Stories 1/29/10
When we first approached him for an interview, Georgia stock car legend Billy Carden initially declined, saying we should be talking to some of the drivers from either South or Middle Georgia.
“Those boys are not getting the recognition they should,” stated Carden, a native of Mableton, Georgia.
Carden was a legend on the tracks around Georgia. He began racing in 1947 along side the likes of Bob and Fonty Flock and Ed Samples. He won championships at Chattanooga and Nashville, Tenn., as well as at Huntsville and Birmingham, Ala., along with picking up wins and titles all over the state of Georgia including many at the legendary Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
He also made 73 starts on what is now known as NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series between 1949 and 1959. While he didn’t win at that level, he did record four top five finishes, two in 1951 and two in 1955. His best finish came on the half-mile dirt oval called Pine Grove Speedway in Shippenville, PA. There, he piloted his Sam Knox owned Oldsmobile to a third place finish.
Carden was also an occasional competitor on NASCAR’s famed convertible circuit in the late 50s. There he recorded one win in 1958 at Columbia, S.C., where he outdistanced NASCAR champ Lee Petty for the victory.
But perhaps his most memorable win came right at home. In 1950, Carden won the longest ever event to be held at the famed Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta, a 200-lapper put on by the AAA. Carden out dueled NASCAR champ Red Byron for the win in a race that lasted well over three hours.
We did get Billy to tell us a few of his stories, for which he is famous, and a brief background of his racing career.
“I started driving right after the war,” Billy said. “Bob Thompson of Mableton and a few of us decided to build a race car. We didn’t know anything about modifying engines back then. Red Vogt was one of the few mechanics in town that mastered that. He worked for Raymond Parks, who I knew from his Hemphill Avenue Service Station. Anyway, I was a quick study and before long, we were building good, fast motors.”