Columbus Speedway Site Of Triumph And Tragedy in 1948

Two years after Columbus Speedway’s first historic NASCAR season, the only Grand National event was held there in 1951. The race was promoted by Fonty Flock and won by Tim Flock. Photo courtesy Greg Fielden

By Eddie Samples
Posted in Feature Stories 4/9/10

Columbus Speedway, which was actually built in nearby Midland, Georgia, was in business from 1948 until 1952.

“It was developed because of the financial success they were having in Jacksonville, Florida, Macon and Jonesboro, Georgia,” GARHOFA historian Mike Bell told us.  “The men who built it were in the car business, except for Tom Sikes, a lawyer friend of some of the others.  The midget races across the Chattahoochee River in Phenix City, Alabama, were a success, so why not Columbus.”

When the track opened on Sunday, June 20, 1948, stock car racing was the rage and had been catching on all over the country as post-war entertainment, especially in the south.

There were a dozen or so people around Columbus who wanted to be players, so construction began early that spring.  Fifty thousand dollars and 45 days later, work was complete on a half-mile dirt oval, having been graded out of a clump of woods near the old Blackmon Road.

The facility was complete with homegrown pine grandstands from the local sawmill.  On opening day, the hullabaloo was furnished by dignitaries of the Columbus political arena and officials from nearby Fort Benning.

Bob Flock won the first race held at the Columbus Speedway on June 20, 1948.

Harold Hill, who owned the local Jeep dealership, served as vice-president of the speedway.  According to GARHOFA president Marvin Mills, Mr. Hill was a huge racing enthusiast.

“Right after the war, Mr. Hill would help out at Idler Hour Speedway’s quarter mile track in Phenix City,” Mills said.  “He would get an advertisement for his Jeeps by push-starting the midgets, since there were straight drives lacking a clutch.”

Hill also owned a car driven on opening day by popular Daytona Beach veteran Marshall Teague, making an all-star field that much brighter.  Even NASCAR czar Bill France Sr. hoped new racing records would be produced as what was predicted, as many were in the day, to be “the fastest half mile track in the country.”

The race went off without a hitch.  Nearly three thousand people found their way over from the city on a hot afternoon.  Atlanta’s Bob Flock won the feature, followed by Leonard Tippett and June Cleveland.  Teague finished fourth after car problems late in the race.   Doug Wells of Atlanta provided the thrills when he rolled his machine in the third turn, but luckily escaped injury.

The best part though, and never replicated since, was that not only did Bob win the feature in Columbus, but his sibling, Fonty Flock, was completing the same task at the same moment at the Birmingham Fairgrounds in Alabama, out-dueling Atlanta’s Billy Carden for the win. At the same time, at the fairgrounds in Greensboro, North Carolina, their kid brother Tim Flock took the win in the feature at that track, barely beating newcomer Cotton Owens of South Carolina.

Three brothers, three major wins in three different states, all on the same day.

That just ain’t gonna happen again.

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