By Mike Bell
Posted in Feature Stories 7/9/10
One of the victims of the New South and the ever-expanding boundaries of the New South “Capital” was the Peach Bowl Speedway on Brady Avenue in Northwest Atlanta.
It all started when Roy Shoemaker built the small quarter-mile oval for midget racing. He spent some $100,000 to $150,000 to build a full dirt track with seats for 5,000 fans, a large pit area off the backstretch and acres of free parking.
A diner and lounge was to be a part of the facility, but a permit was never given by the city, so Roy turned the building into the Peach Bowl Garage, which later became an auto auction, said to be one of the largest in the nation at that time.
But Roy’s background was baseball. He played for several years in the amateur league in Atlanta, and played professionally as a pitcher at Columbus, Georgia and Mobile, Alabama.
The first year of operation for the Peach Bowl was 1949. The speedway saw a variety of programs, but the only auto racing was from the midgets. After the Southern Drivers Racing Club midget races started on Saturday nights, there were wrestling matches in a ring setup in front of the grandstands on the home stretch. The crowds were good for both attractions. In August of that year, there was even a professional boxing program brought to the front straight with an exhibition by then champ Ezzard Charles.
But the mainstay was midget auto racing. Crowds numbered to capacity every Saturday night to see the “doodlebugs” of motorsports broadslide through the dirt turns.
Bill Blalock of Decatur won the first midget race held at the Peach Bowl Speedway. Woody Campbell, of Knoxville, Tennessee, would in the second, while fellow Knoxville racer Tex Keene won the third feature race.
The races would continue through the summer and into fall. Campbell would win again, then Jimmy Reid of Phenix City, Alabama. Stock car ace Red Byron, driving Atlanta car owner Raymond Parks’ latest racing venture, also picked up a feature win.
A driver they called “Wild Bill” Miller of Evansville, Indiana, started to win so much at the Peach Bowl that he moved to Atlanta. But when it was all over, Bill Blalock of Atlanta won the 50-lap championship race on October 3 to close the first season.
During the summer of 1949, an experiment was conducted at the Peach Bowl. Stock car races were held. Actually, three drivers, 1946 National champion Ed Samples, Roscoe Thompson, a man destined to win many races at the Peach Bowl, and Olin Allen of Atlanta ran a special 10-lap race. Samples won in three minutes and two seconds with Thompson second and Allen third. Somebody was watching this.