My ‘First’ NASCAR Race


Ken Stanford

By Ken Stanford-Guest Columnist
Posted in Columns 9/10/10

My first NASCAR race really wasn’t my first one.

That’s because rain postponed it. It was to have been the Atlanta 500, sometime in the early 1960s but rain got in the way.

I’m not sure of the year but I know it was the Spring race… then known as the Atlanta 500, the one that has just been pulled from NASCAR’s schedule.

There were three of us – still in high school – who set out from Moultrie, Georgia, early that Sunday morning headed to Hampton. As I recall, it was supposed to be the first NASCAR in-person experience for each of us… and since it was long before the races were on television, probably the first time any of us would experience flag-to-flag coverage in any form.

Until then, I had been limited to dirt track racing usually on a crudely-constructed track, maybe an eighth-of-a-mile in length in an open field on one of the thousands of farms that dotted the countryside around Moultrie. So, imagine how excited I was to finally be on my way to see the “big boys” – Fred Lorenzen (my favorite), Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett, Cale Yarborough, etc.

But, alas, Mother Nature had other ideas.

It became apparent by the time we got to Griffin that the race would probably be rained out. But we pressed on, determined not to turn around until we heard, officially, that the race had been called off.

I’m not sure when we got the word but I do know we made it all the way to the track and I got a good close-up look at Lorenzen’s car being hauled away on a flat-bed truck (no fancy enclosed trailers in those days) and completely uncovered for all the world to see.

So, the three of us turned around and headed back south.

But not far down the road was a roadside sign promoting Sunday afternoon racing at a small dirt track. I can’t even remember what town it was near but you guessed it… we wheeled off the main road and found it. It wasn’t NASCAR but it was racing.

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It seems only fitting that the Spring race is the one Atlanta Motor Speedway is losing since, as I recall, it had a history of battling inclement weather.

I’m not sure when I finally saw my first NASCAR race in person but it wasn’t too long after that, and the one that was supposed to be is one I’ll always remember.

Editor’s note: This column was originally posted at on Aug. 31.

Ken Stanford is the Newsroom Manager for Jacobs Media Corp. – WDUN-AM, WGGA-AM, WMJE-FM, and – in Gainesville, Georgia.

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