Fact Friday 166 - The Original Charlotte Speedway
From 1903 until the late 1920s, automobile racing developed a wide following in the South. After World War I, dirt tracks gave way to circular board tracks that were normally very short-lived. The exception was the original Charlotte Speedway, located nine miles outside of Charlotte in the town of Pineville. Shown here in 1924, the year it opened, the Charlotte pin and cypress plank track was considered the ultimate in automobile racing and hosted seven major 250-mile race events and fifteen races in total between 1924 and 1927. A group of local businessmen financed the $380,000 speedway, which was one and a quarter miles long with turns banked at forty degrees. For the opening race on October 14, 1924 almost 30,000 spectators watched Tommy Milton beat a field of ten other racers and break a world speed record by averaging 118.7 miles per hour.
This vintage postcard shows automobiles about to race on the wooden speedway track.
Initially the races drew thousands of Charlotteans to the first modern board speedway in the South. In May 1925 a crowd of 55,000 was reported, but the races remained profitable for only a short time, and by November 1926 attendance had dropped to 7,500. The last race ran in September 1927. Today the site of the speedway is occupied by the Southland Industrial Park complex. Although racing didn't succeed here in the 1920s, today it has become a profitable sport reoriented for a national market with Charlotte as its base. The city's main racing venue is now the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Built in 1959, it is considered one of the most important tracks in the sport and is home of the Coca Cola 600. The majority of NASCAR teams are based within 50 miles of the newer speedway, and Charlotte also became the home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Museum in 2010.
Until next week!
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Information taken from:
Charlotte Then and Now, Brandon Lunsford, 2013.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass