Race down memory lane

Hall of Fame to induct track's first backers and stars

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This year's annual celebration of Augusta's racing heritage will be expanded to two days -- in honor of the 50th anniversary of the international speedway that once lured thousands of fans.

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The Augusta racetrack drew some of the top names in racing, including Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Bobby Allison.  Special
Special
The Augusta racetrack drew some of the top names in racing, including Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Bobby Allison.

"It's an important year for us," said Harvey Tollison, the president of the Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society. "The opening date was May 1, 1960, and it closed in July of 1970 -- so this is also the 40th anniversary of its closing."

When the speedway opened, it was among the largest of its kind and routinely attracted the biggest names in the stock car circuit, including Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Bobby Allison -- even Richard Petty.

One of its most important races occurred Nov. 17, 1963, when the "Augusta 510" was won by Glenn "Fireball" Roberts, an icon of his era who was killed the next season in a fiery crash in Charlotte, N.C.

Roberts' 1962 Pontiac, Tollison said, is among the vehicles that will be on display at this year's festivities and car show.

"In the past we've had just a Saturday event, but this year we're going to make it a two-day event because it's such a significant year," Tollison said.

The additional day will allow an induction banquet on Friday, Sept. 17, for the organization's newest Hall of Fame members. The event is also open to the public.

The honorees, he said, will include Bob Burson, who had the original idea of establishing a track but died of cancer before it was built.

His widow, Rosemary Burson Padgett, will receive the award. She is also the widow of Mike Padgett -- another race supporter who fought to keep the track open.

Tiny Lund, a frequent competitor at Augusta, was the subject of a documentary film, Hard Charger, portions of which were filmed at the Augusta speedway. The film company was owned by Hank Williams Sr.

Lund was killed in a crash at the Talladega, Ala., speedway. His widow, Wanda Lund Early, will attend the banquet to receive the award.

"Right now we're trying to find someone to help us get Tiny's car, which is at the International Motor Sports Museum in Talladega, Ala.," Tollison said.

"We have permission to exhibit it, but we have to find someone who can bring it here, and then take it back. But we're working on it."

Other honorees will be:

- H.G. Rosier of North Augusta, who launched his NASCAR career racing cup cars and micro-midgets at Augusta, and was part of a famous "40 day and 40 night" promotion at Daytona for Mercury's then-new Comet -- for which he became a touring spokesman.

- Bosco Lowe of Asheville, N.C., who won 19 races at Augusta, later became a test driver for famed race car builder Banjo Matthews, whose shop carried the logo, "Where Money Buys Speed."

- Tommy Porter of Savannah, who first raced in Augusta as a drag racer. He was a frequent winner and raced the popular Chevelles in 1969 and 1970. He later raced a Hemi-powered dragster built by Don Garlits.

The regular annual events, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Diamond Lakes Recreation Area, will include a classic and custom car show, vintage race cars on display and a swap meet. Admission is free.

If you go

WHAT: 50th-anniversary celebration of the opening of Augusta International Speedway

WHEN:

- Friday: Raceway Preservation Society Hall of Fame induction banquet, 7 p.m., Diamond Lakes Regional Park, with country cooking and music by Jaycie Ward. Tickets are $20. Call (706) 829-6825 for more details.

- Saturday: Annual celebration, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Diamond Lakes, with events including a classic and custom car show, vintage race cars on display, Fireball Roberts' 1962 Pontiac and a swap meet with car parts and memorabilia. Free admission.

DOCUMENTARY AVAILABLE: Copies of a one-hour documentary about the Augusta track will be available for purchase. Produced by Ken Moore and narrated by radio personality Harley Drew, the documentary released in Febraury tells the story of Augusta's NASCAR legacy from the track's creation until its closure in 1970. It is titled Augusta International Speedway -- a Race With Destiny.

Go back in time

Read stories about big-name drivers such as Richard Petty and Bobby Allison at Augusta International Speedway at augustaarchives.com.

Comments (11) Add comment
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smartie
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smartie 09/13/10 - 04:08 am
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what a shame for augusta,

what a shame for augusta, that this didn't work out. i've always heard mismanagement and politics closed 'er up. that's hard to believe? bad politics in augusta? who'd of thunk it?

cristinadh
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cristinadh 09/13/10 - 06:39 am
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so augusta was once the place

so augusta was once the place to be.. hard to believe!!!

fastz28girl
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fastz28girl 09/13/10 - 07:57 am
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Those were the days! Great

Those were the days! Great track to attend a race, too bad it had to be turned into a housing project. It could have provided much entertainment for families.

CATFISHSTEW
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CATFISHSTEW 09/13/10 - 07:59 am
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See if you can find "Miss

See if you can find "Miss Augusta International Speedway" Queen her name
was Molly O'brian....And she was the right Person for the title.I believe it was 1967. I think she still lives here.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 09/13/10 - 08:16 am
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AAAHHH what

AAAHHH what memories...sweet ones too. All the dirt & dust didn't matter, just fun at the time....all the big names raced there. The Fire Dept.-Police Dept.- Wrecker Service all donated their time because they loved it so. This could have been a money source for S Augusta ...gone with the wind as they say.

grinder48
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grinder48 09/13/10 - 08:54 am
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I heard a major reason it
Unpublished

I heard a major reason it closed is that the road course - the main attraction - was a great course for racing but fans could see very little. I attended "The Augusta 510" on 11/17/63 and remember it well. It was a great race but from where we were you could see the cars fly by for around 15 to 20 seconds or so, then nothing for a loooong time 'til they made their way all the way around the track (again, it was a road course), then the same thing would repeat. Anyone else remember that?

LAughing
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LAughing 09/13/10 - 10:10 am
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Building a new stadium is a

Building a new stadium is a dumb idea, you do NOT have the citizenry, besides why hasn't the River Race happening this year? Clean up the river then worry about street racing.

LAughing
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LAughing 09/13/10 - 10:10 am
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River watch would be perfect

River watch would be perfect for some sanctioned street racing especially with the jump over the canal.

AugustaVoter
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AugustaVoter 09/13/10 - 10:11 am
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So even 40 to 50 years ago,

So even 40 to 50 years ago, Augusta didn't support anything but golf. I see that "bug" was passed down to the next generation. Just waiting for the Southern Nationals to go away due to lack of support from the area. We've lost hockey, arena football, and lord know what else in the years past due to this behavior.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 09/13/10 - 02:36 pm
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Good memories at the Augusta

Good memories at the Augusta International Raceway. As a ten year old about 1963 I was privileged to attend races and stunt shows on the oval. I never saw a drag race but after it closed we would go to the drag strip and race our personal cars. That did not last too long because the track was somehow plowed up from side to side so that we could not race anymore. It was the day of Mopar, Chevy and Mustangs. I raced once in my 1971 VW bug and beat my oponent who was driving a 1968 Bug. Lot of memories and a lot of great fun. Does anyone know who built and paved the tracks? I think it might have been Mr. R. G. Foster from Wadley.

Taylor B
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Taylor B 09/13/10 - 03:26 pm
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Sweet son, they race

Sweet son, they race aircooled VWs at Jackson still. I used to take my type 4 powered 61 down there. There are a few 13 second beetles down there. I haven't been there in years, in fear I will catch the "bug" again...

Sweet son
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Sweet son 09/13/10 - 03:48 pm
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Taylor, I will always have

Taylor, I will always have the bug fever. A neighbor arond the corner has what looks like about a 1965 or maybe earlier. I keep watching to see if will be forsale. New bugs have become a "girl" car so I reallly don't want one. I don't know abut time in the quarter, I just know that I won. I have even owned several Rabbit's which included a pickup. Great fun!!

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