Augusta's racing heritage to be remembered this weekend

Augusta International Speedway, which operated from 1960 to 1970, attracted some of the biggest names in racing. The Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society's annual remembrance festivities will be held this weekend.

The Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society will add five new members to its hall of fame Friday night as part of this year’s annual celebration of Augusta’s racing heritage.

All five inductees are former drivers who raced at the Augusta International Speedway, which opened May 1, 1960, and remained in business until July of 1970.

The Friday night banquet, which begins at 6 p.m. at Diamond Lakes Community Center, will be followed by Saturday’s Racers Reunion, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., also at Diamond Lakes, with vintage car displays, memorabilia and other festivities.

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.

This year’s inductees will be:

• Dink Widenhouse, who now lives in Charlotte, N.C., began racing as a teenager and earned four feature wins in Augusta during the early 1960s.

• James Burnett, from Union, S.C., was a frequent competitor in his No. 12 silver and black car.

• Leonard Sharpe, from Columbia, S.C., took 15 Hobby Feature wins in Augusta, starting with six-cylinder couples and later racing small block NASCAR hobby cars.

• Jack Cosnahan, raised in Augusta’s “Frog Holler” area, built his own 1938 Chevy couple to race at the speedway and later built a pink and black 1957/55 Chevy to run when NASCAR outlawed the old coupes.

• “Big” John Arrington won several features in NASCAR’s hobby division as well as two track championships. His career was cut short due to a racing accident at Columbia (S.C.) Speedway, but remained active helping other drivers set up their cars until his death.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Annual celebration of the opening of Augusta International Speedway

WHEN: Friday: Raceway Preservation Society Hall of Fame induction banquet, 6 p.m., Diamond Lakes Community Center. Tickets are $20. Call (706) 829-6825 for more details. Saturday: Annual celebration, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Diamond Lakes, with events including a classic and custom car show, vintage race cars and family fun. Free admission.

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Sat, 12/03/2016 - 00:51

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