Originally created 09/09/04

Granite memorial to raceway will be unveiled Saturday



Henry Jones set up a volunteer group called the Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society about a year ago.

Its initial goals were to research the track and help Augusta Recreation and Parks keep the old track clean. The society soon evolved its goals to include raising money to place a memorial at Diamond Lakes Regional Park to remember Augusta's auto racing heritage.

Jones and his organization approached city officials and asked for a piece of land at Diamond Lakes, which was built on the site of the old Augusta International Speedway complex. In return, the society would raise the money to place a memorial to the 3-mile road course that once hosted one NASCAR race and two United States Road Racing Championship races.

"I thought it was a great idea," said Tom Beck, the director of the city's recreation department.

"It was a great way to preserve the legacy of the racetrack."

So, the city agreed and the society raised the $5,000 it needed for a 6-foot tall, granite memorial that will be dedicated at 1 p.m. Saturday at Diamond Lakes.

Jones is expecting several of the drivers who raced at either the Augusta 510 on Nov. 17, 1963, or at one of the USRRC races held March 1, 1964, to attend the dedication.

Ted Tidwell, an Augusta native, and Rex White, the 1960 NASCAR Grand National champion (think Nextel Cup champ), are two racers expected to attend. Other racers have expressed interest, but weather concerns for those in Florida and previous engagements for others have organizers guessing how many will attend.

"We don't really know what to expect," said Joe Cawley, a racing historian involved in both the preservation society and the East Georgia chapter of the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame.

Six notable absences will be racers who finished in the top seven at the NASCAR race. Glenn "Fireball" Roberts won the race, while Dave MacDonald, Joe Weatherly, Billy Wade, Larry Thomas, Jimmy Sardue and Ned Jarrett also finished in the top seven. Only Jarrett would survive to the next racing season. The Augusta race would be Roberts' last win. He died later that season from burns suffered in a crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Jones said later memorials will honor those six racers, among others. The society also wants to honor the other five tracks that once made up the speedway. But these memorials will take time, because the society is raising money internally and will not seek corporate sponsorship.

"This thing has not and will not be commercialized," said Jones, who is president of the area chapter of the hall of fame. "When you go there (to see the memorial), there are not going to be a bunch of banners hanging around. It's not about anyone making money."

The society's next move at Diamond Lakes will come once the library is finished sometime next year. The library will be located where the old pit row used to be and the original memorial will be moved to the library's courtyard. When it's moved, it will also gain a 5-foot tall base that will likely have the names of all drivers who raced in Augusta's three races.

TENNIS: Augusta native Pete Peterson won the South England Senior Championships tennis tournament in his 35-and-older age group.

The Aquinas graduate defeated the 15th-ranked player in his division en route to the win three weeks ago. Peterson is ranked 29th in the International Tennis Federation.

Reach Kristy Shonka at (706) 823-3216 or kristy.shonka@augustachronicle.com.