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Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 30

Iredell Speedway and Racing

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 3:37 PM by Jenny Levins

Have you ever wondered why Iredell County doesn’t have a stock car track? Would you believe it has something to do with Sunday morning preachers and some milk cows?

Iredell County could probably claim to have more connections to NASCAR than any county in the country, but we lack just one thing—a race track. But you know what? We used to have one.


Local history researcher Rodney Kennedy found a full-page ad in The Statesville Record on March 27, 1948, “Announcing the Official Opening of the New Iredell Speedway, Inc. Sunday, April 4th, with 100 laps of Fast Stock Car Racing.” The ad stated that the new Iredell Speedway would cater to the “Racing of the Stock Car Type and Possibly Some with Real Racing Cars.” The new track was located 8 miles north off the Turnersburg Highway. Ed Lowe and J.H. Church, incorporators of the speedway announced plans to run a series of stock car, race car, and motorcycle events at the new half-mile dirt track. The track had taken a year to complete and featured a grandstand for spectators with free and ample parking along with refreshments.


The first race held on April 3, 1948 featured 29 drivers competing in two ten-lap heat events, a 20-lap consolation, and a final 60-lap main event. The track was watered and sprayed with calcium chloride to keep the dust down. The entry list included, Bill Snowden, 15; Curtis Turner, 41; Otis Martin, 92; Johnny Grubb, 28J; Jim Cook, 3; Pap White, 4; Bill Blair, 2, Buck Baker, 3; Pee Wee Martin, 19; Leon Sales, 30; Bernie Sales, 60; Bruce Thompson, 0; Alfred Thompson, 1; Charles Allison, 22; Shorty York, 39. NASCAR Hall of Famer Curtis Turner won the first main event at the Iredell Speedway before a crowd of several thousand.


Other racers to compete at the track over the next few months included Ed Samples, the 1946 National Champion, Marshal Teague, Billy Carden, Buddy Shuman, Jimmy and Speedy Thompson. Smiling Curtis Turner returned to victory lane winning $500 on June 13, 1948 beating Glenn Dunaway before a crowd of five thousand in the 22 ½ mile main event. Three cars hurled over the bank at the north turn, but none were injured. The Iredell-Star Motorcycle Club sponsored an AMA (American Motorcycle Association) race at the speedway on June 27, 1948. Alex Sing beat little Joe Weatherly by a nose. General admission to the event was $1.50 and grandstand seating was .75 cents.


On Oct. 24, 1948 the Statesville Record featured an ad from the Iredell Speedway proclaiming, “For the First Time in North Carolina: Hot Rod Auto Races.” The ad featured a photo of Hot Rod racer Glenn Weaver of Bristol, Tenn., and explained, “A souped-up, stripped down stock car is the definition of a Hot Rod. These little cars which are claimed to be much faster than a stock car have been clocked in California, where Hot Rod, racing began, at speeds up to 150 miles per hour.” On April 18, 1949 a 100-lap stock car event sanctioned by the Interstate’s Racing Association was held at the track. The race featured brothers Al and Jimmy Thompson sons of former racer Bruce Thompson of Monroe.


So what happened to the Iredell Speedway and its fans? Jimmy Alley of Troutman remembers getting grounded by his Mom and Dad for running the family car on the speedway and dragging the sideboards in the dirt. He also remembers the local dairy farmers in the area near the track complaining that the noise and traffic from the races was bothering the local herds. Apparently a lot of the trouble came from the fact that the races were held on Sundays. State Senator C.H. Dearman purposed Senate Bill 193 prohibiting racing in Iredell County on Sundays. In 1949, Chapter 374 (S.B. 193), “An Act to make it Unlawful to Operate or Conduct Motor Vehicle Races in Iredell County on Sundays” was passed. Section 1 of the law read, “That it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation, on the Sabbath Day, generally known as the Lord’s Day, to operate or be in any manner interested in or participate in the operation of any race track or other places at which the racing of motor vehicles, including racing cars, stock cars, motorcycles, or other types of motor vehicles, is carried on in Iredell County.”


The new law shut down the Iredell Speedway for good. The Dec. 19, 1949 issue of the Landmark noted that the Iredell Speedway’s Certificate of Incorporation had been suspended by the state due to failure to file certain reports and payment of franchise taxes. J.H. Church, who had operated the speedway, turned the track into a fishing lake covering over three acres. A photo in the Statesville Daily Record on Jan. 12, 1950 showed Church and Clarence Estes with a 13 pound carp at Church’s Lake. The location today would be on Church Lake Rd. near Turnersburg off Hwy. 21 between 21 and Mocksville Rd.


Could the Iredell Speedway have one day become a NASCAR track? Consider this. The North Wilkesboro Speedway opened May 18, 1947 less than a year before the Iredell track opened. The Hickory Speedway opened in 1951. The Charlotte Motor Speedway was not built until 1959. Can racing ever be brought back to Iredell County? Perhaps, I hear Kyle Busch already made the inaugural first lap on Perth Road outside Mooresville and put down a time of 128 mph. Not on a Sunday of course.


Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “A look back at the short-lived Iredell Raceway” on June 3, 2011