A Step into Nascar's Past: the Occoneechee Speedway
The Occoneechee Speedway started as a half-mile horse track built by General Julian Carr on the Occoneechee farm. It stayed that way until the mid 1940's when Bill France spotted the track while flying his plane. Seeing the track, France saw potential in expanding it and bringing his newly formed racing league to Hillsborough. France purchased the land from Carr in January 1948, and 5 months later, the first flag was waved. The race attracted over 17,000 fans and the Occoneechee Speedway was an instant success. For the next 20 years, Occoneechee Speedway hosted 2 races each year. But as the track's popularity grew, so did the outcry from local citizens and churches in Hillsborough. Many felt the racing on Sunday was disrespectful and the noise from the cars was too loud. France took all he could from the community and finally shut the track down. The final race was run on September 15th, 1968 with Richard Petty taking home the last checkered flag. France eventually took his dates and moved them to the newly built 2.66 mile Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Talladega hosted its first race in 1969 and has been a fan favorite ever since. The track has become famous for its speeds over 190 mph and close restrictor plate races. While Talladega is enjoying success on the circuit, whispers and what ifs can be heard from the woods in the community that once hosted Nascar. What would have happened had Bill France and the locals made peace and worked out their differences? Would Occoneechee have become what is now Talladega? While the questions are some to ponder over, they are some that will never be answered.
While the Sprint Cup series is heading down to Talladega every year, no one even has the slightest thought about the Occoneechee Speedway. The track should be remembered as the stepping stone that led Bill France down to Alabama. It should not just be another track that couldn't make it. If disputes had not occured between Nascar and locals, Occoneechee Speedway could still be around today. Think how crazy it would be, having Nascar come to the small hick town north of Raleigh/Durham for one of the biggest events of the year. As the saying goes, "Heroes don't die, they just fade away." The same could be said for the Occoneechee Speedway, that track that almost was.
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