Fairgrounds Speedway historical marker

Fairgrounds Speedway (H-120)

After 1928 popularized Indy-style car racing. Site hosted the last NASCAR race on dirt track, 1970. Half-mile oval was 250 yds. SW.

Location: Blue Ridge Road at Trinity Road in Raleigh
County: Wake
Original Date Cast: 2010

The remains of old dirt tracks dot the Carolinas, with saplings poking through the stands and undergrowth overtaking sites where stock car racing had its start. Several North Carolina speedways have particular significance to the development of the sport. The Charlotte Speedway, predecessor to Lowes Motor Speedway, is ground zero, the site of the first sanctioned NASCAR race in 1949. The North Wilkesboro track is especially meaningful to fans as it was for fifty years part of the racing circuit before losing its race in 1996.

A former track that is not overgrown is the old Fairgrounds Speedway, part of the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. The grandstand remains and sections of the old track are used each October. Dirt track racing appeared in the South just prior to World War I with Indy-style (or open-wheel) cars the standard for a generation. Interest grew in the 1920s when the open-wheeled cars competed in events sanctioned by the American Automobile Association. When the fair moved to its present site in 1928, the increasingly popular sport came with it. As a premier venue with access to fairgoers from across the state, the speedway boosted the racing phenomenon. During World War II, Sam Nunis emerged as a major promoter of races featuring the Indy-style cars. Indeed, he promoted several events at the fairgrounds. But a competitor, Bill France’s National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, soon arose.

Likely lost on modern fairgoers is the fact that the speedway was the site on September 30, 1970, of the last NASCAR sanctioned race on a dirt track. The first NASCAR event at the Raleigh track in 1955 was called due to rain while Junior Johnson was leading. The next one was fourteen years later in 1969 in the North State 200 which James Hylton won. The 1970 race, billed as the Home State 200, was won by Richard Petty.

Daniel S. Pierce, Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France (2010)
Perry Allen Wood, Silent Speedways of the Carolinas (2007)
(Raleigh) News and Observer, October 1, 1970
Greg Fielden, Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, 4 volumes (1987-1989)
Melton A. McLaurin, The North Carolina State Fair: The First 150 Years (2003)

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