Everyday NASCAR History
Today I was looking over the information on Richmond and thinking about what an interesting race track it is. It started out as a fairground dirt track known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds. Several name changes and a few years later, they paved the track; perhaps they were influenced by Martinsville, which had paved their dirt track almost ten years earlier.
Once paved, the track measured .625 miles. It stayed that way for all of one race in 1968. By 1969, the track had been reconfigured to measure .542 miles. It kept this measurement until 1988 when the track once again was redesigned to the familiar D shape 3/4 mile track. As a fan, I love the racing here, I think that it is one of the best tracks in our season. As a historian, I love it that Richmond is a great example of a track which has managed to grow and yet maintain a unique personality. It is an awesome modern connection to NASCAR’s history and past. The track has changed a lot, but the racing has always been good.
My first foray into looking for something to write about took me (naturally) to the 1986 Miller High Life 400 finish, with Waltrip and Earnhardt fighting it out. I went to the good ol’ You-Tube to see the footage. Watching one video of the finish led me to the side bar and I really got bogged down watching videos of racing from the early 1980s!
I wasn’t a fan then, though I wish like crazy I was. I started thinking about how lucky we are as race fans to have an accessible history. I didn’t watch that race in 1986, but I can watch now. There is no way that I would have ever been able to see a race in 1965, but thanks to uploaded clips, I can! And let me tell you, if you have never looked, there are a ton.
Our history is accessible everyday in so many different ways. The internet and You-Tube are great (and obvious) resources; we have the brand spanking new NASCAR Hall of Fame, we have the Darlington Raceway Museum (The Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum), the marble markers at Martinsville Speedway, the named grandstands and little museums at every track, and maybe most importantly the local tracks that continue racing traditions at a hometown level.
We can’t all head over to the ISC Archives in Daytona Beach whenever we want but we have a wealth of history at our fingertips. If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor, spend some time watching historic racing clips over on You-tube. If you can, when you go to our heritage race tracks, take some time to walk through their racing displays and museums. Visit the Hall of Fame and definitely go to the museum at Darlington. Remember that the history of NASCAR is out there waiting for you!