The race does not always go to the fastest…or does it?

This week’s story comes to us from Saporta Report reader and all-around Atlanta history buff Greg Hodges who wrote to ask if we knew the story of Richard Petty’s 1959 victory at Atlanta’s Lakewood Speedway. We did not and it turns out that it is just our kind of story.

Long-time Atlantans will remember the Lakewood Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds sat on about 100 acres of land just south of downtown Atlanta and was built to be the home of the Southeastern Fair. Before there was Atlanta Motor Speedway there was Lakewood Speedway. Originally built for horse racing, it was a one-mile dirt track built adjacent to the Lakewood Fairgrounds. Promotors called it the “Indianapolis of the South.”

The track lasted from 1919 to 1979 and it offered a particularly challenging aspect to drivers in that it was built around a lake. Not very forgiving for accident prone drivers.

In 1959 the NASCAR Grand Nationals were held at Lakewood Speedway and soon-to-be famed race car driver Richard Petty took the checkered flag. But it is what happened after the checkered flag that Greg Hodges thought we’d find interesting and, indeed, it is the subject of this week’s Stories of Atlanta.

Lance Russell is an Atlanta-based filmmaker and media communicator who, for over three decades, has been entrusted by clients to tell their stories. A seasoned producer with an innate ability to cut to the heart of the matter, Lance’s instincts are tailor-made for today’s “media bite” culture. Brief, poignant and always entertaining, Lance’s current passion is bringing Atlanta’s colorful and inspiring past to life with his “rest of the story” style video series, Stories of Atlanta. “History’s best communicators,” says Lance, “have always been storytellers. It’s in our DNA. ‘Once upon a time’ is how we got to where we are now.”

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