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.