NASCAR Comes to Lakewood - 1951-53 - by Eddie Samples

NASCAR came to Lakewood for the first time in 1951. With the disbanding of the National Stock Car Racing Association (NSCRA) at the end of its '51 season, the drivers picked themselves up and integrated with NASCAR.

While other local racing was going on during the year at Cedartown, Macon and Thomaston, France's first Grand National strictly stock car race (now Winston Cup) happened at Lakewood on Sunday, November 11, 1951. Tim Flock won the race which paid a total purse of $4,000. Included in the field were the stars of the circuit: Jesse James Taylor of Macon, all three Flock brothers, Lee Petty, Marshall Teague, Frank Mundy, Fireball Roberts, Bill Blair, Jimmy Lewallen, Gober Sosebee, Glenn Dunaway, Buck Baker, Jack Smith, Billy Carden, Ed Samples and many others. The honorary starter the wrestler Gorgeous George.

As the case with many races, Tim Flock's victory was overshadowed by tragedy. Taylor was thrown from his car and run over by another driver. After a stint at Crawford Long Hospital he returned to racing and later won the GASCAR (Georgia Association of Stock Car Auto Racing). I spoke with Taylor the other day, and he said, "Something gave way on the car. I guess the spindle since it was stock. Anyway, the corner of the car dug in the track and it started flipping. I didn't think it would ever quit."

NASCAR returned to Lakewood on April 20, 1952 with Bill Blair the victor followed by Ed Samples, Lee Petty, and Buck Baker. Defending national champion Herb Thomas continued his bad luck at the track. Leading with less than 20 laps to go, Thomas blew a tire. The next NASCAR race was a modified event on July 27, 1952. In the star-studded field were Billy Carden, the Flocks, Jack Smith, Buck Baker, Gober Sosebee, Buddy Shuman, Curtis Turner, Jack Etheridge, Charlie Bagwell, and Sonny Black. Ed Samples of Atlanta won the rain-shortened main event.

The last race of the 1952 season was held on November 16 and was won by Herb Thomas driving the Hudson Hornet of his brother, Don. Herb's own car broke down near the end of the 100 mile event, and he flagged down his brother and swapped places. The official NASCAR record book says, "Herb and Don Thomas combine to win race," but Herb received the trophy. Herb was followed by Lee Petty, joe Eubanks, Tim Flock and Gober Sosebee.

Cotton Owens of Spartanburg won the April 1953 modified race, and Herb Thomas won the July race in his Hudson Hornet. [Admission was $2.00 plus $1.00 if you wanted a grandstand seat. My how times have changed!] Roscoe Thompson won the August modified race with Sosebee second and Owens third.

In the final 1953 race Darlington winner Buck Baker edged out Fonty Flock by less than a lap.

(reproduced with permission from Pioneer Pages, the official newsletter of the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association