I hate to dispute Mr. Katen since I do enjoy his research on Virginia auto racing history, however the half-mile dirt track at Richmond's (Henrico County) new Strawberry Hill / Atlantic Rural Exposition / Virginia State Fairgrounds was purpose built for auto racing (no horses ever raced there) and it's first event was staged on October 12, 1946 (the year before the Southwest Va. Speedway) - a AAA big car race promoted by Sam Nunis and won by the legendary Ted Horn . Brian Katen is absolutely incorrect with his book assertion about the first post WWII purpose built auto race track in Virginia. Sorry.
A lot of "research" really needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For years before I went to work at the Richmond track, Martinsville used to claim it ran the first NASCAR race in Virginia. It did not. Richmond ran the first, Danville the second and Martinsville the third - all NASCAR Modified races in the inaugural 1948 season. Martinsville also used to claim the first national telecast of a Virginia race. I also had that corrected. The 1965 Richmond 250 was on ABC's Wide World of Sports in spring 1965, long before a race was telecast from Martinsville. Unfortunately, many of these old claims seem to resurface and find their ways into current track media guides and books. Be careful what you believe.
Adolph Rice studio aerials of Richmond's Strawberry Hill purpose built half-mile dirt auto racing track which opened on October 12, 1946.
Ted Horn at Richmond's brand new Strawberry Hill / Atlantic Rural Exposition / Virginia State Fairgrounds half-mile dirt purpose built auto racing track on opening day - October 12, 1946.
AAA Sprint Car race
Strawberry Hill / Atlantic Rural Exposition / Virginia State Fairgrounds, Richmond, VA
October 12, 1946
20 laps on 0.5 mile dirt oval; 10 miles
Fin St Driver # Owner Car Laps Money Status Laps Led
1 Ted Horn Ted Horn 1939 Offenhauser 20 running 2 Hank Rogers 3 Red Byron 4 Jimmy Gibbons 5 Earl Johns 6 Danny Goss 7 Al Fleming 8 Mark Sooy Mark Light Stan Jones
Notes: Other entrants included: Burk Stark, George Marshman, Warren Bates, Ottis Stine, Charlie Breslin, and Ben Smerto.
Time of race: 00:07:27
Average Speed: 80.537 MPH
Ted Horn Cracks Half-Mile Speed Mark Here,
Wins Feature Race at Atlantic Exposition
October 13, 1946
By Max Ailor
It was Ted Horn day at the Atlantic Rural Exposition yesterday as the Paterson, N.J. speedster established a new half-mile sprint record during the time trials and then went on to lap seven cars to win the 10-mile Sam Nunis feature race before 8,000 onlookers. The time was seven minutes, 27 seconds.
The uncrowned national big car champion had no competition on Richmonds new half-mile banked track. Horn sped through the first qualifying eight-lap heat in the fast time of 3:15 a full half lap in front of Hank Rogers, of Trenton, N.J., who was driving the second fastest car on the track.
The Offenhausers were proved to be everything that the experts say as both Horn and Hank Rogers, driving the only Offeys in yesterdays competition, monopolized the feature race. Horn finished the 10-mile sprint three quarters of a lap in front of Rogers who in turn finished a half lap ahead of third place driver Red Byron of Atlanta, who was driving a Dreyer powered automobile.
The racing champion did not waste time in getting a comfortable lead in the feature. Starting on the pole position, Horn jumped into a five-length lead on the first time around the oval; was leading by 10 lengths on the fourth lap. He was a half lap ahead of Rogers who was in second place with a comfortable lead.
When Horn started to lap his opponents, Rogers was able to close in on the lead to within a quarter lap by the fifteenth sprint but Horn was not long in breaking in the clear and had the lead well out in front again by the eighteenth lap.
Richmond was represented by three drivers, Jimmy Gibbons, Al Fleming and Burt Stark.
Gibbons showed up well in the final race, finishing fourth in a close contest for the No. 3 position. Gibbons ran No. 3 throughout the first 15 laps before giving way to Red Byron. He drove the third fastest lap during the time trials.
Al Fleming won the third qualifying heat and was running well up in the money during the first three laps of the feature but an over-heated motor finally forced him back in the field of finishers. Fleming placed seventh in the feature race.
Instead of a consolation race, the promoters gave the fans a five-lap post feature show between Horn and Rogers. Horn stuck to the outside of the track all the way turning up plenty of dirt on the turns to thrill fans and then made a final sprint to edge out Rogers by a length on the final straightaway.
First heat (8 laps) : First, Ted Horn; second, Hank Rogers; third, Jimmy Gibbons. Time: 3:15
Second heat (8 laps) : First, Mark Light; second, Earl Jones; third Red Byron. Time: 3:30
Third heat (8 laps) : First, Al Fleming; second, Dan Goss; third, Stan Jones; fourth Marx Sooy. Time: 3:32
Sweepstakes (20 laps) : First, Ted Horn; second, Hank Rogers; third, Red Byron; fourth, Jimmy Gibbons; fifth, Earl Johns; sixth, Dan Goss; seventh, Al Fleming; eighth, Marx Sooy. Time: 7:27
Richmond News Leader
Fair Plans Full Auto Race Card Despite Threat of Rain
October 12, 1946
Auto Racing Day at the Atlantic Rural Exposition started under a handicap from the weatherman today, with a prediction of rain in the early afternoon. Race officials, however, accustomed to the weathermans gloomy headshakes, made preparations for a full card of big car events, including time trials, four eight-lap heat races and a 20-lap sweepstakes final.
Many of the countrys top drivers were slated to appear in the races scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. Entrants included Ted Horn, of Paterson, N.J., current point leader in the AAA national speed championship; Hank Rogers, of Trenton, N.J., former champion of an independent speed circuit in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; Mark Light, of Lebanon, 1938 Eastern AAA dirt track champion, andRed Byron, of Atlanta, leading money winner in recent races at the Southeastern Worlds Fair in Atlanta.
Other top entrants include George Marshman, of Philadelphia, former midget car driver; Al Fleming, veteran Richmond driver Danny Gross, of Bridgeton, N.J.; Earl Johns, of Somerville, N.J.; Warren Bates, of Monroesville, N.J., Otis Stine, of York, Pa.; Charley Berslin of Philadelphia, and Ben Smerto of Newark, N.J.
Livestock exhibits were scheduled to be removed from the Exposition grounds today.
Grandstand perfomers and midway attractions, however, were looking forward to record crowds. They counted heavily on the fact that Saturday is a full or half-day holiday for many Richmonders and expressed the belief that today would see a large turnout from persons who visits to the exposition were delayed two days this week by persistent rain.
So far the job of the law enforcement officer at the exposition has been an easy one. Major E.H. Organ, chief of police, reported today.
The police chief said he had deputized about 80 men to help county and State police at the Fair Grounds. So far only one arrest and one accident have been reported.
Fairs arent what they used to be, Major Organ said. In the old days police used to make from 50 to 100 arrests during the week and accidents would number well over 50.
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"