Do You Sometimes Wonder Where America Went?
Tuesday October 4 2016, 8:27 PM

I missed the first year this event was held because I did not know about it.  I missed last year due to personal reasons that made it impractical to attend.  However, I was there this year and all the years between.  I remember that first year when I drove up to the entrance of the event, a gentleman (remember I'm not name dropping here) reached in and slapped a "VIP Parking Pass" on my dash.  I know I looked a little confused as he said "Welcome Legend".  I had never seen this man before in my life and I can only guess he recognized me from Social Media Pictures.  From that first encounter, that gentleman and I have been close friends and he has done so much for me that if I had been required to pay for it, I would be in bankruptcy.

I rode on up and was directed to the VIP lot and even before Ann and I could get out of the van, there was a golf cart waiting to take us to the big tent.  The young gentleman driving that cart was beyond courteous as well and he knew who I was without asking.  I was not quite accustomed to being recognized without introduction.  Throughout the day, person after person welcomed me and called me by name or as "Legend".  That was an experience I had never had and it was quite humbling, and at the same time, quite an honor to have folks like those in the Historic Speedway Group make such a fuss over Ann and me.  That has never changed but it is EVERYONE attending receiving the same treatment so I am not proclaiming that I am "special".

The next year was even better as I had gotten to know many of the group as well as many of the attendees who traveled to attend that event, some from entirely across the country.  The friends I have made in this circle of people have now become known as family, each to another, because of the love we share for the history of stock car racing.  When you sit under a tent with some of the pioneers that actually started the sport and nursed it through its infancy, and each one of those people are ready, willing, and able to tell stories that will entertain and enchant you for hours.  I frankly never tire of hearing the stories, even though some are repeated year to year, it never gets boring to me.  Racing was always my life, and although I drove a race car from five years, never winning a race mind you, it is my love for the sport, especially the love of the historic days, that makes me proud to be considered someone who does his best to preserve the history as it really happened.  I have that information stored in my quickly outdated memory banks as a FAN of the sport.

What I share at these events is more of the fan's perspective.  I was there, in infields of tracks all around the circuit during the 50s and the 60s.  I saw the greatest drivers to ever race out on dirt tracks and short asphalt tracks and I saw the sport fight for a foothold in the sporting world, which it did obtain through the colorful characters that drove the cars and worked the pits.  Although I have been doing this for RacersReunion for 8 years now, I am still humbled by being allowed to sit with heroes of my youth and have them call me by name.  I could never have dreamed what this has become.

The Historic Speedway Group started in 2007 with a few men who thought the history of the .9-mile dirt track deserved to be recognized, preserved and honored.  Thus began the annual family reunion at that track.  The history of Occoneechee Speedway, later renamed Orange County Speedway goes back to the beginning of NASCAR Strictly Stock Car racing.  On August 7, 1949, less than two months after the first strictly stock race in Charlotte, Bob Flock would win the third NASCAR sanctioned strictly stock race at the track.  From that day until the last race won by Richard Petty in 1968, the track would provide some of the finest, most exciting races on the circuit.

The track is a memory, a memory on the list of National Historic Places, which I believe includes it in the company of the Bonneville Salt Flats and Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the only racing venues on that list.  That, in itself, shows a dedication by the members of the Historic Speedway Group to their goals.

Back to the title of this article.  Do you wonder where your country, the real America went?  Look no further than the event at Hillsborough.  An honor guard from the local Sherriff’s Department presenting our Nation's colors with honor and dignity.  Hundreds of folks, hands over their hearts, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to that flag.  The National Anthem sung with such emotion as to bring tears to my eyes as I saw every head uncovered, every person with their hands over their hearts and every person holding up their heads proudly as they realized that this, this little patch of North Carolina Countryside, still honors our Country.  Still preserves the history upon which freedom was established, and proudly honors the history of the sport all us gathered there are proud to claim as our sport.

What happens in Hillsborough each year, next year to be the last weekend of September, is not only an indication of the passion of race fans and the passions of the heroes of the past, but is also an indication that patriotism lives, and is honored as it should be.

Thank you, Historic Speedway Group, each and every one of you who work so hard all year-long to provide a venue where we fans can gather with the pioneers who drove those heavy cars with no power steering, no "cool suits", and with street tires and sit and listen to the stories shared.  It is sad when the list of those heroes who passed away during the year is read, and as it is, the faces of those individuals flash before my eyes as I recall the conversations from the previous year, happy that I had that opportunity to hear the true stories from the guys and ladies who lived it from the inside.  I have been there since 1952 and saw what you did.  In spite of the limited access to accurate history of those times, the stories are there for the listening each year.  What a great thing of which to be a part of that celebration!

Occoneechee Speedway

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