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Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017

Picturing the Past 107: Early dirt track racing

Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2011, at 1:43 PM

This early race car tears around a dirt track -- somewhere -- in 1948. Do you recognize this car, from memories or seeing old photos, and/or know its driver? (T-G archives)
Recognize this car -- or where it's racing?

Duck River Speedway was founded around 1973, and I've never heard talk of any dirt tracks here earlier. Of course, this may not have been necessarily shot in Bedford County. But from another point of view any large, empty field could have been used as an informal race track of sorts.

The photo, from the T-G archives, is date-stamped May 3, 1948 on the back.

Go here for a larger view.

And whoever's at the wheel of what appears to me to be a mid-1930s Ford was moving on; it appears that the rear tire may be completely off the ground. Hopefully someone can identify the driver.

I'd imagine there was little in the way of safety equipment on this early stock car; note that the door appears to be hanging crookedly. And from the dents on the car's side it appears it may have seen some previous close-quarters racing. But if you really blow up the photo it appears that the driver's wearing a helmet, though it looks to me almost like a football helmet.

Utility poles are visible in the background and what looks like the edge of a wooden grandstand is at right near what appears to be a pile of lumber.

Anyone remember the car's sponsor, Hix Service Station? Or Ray Gardner, who lettered the car's side?

Picturing the Past is featured each Tuesday in this blog. Reader contributions are welcome.

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David there was a dirt track between Tullahoma and Manchester, at what is known as Hickerson Station. There is now a memorial garden (cemetery)there. This does look somewhat familiar

as to what I remember it to be. That was in the late 40's and early 50's. There was a Drive-In

theater there, also, and that could have been after the dirt track.

-- Posted by walrite on Wed, Apr 27, 2011, at 3:25 PM

Is this car on a track or the pit area?

-- Posted by bomelson on Mon, Apr 25, 2011, at 3:08 PM

Been a racing fan for years, but I can't help you with this particular mystery. However, this is one great pic David!

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Sun, Apr 24, 2011, at 5:24 PM

Bo and leeiii, the speedway website www.winchesterspeedway.net says racing since 1957.I wonder though, if that could mean "continuous" since 1957. That was about the year that a friend and I started going over there to the races, but I don't recall the grandstand standing out as a new structure, so I wonder if there might have been a period of inactivity with racing starting back in 1957 to the present. Just a thought.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Fri, Apr 22, 2011, at 4:27 PM

Bo, I am not sure when the Winchester track first opened. It was in the late 50s when I first went there.

-- Posted by leeiii on Fri, Apr 22, 2011, at 3:12 PM

Could this picture possibly have been taken during the early days at Winchester?

-- Posted by bomelson on Fri, Apr 22, 2011, at 7:52 AM

I can't add anything toward solving the mystery, but in the "larger view" version, note the significantly different texture of the track under the front wheels...much larger rocks(?). It reminded me of the days when driving down country dirt roads in the fall and running over walnuts that had been placed in the large, dry "mud-holes" on the roads so that cars running over them would knock off the thick green hulls, which--if you did it by hand--would leave you with green hands for quite a spell! Appreciate you keepin' our old brain-gears a'grinding, David. These flashes from the past are fun!!

-- Posted by dkd57 on Tue, Apr 19, 2011, at 5:11 PM

Nice picture David. The only time that I paid any attention to race cars during that time frame would have been at the Tennessee State Fair every year in September. They raced on the track where the harness races were held, and this picture was obviously not made there. I think that it was about 1 mile in length. Redddj could tell us all about the track. I do not know if car races were ever held at the Bedford County Fair or not. It was in the late 50s when I first began to pay attention, and the only tracks locally that I attended were in Winchester, McMinnvile, Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Huntsville. Then later I attended a race or two at Duck River Speedway. Sorry, but I can not be of much help to you on this one. By the way, the car appears to be a 1936 Ford.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Apr 19, 2011, at 2:48 PM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.