How Big Is Shadybowl Speedway? [Solved!]

If you’re a fan of NASCAR, then you’ll know that the Shadybowl Speedway located in Lenoir, North Carolina is a staple of the sport. For decades, the small town of Lenoir has been a hub for stock car racing, and it currently hosts one of the longest racing seasons in the country. The Shadybowl season kicks off in mid-April and continues through October. During this time, the track hosts an array of racing events, from weekly road courses to NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip’s birthday party. That’s a lot of fast cars and exciting races!

A Short History Of The Shadybowl

The Shadybowl was originally built in 1939 and had only three turns back then. At the time, the track was considered fairly small. But over the years, as auto racing became more popular, so did the Shadybowl. In the early 1950s, the track was widened and extended to six lanes. Many of the old wooden stands were torn down and concrete or asphalt pavement was laid down. Today, the track is a state-owned and operated facility, which is part of the North Carolina Motor Speedway complex. It has an astounding history in the sport and was the site of some pretty unforgettable moments.

The Granddaddy Of Them All

In 1974, the Shadybowl was the site of one of the great rivalries in NASCAR history. In that year, Richard Petty won his first and only Daytona 500. In the process, he became the first driver to win five consecutive Daytona 500s. That year was also remarkable for another reason – the season was cut short due to the energy crisis. The following year, NASCAR switched to a fall schedule, and the season went from 10 races to 11. One of these was the All-Star Race, which was won by Petty himself.

As great as those rivalries were, the true test of a true NASCAR fan is whether or not they remember the great moments without needing to be reminded. And the Shadybowl certainly abounds in those moments. Here are just a few of them.

The Big One

If you visit the Shadybowl today, you’ll see that although the track has gotten a makeover, it still retains a lot of its original charm. There’s something nostalgic about seeing cars from the 1940s and 1950s go around a track designed back then for single-cylinder engines. That charm is only intensified by the fact that the track is surrounded by paddy fields. It doesn’t get much more idyllic than that!

Speaking of which, one of the most exciting moments in NASCAR history took place at the Shadybowl. On October 10th, 1957, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. was standing on the sidelines during a practice run when he spotted the drivers involved in a huge crash. He quickly ran to the spot and hopped in the car, only to discover there was an air pocket in the tire. France quickly changed the tire and continued watching the cars. Soon after, the field cleared and it turned out there was a large fire. France later said that it was the biggest accident he’d ever seen and that he was really pleased and surprised that nobody was hurt. The air pocket in the tire had prevented a much more serious accident.

The Revival Of The Sixties

The 1960s saw a revival at the Shadybowl. The year 1964 saw the establishment of the Fabulous 66 car club, whose members were primarily young fans who wanted to relive the glory days of the sixties. They called themselves the Fabulous 66 because they would meet at the track each Saturday night and compare notes on how many wins each driver had at the end of the season. They also would dress up in those iconic sixties dresses and get matching lipstick and nail polish – the same shade of red, to be exact. It wasn’t just about the wins and losses, but also about having fun!

The club had an unwritten rule that no matter what happens on the track, whether you win or lose – you have to have fun. So, even when Richard Petty came back from a 20th place finish at the beginning of the season to win the championship after leading only eight laps, the members of the Fabulous 66 didn’t mind one bit. They went all the way to the bank and bought themselves a brand-new Plymouth! Remember: If you’re having fun, then you’re winning.

A Special Race Inspired By The Beatles

The Fabulous 66 would have been at the track on August 25th, 1966 – the day John Lennon died. The club had planned to hold a special memorial race in his honor, and since the track already had a lot of history – this is what they came up with. The race would be called the No Taxation Without Representation 500 and would consist of four heats of 75 laps each. The first three heats would be a traditional 75-lap race, with the fourth and final heat being a 20-lap salute to John Lennon.

The race was held a week after Lennon’s death, and it was the only one that year that the track didn’t close down in his memory. The whole town came together that week, and everyone wanted to remember and honor the great Beatle. The race was a huge success, and it became an annual event until the mid-1970s.

The End Of An Era

In 1974, the last of the great NASCAR rivalries took place at the Shadybowl. At the time, Richard Petty was facing off against his arch-rival, Lee Royce. The two had been racing each other for years, and the hatred between them was palpable. At the end of the season, Petty defeated Royce by a single race, winning six of the last eight races. The following year, NASCAR switched to a fall schedule and the season ended earlier than usual. With cars going around the track more often than not, it was less of a finale and more of a warm-up for the winter months. The final event at the Shadybowl was held on October 8th, 1975. It was a rainy day, and it had rained nonstop for the past two weeks. But despite the weather, thousands of fans showed up. They were there to say goodbye to NASCAR’s favorite son, Richard Petty.

Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last long. The energy crisis of the 1970s decimated racing as a whole, and even the Shadybowl couldn’t buck the trend. In 1978, the track filed for bankruptcy and was closed down for several years while they tried to reorganize. As it turned out, the track wasn’t big enough to reorganize as a whole, so they closed it down completely. Today, everything has changed. Not only has the track been reopened, but it’s been expanded and updated with state-of-the-art facilities. The cars are faster, the fans are more numerous, and the rivalries have returned. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that the Shadybowl still has only three turns (and one of them is a long, downhill right-hander that starts at the back of the track). They still use the original paint scheme from 1939, and the crowds still get excited when they see those beautiful racing cars come around the corner.

To this day, Lenoir is still considered the heart of NASCAR, and the annual NASCAR Christmas party is still celebrated there each December. During that party, which is usually held the weekend after Thanksgiving, fans come together to celebrate the sport and its history. The party also provides an opportunity to network with other fans, which can be a great way to make new friends.

It’s no secret that we have a soft spot for all things related to NASCAR. That may explain why we keep going back to the site to see the cars go around and around the track. It’s not only about the history – it’s about the fact that the cars still look the same as they did 70 years ago, and that somehow still feels right.

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