If modern-day race fans had a place to see Richard Petty and others of his ilk burning up the asphalt practically in their own neighborhoods, you better believe they’d be there, cold beverage cans in hand. As it turns out, Augustans had the opportunity long ago.
“Petty won more races at Augusta than anyone,” said Bobby Bates, a former stock-car driver at the now-defunct Augusta International Speedway. Bates is full of stories about the pre-corporate NASCAR days. Like that he once won a race sliding across the finish line on the doors of his car after crashing against the guard rails.
Legends like Frank Warren, “Fireball” Roberts and Rex White ran the track out at what is now Diamond Lakes Community Center. Hall of Famer Wendell Scott was one of the most popular drivers out there.
“He would jump out of his car and change his own tires,” Bates laughed.
Now a monument stands to honor the drivers who raced at the Augusta International Speedway in the 1960s, when Number 43 himself lovingly hugged those lake-bordered turns in his Plymouth.
And every year, a flock of race fans and former drivers from all over the Southeast and Canada crowd the campus at Motor Sports Memorial Plaza with plenty of racing vehicles and memorabilia, former NASCAR, NHRA and USRRC drivers and their families telling tales of the old racing days and available for autographs and photos.
It’s a day to induct new members into the AIS Hall of Fame, and to unveil expansions to the monument that names the drivers who won and lost at what was the fastest half-mile track in the U.S. The event is free to everyone.
Celebrating Motorsports Racing Heritage
Diamond Lakes Regional Library
Saturday, Sept. 8
10 a.m.-4 p.m.