There are many NASCAR fans in Montgomery County. Though no one from our county has made the highest level of car racing, although Hall of Fame driver Benny Parsons live near by in Ellerbe, Tommy Lemons Jr. hopes to make it to the highest level some day.

The history of car racing has deep roots in our state. 

NASCAR legend Junior Johnson famously honed his driving skills hauling bootleg liquor along the back roads of North Carolina, along with other “runners” who would join him in what was then a new sport – stock car racing. It was probably only natural that these thrill-seekers would start challenging each other to see whose car was the fastest.

North Carolina, home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and some of the sport’s biggest legends, is integral to the history of NASCAR. As the 2017 Daytona 500 approaches, learn more about our state’s place in stock car racing history.

Notable dates:

  • May 18, 1947: First official race held at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Junior Johnson began his racing career here at age 16.
  • Sept. 18, 1947: Bill France Sr. and four other racing entrepreneurs incorporate the Hillsboro Speedway in Orange County with the aim of bringing auto racing to central North Carolina.
  • Feb. 15, 1948: First sanctioned NASCAR race held in Daytona Beach, FL.
  • Feb. 21, 1948: National Association of Stock Car Racing, or NASCAR, is officially incorporated.
  • June 19, 1949: NASCAR holds its first “Strictly Stock” race at Charlotte Speedway. Today, nothing remains of the original track.
  • July 1, 1952: First NASCAR race held outside the U.S., in Ontario, Canada.
  • Feb. 22, 1959: North Carolina native Lee Petty wins the first Daytona 500.
  • Dec. 1, 1963: Wendell Scott is the first African-American to win a premier division NASCAR race at Jacksonville Speedway.
  • Sept. 30, 1970: Last NASCAR race on a dirt track held at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. Richard Petty took the day’s top prize.
  • May 2010: NASCAR Hall of Fame opens in Charlotte, N.C.
  • June 21, 2011: Stock car racing becomes the official sport of North Carolina.

Famous Families: NASCAR racing in North Carolina is often a family affair, with more than one generation of the same family rising to prominence in the sport. Here are some of N.C.’s NASCAR dynasties:

The Earnhardts: Ralph, son Dale and grandson Dale Jr. are some of the most successful and popular NASCAR drivers in history. Ralph Earnhardt was one of the first NASCAR drivers, competing in the sport’s early events.

The Jarretts: Ned and son Dale are both members of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame. After retiring from racing, Ned Jarrett was a popular NASCAR broadcaster, and Dale Jarrett became a booth analyst for ESPN’s NASCAR coverage.

The Pettys: Lee, son Richard, grandson Kyle, and great-grandson Adam are a true North Carolina NASCAR dynasty. Lee Petty was a pioneer NASCAR driver who competed in some of the very first events. Richard Petty is considered the most successful driver in NASCAR history, winning a record 200 races.

Members of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame: Twelve men have entered the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame for achievement in motorsports – Elzie Wylie “Buck” Baker Sr., Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Rick Hendrick, Dale Jarrett, Ned Jarrett, Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Ray Price, Herbert Watson “Herb” Thomas, and H. A. “Humpy” Wheeler.

Want to learn more about the history of stock car racing in North Carolina? Visit the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.