Cars were racing on the sand at Carolina Beach as early as the 1920s. The Wilmington Morning Star ran an ad for one such race in 1928: “Six well-known drivers speed along at 90 and 100 miles per hour. Thrills Assure. Admission $1.”
Elaine Henson’s book “Carolina Beach” reproduces a vintage postcard, probably from about the same period, in which tire tracks are clearly visible in the sand. The caption read: “Carolina Beach is such a fine, hard beach that on low tide automobiles are driven right out on the water’s edge.”
The track the reader is thinking about, though, probably came later — the Carolina Beach Speedway, active in the mid-1960s. It was locatedtwo miles north of Snow’s Cut off U.S. 421, where The Cape Gofl Club is today.
An old-timer posting on the website Local Race Chat.com described it this way:
“CBS was a low-banked half-mile dirt speedway with a grand old live oak gracing the infield pit area. The speedway opened in 1964 with hobby-stock claim events and demolition derbys. CBS was wildly popular and played host to thousands of fan on those Sunday afternoons 40 years ago, but the opening of nearby Leland Raceway in 1967 was the curtain-call for the Carolina Beach Speedway.”
(Here’s a link to his post, with photos: http://www.localracechat.com/forums/showthread.php?t=46022.)
Randy Williamson of Shallotte recalled visiting Carolina Beach Speedway with his dad, as a 10-year-old back in 1964:
” … the first thing that we noticed was that the track was not surfaced with red clay but a yellowish-red, and very loose, sand. There were ruts around the ‘track’ that looked to be at least a foot deep. There was no retaining wall in front of the grandstands. There was an 8-foot-0r-so canal ditch which ran from the fourth turn, past the stands and into the second turn. This was the spectators’ protection device, apparently.
“In the center of the infield, there was a raised ‘island’ that was about 4 feet higher than its surroundings and was, evidently, an off-loading ramp. But on top of the ramp/island were several real, live, live oak trees. This kind of blocked the view of the action from the backstretch. I don’t think that I have ever seen another small track with trees still in the infield.”
Williamson remembers watching local NASCAR great Hoss Ellington, driving a ’57 Ford Fairlane Ellington, however, was sidelined by car trouble and the eventual winner that night was Richard Brickhouse, who would ‘d go on to win the Talladega 500 in the debut of the Dodge Daytona. Future National Cap/Winston Cup drivers “Runt” Pittman and Jackie Rogers also raced at Carolina Beach.
“They only had one rule,” Williamson wrote, “and that was ‘run what you brung.’ There were late-models, jalopies, some with flathead Ford enginge, modifieds and oine ’56 Pontiac with the full bench seat still intact … There was even a Hudson Hornet sponsored by the Ball Park Inn, Havelock, N.C.”
(For more of Williamson’s story, visit http://www.webprosolutions.com/ghosts/carolinabeach.php.)
A regular feature at the Speedway, Thurston Watkins recalled, was its “Powder Puff Derbies,” with all women drivers. The track also ran frquent demolition derbies.
For a reproduction of a Carolina Beach Speedway program, with photos, click here: http://rides.webshots.com/album/530003904qbSfSy.
Date posted: July 21, 2010
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