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News! New Story:
First Race of 1963 was in 1962
By: Monte Dutton
Inaugural Daytona 500 photo developed a buzz
by Dave Fairbank
Newport News, Va.,
Click For Story
The story behind the scar of Norfolk's early
The Virginian-Pilot © October
Click For Story
Herbert Weatherly was born on May 29, 1922 in Norfolk, Virginia.
Weatherly had discovered motorcycles while in High School, and upon
returning from the Army started racing them. Weatherly earned three
American Motorcycle Association (AMA) Championships before he started
racing stock cars.
Joe Weatherly was one of NASCAR's first big
stars. He competed in 230 races from 1952 through 1964, scoring 19
poles, 25 wins and back-to-back championships in 1962 and 1963.
Weatherly started racing stock cars
won 49 of the 83 stock car races he entered.
The driver who like so many
others began his career racing on dirt had a real disdain for the fancy
Indy cars so popular at the time, describing them as looking like
"cucumbers with hayraker wheels."
In 1952 Weatherly switched to NASCAR racing and won 49 of the
83 stock car races he was in that year. In 1953 Weatherly won NASCAR's
Modified National Crown along with 52 more victories.
In 1955, Weatherly partnered with Paul
Sawyer and purchased the
Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds which became Richmond International Raceway.
Sawyer began building race cars with racing great Joe Weatherly in the
1940s. That created a partnership that moved into buying tracks in
Richmond, Virginia Beach and Wilson, N.C., in 1955. Sawyer bought
Weatherly out in 1956.
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"Pops" Turner (26) leads "Pops" Weatherly
(12) through the north turn on Daytona Beach
1956, Weatherly moved to NASCAR’s premier division, the Grand National
Division driving cars from Peter DePaolo Engineering and Ford. It was in
the Grand National Division that Weatherly really began to enjoy
In 1957, Weatherly
entered 15 Grand National events driving for Holman-Moody finishing 8
times in the top-10 and having DNFs in the other 7. That was classic Joe
Weatherly. He would either finish up front or blow it up trying.
In 1960, Joe Weatherly
was one of the stars of the NASCAR Convertible Division winning at
Daytona. Weatherly was the Most Popular
Driver in 1961.
In 1962 Weatherly won the NASCAR
Grand National Division Championship
the first for
legendary car owner Bud Moore and was won on the strength of nine
champion Joe Weatherly proved his 1962 championship was no flash in the
pan as he won his second straight NASCAR Grand National championship. He tallied three wins and
35 top-10 finishes through 53 starts that season. In one of the closer
points races in early NASCAR history, Weatherly outlasted some of the
biggest names in the history of the sport, while establishing himself as
the driver to beat in the 1960's. He won the 1963 championship after winning only three races,
compared to 14 won by runner-up Richard Petty.
was famous for "bumming rides" all season, not sticking to one team
and a particular owner, driving for eight different owners. With
five races to go in the 1963 season, defending champion Joe
Weatherly and Richard Petty were neck-and-neck in the standings.
Petty struggled a week before in North Wilkesboro but was still
right on Weatherly's tail. Appropriately, they finished 1-2 at Tar
Heel Speedway, as Petty won at his hometown track. Fred Lorenzen,
Ned Jarrett, Fireball Roberts and Jimmy Pardue were all within
striking distance of the title as well entering the race at
Randleman. Lorenzen would finish the race in fifth, Jarrett in ninth
and Pardue in 12th. Roberts was not entered in the event.
Weatherly and Richard Petty battled back and forth all year and came
into the season finale each with a chance to win the NASCAR Grand
National title, while the other points contenders had some close
battles of their own.
his major victories were the 1960 and 1963 "Rebel 300" at Darlington
the 1961 National 400 at Charlotte.
Joe had a 2nd and a 3rd in the '61 and '62 Daytona 500's and won two
Daytona 100 mile qualifiers in '61 and '62. In the first Firecracker 400
in 1959, Weatherly finished 2nd to Fireball Roberts.
stock car prowess, he successfully raced motorcycles and became a track
owner - promoter. What other driver in the 50-60's was so industrious?
A Reader Asks:
Did Joe Weatherly own the micro midget dirt track at Chinese Corner at
Witchduck and Virginia Beach Blvd. back in the 50's 0r early 60's?
(Editor) Bob: My search turned up this
information. Yes, Weatherly was a part-owner until 1956:
Virginia Beach Speedway:
A 3/8 mile sand
oval built on the intersection of Witchduck Road and Virginia Beach
Boulevard in 1948. It was used through until 1960, and was also known as
Joe Weatherly Speedway and Chinese Corner Speedway.
Rose Hudgins. Daughter of Ralph Rose writes,
as a little girl, we always raced at the "Chinese
Folks have asked me recently how in the world it got that name. It's
certainly not politically correct these days; however, back then there
were two or three small houses (more like trailer size) across the
corner from the track. They were all painted red - I'm sure the same
can of paint - and they did laundry. There were always lots of white
sheets hanging on the clotheslines over there, and I would stand on the
back of our tow truck and watch them as the dust started to fly from the
racetrack as they rushed out there to rip those sheets down!
It has been reported that a
young sailor stationed in Norfolk and his wife would go the races at
Corner Speedway on
Friday nights. He went on to become President of the United States.
Who? President & Mrs. Jimmy Carter."
Pete Babb, a long time
Busch official for 55 years who recently passed away at age 79 was
interviewed in September 2003 and was asked
"Who are some of the characters you’ve known in racing?"
Babb replied, "Jim Hunter … he’s my best buddy. It would be hard to pick out one. Junie Donlavey, (from Virginia) he was one of the characters of racing
and one of the greatest men I ever knew. I remember him before he came
to Winston Cup … or Grand National … racing. He used to come down to the
track that I operated that was called Chinese Corner Speedway. That’s a
track that Joe Weatherly and Paul Sawyer (of Richmond International
track fame) promoted.
Norfolk had two racetracks in the '40s:
Virginia Beach and Princess Anne speedways. About this time Paul Sawyer
started building race cars with an early NASCAR star and fellow
Norfolkian and Virginia native, Joe Weatherly. In the early '50s,
Weatherly asked Sawyer to invest in a speedway in Wilson, N.C. and
Virginia Beach. With a $5,000 investment, Sawyer took the raceway
ownership, management and promotional plunge. Sawyer bought Joe
Weatherly out in 1956.
Sawyer also became involved in the Virginia Beach Speedway on Virginia
Beach Boulevard near Witchduck Road, and in 1955, Sawyer joined
Weatherly as co-owner of Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway (aka
“Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds") - the humble dirt-track precursor of
today's 83,000-seat facility. The Virginia Beach speedway was also
promoted as the Joe Weatherly Speedway.
1960, events conspired to cause Sawyer to sharpen his focus on Richmond.
On Easter Sunday 1958, a fire wiped out the Wilson track, and by 1960,
escalating rents at the Virginia Beach speedway and lack of expansion
space for parking made its continued operation unfeasible.
Annual Joe Weatherly Memorial
will be the main attraction for the Saturday portion of the
program at the Virginia Motor Speedway, which will once again
host an AMA Grand National event this year a two-day event. The Friday night portion of the two day program
will feature a vintage and amateur race.
Sawyer’s Virginia Motor Speedway, an ASA Member Track affiliate,
is a 1/2-mile, dirt oval. The track is located on U.S. Route 17,
eight miles north of Saluda, VA and 25 miles south of
Tappahannock, VA in Jamaica, VA. The speedway is just a short
drive from the Richmond, Fredericksburg, Southern Maryland and
the Hampton Roads markets.
To learn more about Bill Sawyer’s Virginia Motor Speedway and
its schedule of events, fans may call the Speedway office
at (804) 758-1VMS or visit the track’s web site at
Joe Weatherly & Motorcycles
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