|Indianapolis of the South|
|Time zone||EST/EDT (-0500/-0400)|
|Opened||July 4, 1917|
|Closed||September 3, 1979|
|Major events||NASCAR, AAA, IMCA|
|Length||1 mi (1.6 km)|
Lakewood Speedway was a race track located south of Atlanta, Georgia, in Lakewood, just north of the eastern arm of Langford Parkway (formerly Lakewood Freeway). The track held many kinds of races between 1919 and 1979, including events sanctioned by AAA/USAC, IMCA, and NASCAR. It was a one-mile (1.6 km) dirt track which was located adjacent to Lakewood Fairgrounds. Lakewood Speedway was considered the "Indianapolis of the South" as it was located in the largest city in the Southern United States and it held an annual race of the Indy cars.
In 1916, Atlanta officials chose the Lakewood Fairgrounds as the site for agricultural fairs. They built a one-mile (1.6 km) horse racing track around a lake at the fairgrounds. The first events were held at the track on July 4, 1917. The feature events were a horse race and motorcycle race, before 23,000 spectators. A first automobile race was held at the track later that year; it featured Barney Oldfield in a match race against Ralph DePalma which attracted 15,000 spectators. In the 1920s and 1930s, the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) held car racing events during fairs and the American Automobile Association (AAA)/USAC held an annual event on July 4. By 1938, the track was hosting races with champ cars, horses, midgets, modifieds, motorcycles, and boats (in the infield lake). The Atlantic States Racing Association, Central States Auto Racing Association, Gulf States Automobile Association, International Stock Car Racing Association, and Motor Internationale Association all sanctioned events at the track. The track closed in 1941, like all United States racetracks, because the U.S. government banned all automobile racing to conserve materials during World War II. Racing resumed after the war; Lakewood became the premier track on the National Stock Car Racing Association circuit. Following the NSCRA's folding, NASCAR held its first race at the track in 1951. It held eleven Grand National (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) and two Convertible division races in the 1950s.
Evel Knievel made an appearance at Lakewood Speedway in 1972. He was scheduled to make a jump, but had injured his back the week before. After another stuntman, Wicked Ward, performed the motorcycle jump, Evel Knievel was brought to the track in an ambulance, where he was lifted onto his motorcycle by four assistants. He then drove up and down the track, popping wheelies for the crowd.
The track fell into disuse in the late 1970s. After it officially closed on September 3, 1979, it was allowed to be overgrown with grass and bushes. Monthly flea markets and a few concerts were held at the exhibition halls on the fairgrounds. As of 2008, the grandstand is still standing, but the third and fourth turns of the racetrack are covered by the back parking lot for Lakewood Amphitheatre. A road crosses the turn two, and the frontstretch was paved to become an access road to Lakewood Avenue. Most of the lake has been filled.
Deaths at Lakewood Speedway
Most of the infield was the lake, which made the track dangerous when drivers made a mistake. The turns at each end of the track had different radii, like Darlington Speedway has today. Several drivers died in crashes at the speedway.
George Robson and George Barringer died in a four-car crash on the second last lap at a Champ car race on September 2, 1946. Billy De Vore was attempting to finish the race at a slow pace after he had engine problems when Robson crashed into his car. Robson was unable to see De Vore's car until it was too late because the dust in the air caused limited visibility. De Vore's car was pushed over a stone wall. Robson's car was hit by Barringer and Bud Bardowski's cars. Only nine cars were running at the time of the accident. Robson and Barringer died shortly after arriving at an area hospital. Race leader Ted Horn saw the crash; he futilely attempted to flag down the other drivers. Horn was declared the race winner.
Richard Petty took the checkered flag to win his first NASCAR Grand National race at the track in 1959. Second place finisher Lee Petty (Richard's father and car owner) protested the result, asking for a recount of the race's scorecards. NASCAR official recounted the scorecards and awarded the win to Lee Petty. Richard Petty went on to win 200 races in his career, which is the most races in NASCAR history.
Gober Sosebee began his career in 1940 at Atlanta's Lakewood Speedway. Johnny Beauchamp recorded his first NASCAR victory at Lakewood Speedway in 1959. Curtis Turner, racing for Holman Moody raced 1959 Thunderbirds and won races at Lakewood Speedway. Bill Blair drove a 1952 Oldsmobile owned by George Hutchens to his second win at Lakewood Speedway on April 20, 1952. His final race was at Lakewood in 1958.
Lakewood Speedway in the movies
|November 11, 1951||Tim Flock|
|April 20, 1952||Bill Blair|
|November 16, 1952||Donald Thomas|
|July 12, 1953||Herb Thomas|
|November 1, 1953||Buck Baker|
|March 21, 1954||Herb Thomas|
|March 25, 1956||Buck Baker|
|April 13, 1958||Curtis Turner|
|October 26, 1958||Junior Johnson|
|March 22, 1959||Johnny Beauchamp|
|June 14, 1959||Lee Petty|
|September 2, 1956||Joe Weatherly|
|May 18, 1958||Fireball Roberts|
Results for the short-lived NASCAR Speedway Division (open-wheel)
|1952||June 8||Atlanta 100||Al Keller||Cadillac|
AAA/USAC Championship Car
|1946||March 31||Mike Benton Sweepstakes (non-points)||Jimmy Wilburn||Offy|
|1946||June 2||Lakewood Race 1||Ted Horn||Offy|
|1946||July 4||Lakewood Race 2||Ted Horn||Wetteroth||Offy|
|1946||July 7||Lakewood Race 3||Ted Horn||Offy|
|1946||September 2||Atlanta 100||George Connor||Kurtis Kraft||Offy|
|1946||September 28||Lakewood Race 5||Ted Horn||Offy|
|1946||October 5||Lakewood Race 6||Bill Holland||Offy|
|1947||July 4||Atlanta 100||Walt Ader||Adams||Offy|
|1948||September 6||Atlanta 100||Mel Hansen||Wetteroth||Offy|
|1956||July 14||Atlanta 100||Eddie Sachs||Hillegass||Offy|
|1957||July 4||Atlanta 100||George Amick||Lesovsky||Offy|
|1958||July 4||Atlanta 100||Jud Larson||Watson||Offy|
- Hinton, Ed (2001). Daytona: From the Birth of Speed to the Death of the Man in Black. Warner Books. p. 56. ISBN 0-446-52677-0.
- Lakewood Speedway - Atlanta’s Original Race Track; December 16, 2005; Allen Madding; Speedway Media; Retrieved May 1, 2008
- Countdown: Georgia; Mark Aumann, NASCAR January 10, 2006
- Pierce, Daniel S. (2010). Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-8078-3384-1.
- McLaurin, James A.; McLaurin, Jim (2001). NASCAR's Most Wanted. Brassey's. pp. 133–134. ISBN 1-57488-358-5.
- George Robson's biography Archived 2007-09-09 at the Wayback Machine; Historic Racing; Retrieved May 2, 2008
- "Driver burned in auto race at Atlanta". The News and Courier. Charleston, South Carolina. Associated Press. June 12, 1950.
- "Race driver dies after being hurled into blazing gas". The Free Lance–Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Associated Press. June 12, 1950.
- "Tampan dies in crash". St. Petersburg Times. September 22, 1952.
- "Race driver hurt in crash at Atlanta". Toledo Blade. Associated Press. July 5, 1958.
- "Art Bisch dies after operation". Schenectady Gazette. Associated Press. July 7, 1958.
- "Auto race crash kills Phoenix man". Lodi News-Sentinel. United Press International. July 7, 1958.
- Bongard, Tim; Bill Coulter; Robert Coulter (2001). Richard Petty: The Cars of the King. Sports Publishing LLC. pp. 19–20. ISBN 1-58261-317-6.
- Hinton, Ed (2001). Daytona: From the Birth of Speed to the Death of the Man in Black. New York, New York: Warner Books. p. 118. ISBN 0-446-52677-0.
- Goober Sosebee biography Archived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine
- Track NASCAR results; Racing Reference; Retrieved May 1, 2008
- Images at the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association