AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – In the late 1950s, Augusta became known for more than just golf. Bob Bersin, Marshall Spray, and NASCAR driver Fireball Roberts met to bring the rising sport of stock car racing to Augusta. The idea was to build a huge sports complex. The site was going to have a road course, half-mile dirt track, micro midget track, go cart track, a course for motorcycles and a drag strip.
Construction began on the monster racing complex in early 1960 and the grand opening of the Augusta International Speedway was on May 1, 1960. Three races were held that day, drag races, a motorcycle scramble, and micro midget go cart racing. The races were a hit with 13,000 people in attendance.
“There wasn’t anything like it in the nation; you could have taken Daytona Speedway and put it inside the road course.”
The road course, and the other tracks were nice, but it was the half-mile dirt track that had stock car drivers and fans buzzing. NASCAR legends raced right here in Augusta.
“Joe Weatherby, Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Wendell Scott, Ned Jarret, Buddy Baker, they all raced here in the ’60s”
Those were the days when Richard Petty used to race in the number 42 car. The dirt track was finally paved and stock car racing was held pretty much every Saturday.
“It was unbelievable as a young man who had grown up around the track, to get to see the stars like Richard Petty.”
The Augusta International Raceway fell on hard times in the late ’60s and was finally closed in 1970. The half-mile track is now a neighborhood, the motorcycle course and other tracks are gone but, you can still clearly see the remains of the 3.2 mile road course. Pit road, turns one and two still remind us of what was and what could have been.
Today the Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society is keeping the history alive and honors its racers into the Hall of Fame every year. On the grounds of the complex stands a monument honoring all the past drivers local and national.
“I’d like to see more people get interested in racing history because there were drivers out here that deserve being remembered.”
Augusta International Speedway and sports complex in Hephzibah is a link to the past where at one point in time NASCAR was king.
VIDEO COURTESY OF KEN MOORE PRODUCTIONS