High Speeds in Hillsborough

I’ve been perusing the new NASCAR Encyclopedia, and learning quite a bit. Of the eight races held in 1949, NASCAR’s first year, three were in North Carolina. Charlotte and North Wilkesboro hosted races, which seemed about right, but the third, I was surprised to read, was in Hillsborough. It’s hard to imagine the small, picturesque town as the site of a major stock car race, but they held quite a few at the dirt-track Occoneechee Speedway. Hillsborough hosted Grand National Races from 1950 until 1968, when its race date was assumed by Talladega.

The first Hillsborough race, held on August 7, 1949, was won by Bob Flock, driving a ’48 Oldsmobile and completing the 200-mile race at an average rate of 76.8 miles per hour. That’s probably close to the speed at which most cars zip through town on I-40 today.