Charlotte Speedway, Ghost Track of the Carolinas

One of the greatest mysteries I’ve encountered here in the North Carolina Collection has revolved around this postcard of “Charlotte Speedway:”

charspeedway.jpg

Curious about this predecessor to today’s Lowes Motor Speedway, I sleuthed around a bit to learn more about the track. What I found was perplexing: most sources described Charlotte Speedway as a dirt track built near the old airport in 1949, where stock car races were held. And yet, pictured here was an indy race on a wooden track, and the card appeared to be much older than 1949. I kept searching for traces of the speedway, to no avail. It seemed that maybe this indy track had been utterly forgotten here in stock car country.

Months have passed since my initial investigation, but today while browsing the index to “The State” magazine, I spotted this listing: “First Speedway Race Track.” Though I expected this lead would end up yet another reference the 1949 stock car track, I had to give it a shot. When I opened that November 1979 issue, I saw it: an image of a wooden track identical to the one pictured in the postcard.

Sure enough, there was another Charlotte Speedway built in Pineville in 1924, where indy races were held. According to the brief article by Bugs Barringer, the track was made of green pine two by fours, so that the wood would cure and shrink, allowing ventilation between the boards and preventing the tires from burning during races. Apparently a few stock car races were held at the track but, ironically, they attracted too few spectators to be profitable.

44 thoughts on “Charlotte Speedway, Ghost Track of the Carolinas”

  1. A 3/4-mile dirt track was built in 1949 just off Little Rock Road (Keeter Drive) south of the Charlotte Douglas Airport. Races were held from 1949 through 1956. These were the first “Strictly Stock” races. I have not yet found a photo, but I have talked with a veteran of the racing there.

  2. Oct. 25, 1924: More than 50,000 people pack the grandstands and infield for the inaugural race at the first Charlotte Speedway. The 250-mile contest features the same drivers who competed in the Indianapolis 500.
    The track, a daringly-banked mile oval, is built of two-by-four wooden boards. The cars, one-seat ancestors of modern-day Indy racers, reach speeds of 130 mph. The drivers wear pilot-style caps and goggles.
    The speedway is part of a national circuit of board tracks that lifts racing from its dirt-track origins. But the Charlotte Speedway closes in 1927, victim of a dangerously-deterioriating surface — boards pop out and stand upright — and shrinking crowds.
    In 1960, some 25 miles to the north, Charlotte Motor Speedway will open, again making Charlotte a racing hub.
    — from “On This Day in North Carolina”
    Not available electronically, but Charles Chandler of the Charlotte Observer did an extensive piece (circa 1980?) on the wooden speedway.

  3. Both the wooden track north of Pineville, and the dirt track off Wilkinson Blvd. were called “Charlotte Speedway.” There is now an historic marker on Little Rock Road (just south of I-85) that tells about the 1949 speedway. This was the site of the first NASCAR Stock races. I have now talked with several who remember going here, and some who raced here.

  4. The First Speedway was located Where is now Industial Drive ang Rodney Street in Pineville. When Buying a track of land there. I found the old survey of the Speedway. It way really cool to find this out. All the road in the park used to be named after all the car makers of that time.Cadillac Street is still there. I wish I could fined out even more information about this. It was the First Charlotte Moter Speedway. I still have the Survey, I think I will have it framed.

  5. My grandfather was the first President and one of the founders of the originial Charlotte Motor Speedway. His name was C. Lane Etheredge (Caleb was his first name but did not go by it). He and a banker got together and sold shares to raise the money to build this track. My grandfather also owned the Ford Dealership in Charlotte as well as the tri-state battery rights. He was from Batesburg, SC and married the daughter of the vice president of Gulf Oil Corp. Unfortunately, he had a heart attack at the age of 37 (1926) from being gassed during WWI. My father told me that the track was disassembled for the lumber during and after WWII. That is what happened to the track. Should anyone want pictures of Lane Etheredge for publishing purposes about preserving the true racing history of North Carolina, I will be happy to send them one.

  6. Great news! Sunday I found a trove of pictures from the first Charlotte Motor Speedway. Close ups of the racers, Indy officials visiting, full shots of the stands and infield, plus more. I have a pictur of the First Queen of the “Charlotte Bowl” Details in the pictures show the wood track construction, as well as the supporting frame pictured in the post card. I have not gone through all the pics, but luckily, they have all been labeled on the back with the names of the racers, and what the photos are depicting. More than 50 photos in the collection. I am not sure if Mr Etheredge is pictured in them yet… Just wanted to share the good news. Will post some of the pics on my face book.

  7. My grandfather, Carl Ceburn Allison and his my grandmother, Catherine owned the Little Rock property where the first strictly stock race was held. My grandparents have been honored many times. They have both passed away now but we still get invited to events for my Dad, David Allison to recall that first race. My Dad and Humpy Wheeler sold drinks in the stands. My grandmother ran the concessions. There is a monument on the Little Rock property that my family still owns. I would love to see photos if anyone has them from that first race. We are going to a private invitation to the Nascar Hall of Fame opening this coming week. There is suppose to be a display about the first race. I’m very proud of my nascar heritage and my grandparents for being such hard workers.

  8. Hi…
    Im a Swedish NASCAR author and photographer that have read your mails
    to eachother. I would very much like to have the pictures and a little of your story of the “old Charlotte track from 1924.
    And we a serious about NASCAR here in Sweden. For the last Coca Cola 600 15 of us went over to see the race… + our Mattias Ekström took over
    Brian Vickers car for the Infinion race in California last weekend.
    Anyone that helps me in this story with pictures etc. Will ofcourse be mentioned in our magazine TURN LEFT. + Have a copy of the same mailed to your addres in the states. THANKS… Christian Ekstedt – TURN LEFT MAGAZINE

  9. i think its fascinating that such a large structure existed there and theres no reference to it.. to the fellow named mike brown who posted.. did you put that survey online or anywhere else it could be seen? has anyone done a comilation of all info about it that someone could see?
    thanks Bill x86563y@yahoo.com

    ps alot of history at old pineville ballpark
    http://www.cameronyards.com / history

  10. I did an in depth story on the Charlotte Speedway for Die-cast Digest magazine a few years age. I still have it somewhere in my computer if anybody would like a copy of it. Contact me at raceintohistory@charter.net. Mention in the subject when you send it who you are/what you are writing for because if I don’t know you, I won’t open the e-mail. Sorry.

  11. I have the original flags from the old Charlotte speedway ( 4 flags Green,Red,Yellow and checker) also have pictures showing the flags and flagman autos in pictures have 1924 n.c. tags. Have other pictures and paper work. We got these 10 years ago from a lady that said her husband was the flagman. I am getting older and thought about selling these items for grand kids collage. Very rare. I was at the first race at CMS and have been a fan since. Thank You

  12. My mother has a food truck that was built for and used at the CMS in the early 70’s. The truck came from Bob London. I think the chassis is a 69. We have not used it in many years, but it is complete. I would like to be able confirm the story with a picture of the truck at the speedway. we have considered bringing it out of retirement.

  13. Let me tell you why I Googled this site:

    I am a title research paralegal in Mecklenburg County. Recently I was working on a project involving a portion of property owned by the DOT along I-485 in Pineville. While searching the public records to find provenance for a portion of Old Pineville Road, I came across Map Book 3, Page 117 in the Mecklenburg County Public Records. I was surprised to see it was named “Speedway Addition” – I concluded it was a predecessor to C-M Speedway.

    Over the years I have learned much about the history of Mecklenburg County including the old US Army base now part of the airport, the location of gold mine shafts in certain properties along uptown and southend and the location of old churches and farmhouses under the waters of Lake Norman.

    This is another very fascinating find!

  14. Hi!
    I found this site while trying to find some info on some envelopes and post cards I purchased at CMS in 1999. While we were there for the race the US Postal service were selling them. They honor the 75th anniversary of the 1st Charlotte Speedway October 1924-September 1927. It was the 1st year Lowes took over and the speedway was the official unveiling station.
    I just enjoyed all the previous posts from racing fans and thought I’d pipe in on how I found this site.

  15. For nearly 20 years, I worked at a company called Specialty Mfg. in Pineville. As an engineer, I was involved in design work, EPA, and property management of the company, which still exists at the intersection of I-485 and South Blvd. Once years ago we were working on an expansion which involved the property in front of the building, which was still owned by the state. As I was looking over surveys trying to determine some ambiguous property lines, I came across an old survey which had the outline of the track, and it was clearly stated on the survey “Wooden Race Track” inside the outline. This area is now the site of CAR MAX, south of I-485, east of South Blvd. You have to remember that back in the 1920’s and 30’s, this was nothing but farmland. Great photos, I have occasionally sought out info on this mystery.

  16. I am a member of the of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Hornets Nest Region and we publish a monthly magazine called Members Parade for our membership. I would like to know where I could find pictures and as much information as possible on the Pineville board track to do an article for our monthly. Can anyone help?

    Also does anyone have information on the Wizard Car that was built here in Charlotte around 1919-1920 that was determined by the government to be a stock scam?

    Thank you,

    Nick Wilkens
    Assistant Director Charlotte AutoFair

  17. Nick,

    Contact me at russell at smallfri.com. My great uncle raced at the track and my dad could probably help you put together some information. My grandfather also raced sprint cars in the Charlotte area in the 1930-40’s.

    Russell

  18. My Uncle Jimmy Thompson (Not speedy Thompson) use to race on the dirt tracks in Mecklenburg Co, NC. I remember that there was a dirt race track where the Park N Shop was located near Sugaw Creek Pres Ch. Am I remembering this correctly? Also, there was a place in Pineville and Wilkinson Blvd. Can you help?
    Gay

  19. It is great to hear all these great post about the Old Charlotte Motor Speedway. My Grandfather, Ike Kiser, was part owner of the facility. He was Owner of Kiser’s Mecklenburg Wrecker Service, and previously had a car dealership…..Car Owner, for early greats like Dick Beatty and Speedy Thompson. Our wreckers pulled the crashed stock cars off the track……Furthermore, my father used to play with Buddy Baker as a child. Ike was there when the name and rights of, “Charlotte Motor Speedway”, was sold to Bill France. The old, “Charlotte Motor Speeway”, was not solely owned. I grew up in racing, and used to love the stories of how great the place smelled, with the castor oil in the engines.

  20. Kelly Allison,

    My family and yours were very tight back in the day. If I am not mistaken, we bought many of our wreckers from you guys…..For a very long time we were the largest wrecker service in the Southeast…..As a kid, I remember you guys showing up at the garage with the latest technology…..We bought the first hydraulic wrecker from you guys back in the 70’s…….

  21. Jack Crawford — I have a copy of the original hand drawn survey of the “Charlotte” (Pineville) speedway, plus a stock certificate for 100 shares to the speedway bought by my wife’s gransfather. I would love to see the photos in your collection and possibly make copies of a few. You can reach me at 704-906-0566. Thanks.

    Bill McConnell

  22. Today I found the first share issued for the Charlotte Speedway. It was issued on july 23,1924 to my grandfather Andrew Pappas. We must be rich by now! Had fun reading about the old track. Sounds like something my grandfather would have loved

  23. Dear kellie allison, your granddad and your grandmother was my aunt and uncle by marriage. catherine was my dads sister. we spent many a time at thier home on little rock rd. I do remember the race track that was built on there property. I can remember the track, boards all around it. I can remember sneaking out of thier house and climbing up the bank and peeking through the boards to watch the cars drive by. I also remember that he had a shop on the property that faced little rock rd. Me and my dad would go there to look at cars he had. I can even remember seeing liquor running cars in his shop!

  24. I live in the UK, but I own a program for the inaugural Charlotte Speedway race, held 25th October 1924, it’s a bit worn out but then it is 90 years old. I also have a program for the May 11th 1925 race meet at the speedway.

  25. My uncle attended the 1924 Inaugural race. I have the program that he purchased at the race. Inside on the middle page he wrote in the finishing position for all the drivers along with their finishing times (down to tenths of a second). He also wrote down the winnings for each driver. The winning driver, Jerry Wonderlich, won $10,000. According to another note driver Pete DePaolo had the fastest lap at 125.7 mph.

  26. to mr brown mr mcconnel and mr brown..
    if you have any copies os outlines of plans no matters what I will pay for copies.. I love this stuff being native to area south meck grad 77

    I find it interesting that it was partly over CarMax I thought it was all where southland ind park was.. that one aerial shot looks like its south blvd (521?) and the entrance might be the soutland entrance at 84 lumber??

    thanks bill bill(at) cadcamrecruiters.com 704541 )11—00)

  27. I did a story on the Charlotte board track for a magazine a few years back. If you would like a copy of it, I will be glad to sent it to you. Contact me at racerjon117@gmail.com and mention ghost track in your e-mail and I’ll be glad to help you.

  28. I grew up in Moores Park which adjoined the old race track off Little Rock Road. I can remember my dad taking me up to the wood fence to watch the cars racing. One day one of the cars crashed thru the fence near us and that ended the peeking thru the wood fence. Shortly afterwards the track was abandoned and most of the wood structures burnt down. I think the volunteer FD used them for training.

    The old track became a large playground for the neighborhood and we played baseball on a makeshift “sandlot” ball field until we all graduated and the airport was forced to buy all the homeowners out.

    1. Barry, I also grew up in Moore’s Park on Barry Dr. We moved there in 1960 and I graduated from West in 1969. I watched the old race track be converted to a training area for heavy equipment and later for trailer repair and sales. I also remember the old Esso station at the corner of Little Rock and the service road. At one time there was a Great Dane painted to resemble a tiger. I-85 was paved while I was there as well. And yes, we played a lot of sandlot ball on those grounds!

  29. Regarding the Little Rock Road track, there are two folks that know a great deal of history about the track. One is Roby Combs. The other is Earl Springs of Little Rock Auto Sales. Hope Earl is still around, haven’t talked to him in awhile. If anyone needs to contact them, send me a Email and mention in the subject what its about.

  30. This message is for Gay Smith, and I hope that you receive a notice of this even though it is 4 years after your post. Did your Uncle Jimmy Thompson once work for Pelton and Crane Dental equipment company as a Printer, and also printed those extra “fake tickets” for the Journey concert in 1983? Did he live off South Hampton St. off of South Tryon st. (Hwy 49)? If this is the same Jimmy Thompson, I knew him very well from 1976 until his death in the mid 1980s. In 1967 when I was only 5 years old, my father took me to watch a race at the Dirt Track near the airport. One of the cars racing appeared to be like a 1932 Ford “Deuce Coup” and it blew the radiator cap off and a Steam Funnel shot into the air, and the car was out of the race. A news man from the Charlotte Observer captured a picture of it, and it was in the next day’s paper. In 1976 I was 14 and Jimmy used to let us teenagers hang out with him in his CB radio room. A picture that caught my eye was an actual photo of that car blowing the radiator cap, and it was not a photo copy of the news paper. When I asked Jimmy about the photo he said that it was his car and he was driving it that night in the race and that the news journalist met him in the pit and later mailed him an actual photo of it. I told him about me being at that race a witnessed it myself. Jimmy also used to Drag Race at Shuffletown. In 1979 when I was 17, I traded my 1969 Dodge Dart for his 1966 Chevy II Nova Station Wagon, which was his last remaining Hot-Rod Drag Car. Jimmy’s best speed and time at Shuffletown in the Station Wagon was 102 mph in 6.3 seconds! After riding in it and then owning and driving it myself, the Station Wagon could still run very fast! If you get this post Gay Smith, please email me at Mojosams@sccoast.net . I would like to share more experiences that my friends and I had with Jimmy with you. Thanks, AL Sams

  31. My Uncle W O Flowe, built the race track on 29 He had to buy special equiptment to go thru the rock. He lost everything on building that track because they did not want to pay him his money. That is a fact.

  32. This is my well respected family. Uncle Jimmy is do loving and I miss him very much Speedy to date is one of the most talented smartest men O ever knew seeing how he is becoming star on face book and people still tLking negatives positive we all have twirks but uncle Jimmy left legacy not a life of rubbish memorable moments the man amazes me yes love you uncle Jimmy whom had amazing kids grandkids and of course nieces me

  33. What a wonderful thread of history!
    Can anyone comment on whether the board track supported motorcycle racing in those early years, 1924- ? There seems to be some evidence of bike racing there. I’d be very interested in tracking down leads on races and racers. Thanks!!

  34. My family lived in Moore’s Park off of Wilkinson Boulevard and I can remember the dirt racing track at the end of the street, Probably off of Little Rock Road. Do not have any pictures, lived there in 1952 through 57. Used to pick black berries beside the race track. It would be interesting to see pictures.

  35. THE 2ND RACE I EVER ATTENDED WAS AT LITTLE ROCK, PROBABLY 1955 OR 56. THE MAIN THING I REMEMBER THE CARS WERE FROM THE 1930′ AND 40’S. ALSO FIREBALL ROBERTS RACED THERE THAT DAY. I WISH I HAD A PICTURE.

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