The man who knew what Bill France needed

“[Bill France] plunged back into the racing business almost as soon as the fireworks of V-J day had sputtered out. In October [1945] he traveled to Charlotte, N.C., to promote a stock-car race on the old half-mile clay oval at the local fairgrounds. ‘I went to see Wilton Garrison, who was the sports editor of The Charlotte Observer, trying to get some publicity for my race,’ says France. ‘I told Wilton I was going to stage a national championship race out at the fairgrounds.

” ‘ “Who’s going to be in this race of yours?” Wilton asked me.

” ‘ “Why, I’ve got Buddy Shuman, Skimp Hershey and Roy Hall,” I answered, figuring he’d be impressed.

” ‘ “How can you call it a national championship race with local boys like that running?”  Wilton said. “Maybe you could call it a Southern championship, but there’s no way it’s a national championship race.” ‘

“Garrison counseled France that he needed to create a series of races, with rules continuity and a point-standing setup, to determine an overall champion….  France [created] what he called the National Championship circuit in 1946, then… NASCAR a year later….”

— From Sports Illustrated, June 26, 1978

Now that stock car racing has been chosen the official sport of North Carolina — where were you, Putt-Putt lobby? — let’s give Wilton Garrison credit for lending  fender-bending  a crucial organizational concept.

Personal note: Dannye and I live in the house Wilton and his wife Eudora, best known as the Observer’s food editor, bought in 1940. The builder was C.D. Spangler Sr., father of the future UNC president, who had just gone out on his own after working as secretary for Dilworth developer E. D. Latta.


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