Some of Margaret Sue Turner Wright‘s earliest and fondest memories are of watching her daddy and Stockcar Racing Legend, Curtis Turner, race.
Curtis Turner was born in Floyd on April 21, 1924 and died on Oct. 4, 1970, when his personal plane crashed. He lived in Roanoke all his life, where he raised his family. In his time, he became a legend in the early days of stockcar racing, dirt racing, and a part of the beginnings of NASCAR. He was also a foundling member in the original group who met at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla., to support the formation of NASCAR. He was President of and built the Charlotte Motor Speedway, now called Lowe’s Speedway, in Charlotte, NC.
He won 55 NASCAR sanctioned races in his career, which included 17 Grand National races, which today are called Sprint Cup, and the Convertible Division where he won 38, 22 of which were won in just one year.
Curtis Turner won over 350 stockcar races in his lifetime racing in events sanctioned by USAC/MARK/ARCA. By 1957 he had won more races than any other driver by that time in his life, Wright said. Wright also said that her father was the first NASCAR driver to appear on the cover of a national magazine, Sports Illustrated, which he was on in 1968 and named the “Babe Ruth of Stockcar Racing.”
Turner’s most known for driving the 14, 41, and number 26 cars.
“He had a real aggressive way of racing,” Wright said.
Wright is currently attempting to get her father to be one of the five Inaugural Inductees in the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum in Charlotte, NC. Fans can also vote for him online by visiting http://www.nascar.com/promos/hof/.
“It’s not just based on the drivers,” she said. “It’s based on the NASCAR drivers, the teams, and track owners…It’s a tossed salad. It’s my personal feeling because he is my father but the stats speak for themselves.”
“It was a real exciting time. I want to get the word out. I know people aren’t that aware of it.”
Wright is also currently completing a stat book based on her father, Curtis Turner.
“The information is not all out there, so I’m putting the book together. It’s been a treasure chest experience finding this information,” she said. “He raced as much as he could.”
Wright remembers her father racing in 1946, which began with 18 cars on the field and Turner came in last in their family car.
“He studied up on it and learned to soup it up. He won his next race.”
“I’m trying to get the book together so people know what he did. The way he drove was exciting for people.”
Wright said that her father got the nickname “Pops” because he would literally pop people out of the way to get around them.
“He was outstanding in his racing. He would drive flat out- he was round on cars. He had no fear. Racing was different then than it is now. There were different cars and less rules. He won a lot of races.”
Wright said that her father was also a timber man. He learned from his own father to tell which trees were which. He owned a plane in which he would take people up in the air and show them timberland from the airplane.
“He loved flying. He felt he was closest to God that way. I want to get the word out about how much he did for the sport of racing. He was inventive. He was an entrepreneur. He started a lot of businesses and promoted a lot of races.”
Wright recalls the most fun races for her were when she was little and her father was racing on the beach.
“It’s very exciting to me, now I have this adrenaline for it.”
Wright said that building the track, now called Lowe’s Motor Speedway, was one of the biggest endeavors of his life.
“He was a charmer and fantastic at networking. Everything was great until they hit limestone and the building of the track was brought to a standstill temporarily.”
When Turner tried to form a union, Bill France banned him from NASCAR and was voted off the board for the new speedway.
“It was one of daddy’s biggest heartaches,” Wright said.
But when race sales began to decline in the 1960′s, France invited him back to drive in NASCAR.
“This time being paid as an entertainer on the track with his daredevil driving that the fans went crazy for. It worked for NASCAR as their sales soared when Curtis Turner was at the wheel.”
Wright has been collecting information for her stat book of Curtis Turner since 2002 and for a memoir she plans to write about him. She hopes to have the stat book completed by the end of August.
She also has plans to get a museum together. The website for the museum is curtisturnermuseum.com. Wright hopes to open the museum in May of 2010. The museum is dedicated to the preservation and education of the early days of stock car racing and the early days of dirt racing, as it pertains to an extraordinary, independent, Virginia Pioneer of Stock Car Racing, Curtis Turner.
“I do hope people will tune in and vote for him,” Wright said.