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Curtis Turner (April 12, 1924 – October 4, 1970) was an American stock car racer. In addition to his success in racing, he made a fortune, lost it, and remade it buying and selling timberlands. Throughout his life he developed a reputation for drinking and partying. In 1999, he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

Curtis Turner
1967CurtisTurner SmokeyYunickChevyChevelle.jpg
Turner's 1967 Daytona 500 racecar
Born(1924-04-12)April 12, 1924
Floyd, Virginia, United States
DiedOctober 4, 1970(1970-10-04) (aged 46)
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
Cause of deathAirplane crash
Achievements1956 Southern 500 Winner

Inaugural winner at Rockingham Speedway (1965)
Led Grand National Series in wins one time (1950)
Holds record for most career NASCAR Convertible Division wins (38)
Holds record for most career NASCAR Convertible Division poles (23)
Holds record for most NASCAR Convertible Division wins in a season (22, 1956)

Holds record for most NASCAR Convertible Division poles in a season (16, 1956)
Awards1949 and 1956 Grand National Series Most Popular Driver

Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers (1998) International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1992) Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (2006)

NASCAR Hall of Fame (2016)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career
184 races run over 17 years
Best finish5th (1950)
First race1949 Race No. 1 (Charlotte)
Last race1968 Hillsboro 150 (Hillsboro)
First win1949 untitled race (Langhorne)
Last win1965 American 500 (Rockingham)
Wins Top tens Poles
17 73 16
Statistics current as of February 22, 2013.

HistoryEdit

He was born in Floyd, Virginia to Morton and Minnie Turner on April 12, 1924. Curtis grew up with a brother and two sisters. His father, Morton Turner, was into the moonshine business and having a productive still. Curtis was responsible for delivering his father's moonshine it to the customers. From a very early age, long before he was old enough for a driver’s license, Curtis developed his driving talents by running moonshine through the mountains from the law. He was never caught by anyone. Locals spoke of how Curtis would drive away from hot pursuit of revenuers and lawmen and his legendary ability to turn a car 180 degrees in a very small space.

He began his racing career in 1946 when he finished 18th in a field of 18 contestants in a race at Mount Airy, North Carolina. However, he rebounded and won his next race. He also was one of the founding member in the original group that met in Daytona Beach at the Streamline Hotel to discuss and support the formation of NASCAR. During his career, he won 360 races in several different racing series, including 22 in the NASCAR Convertible Division in 1956, and 17 wins in the NASCAR Grand National series (now Sprint Cup). From 1950 to 1954, he drove for Oldsmobile being billed as the Blond Blizzard of Virginia. He switched to driving Fords in 1954. He eventually acquired the nickname of Pops, allegedly because of the way he would "pop" other drivers on the track.

Turner drove a Holman Moody-prepared Studebaker Lark in the 2-hour compact car race accompanying the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Sebring, Florida, on December 12, 1959. He finished second overall, trailing the disc-brake equipped Jaguar 3.4 of Walt Hansgen.[1]

AccomplishmentsEdit

He is noted for several other racing accomplishments:[1]

  • The only NASCAR driver to win two Grand National races in a row from the pole by leading every lap (Rochester, New York and Charlotte, North Carolina in July 1950)
  • The only win in NASCAR for Nash — Charlotte 150 — April 1, 1951
  • The only driver to win 25 major NASCAR races in one season driving the same car in each of them (in 1956 — 22 were won as the #26 car in the convertible division, the other three, including the 1956 Southern 500, were with a top welded on.)
  • The only driver to win a major NASCAR race that was red-flagged because his car was the only one still running (at the Asheville-Weaverville, North Carolina track on September 30, 1956.)
  • Turner conceptualized, secured financing for, and built Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960 before being forced out by his business partners.
  • The first driver to climb Pikes Peak in less than 15 minutes (in a 1962 Ralph Moody Ford — the actual time was 14 minutes 37 seconds for the 12.42-mile course.)
  • The first winner of the American 500 at Rockingham, North Carolina (in a 1965 Woods Brothers Ford.)
  • The first driver to qualify for a NASCAR Grand National race at a speed greater than 180 miles per hour (1967 Daytona 500, driving #13, a 1967 Smokey Yunick Chevrolet.)
  • 2006 inductee of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America[2]
  • Turner's 1967 Daytona 500 car designed by Smokey Yunick, seen to the right, was the inspiration for the car driven by the Talladega Nights character Reese Bobby. The car was banned by NASCAR thus starting Smokey's tenuous relationship with NASCAR.
  • 2016 Inductee of the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Labor unionEdit

Needing money in order to support the newly constructed Charlotte Motor Speedway, Turner and his business partner Bruton Smith turned to the Teamsters Union to organize a union for them, the Federation of Professional Athletes, in 1961.[3] According to The Washington Post: "His aims are for better purses, a share in broadcasting rights and retirement benefits for the drivers."[4] NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. refused to let any driver who was a part of the union race, and eventually all the drivers except for Turner and Tim Flock sided with France. Turner and Flock were banned for life and Charlotte Motor Speedway went bankrupt before being saved by its board of directors.

Turner continued to race under other sanctioning bodies, including the Midwest Association for Race Cars (MARC),[5] even promoting his own 100-mile event on the dirt at Lakewood Speedway, Georgia, in October 1961. Tim Flock finished second in that event.[6] Turner and Flock sued NASCAR and France, "seeking $200,000 punitive damages each and restitution for loss of earnings."[7] "Attorneys for the drivers claim the ban represents a violation of state right to work laws because test driving contracts involving $150 a day plus expenses were canceled as a result of the action. NASCAR and France's attorneys contended the ban isn't a right to work violation because it doesn't involve an employer-employee relationship. They said Flock and Turner are individual contractors and not employees of NASCAR or any track."[8]

NASCAR comebackEdit

However, the ban was lifted after four years in 1965, and Turner returned to NASCAR racing. Bill France was in a bind and needed to mend some fences. 1962 and 1963 NASCAR-points champion Joe Weatherly was killed driving a Mercury at Riverside, California on January 19, 1964,[9] and his star driver Fireball Roberts had died following a fiery crash on May 24, 1964, at the World 600 in Charlotte.[10] The track owners wanted Turner back. "Turner was slated to drive for a newly-organized group, The Grand American Racing Association, organized July 31 in Sumter, S.C. Turner was due to compete in the first of 17 scheduled races at Concord, N.C. Aug 21."[11] France was also short of cars. The Chrysler factory were boycotting NASCAR over the organizing body's ban of the Hemi engine, and Richard Petty went drag racing in the first half of the 1965 season. The Ford factory were also in dispute with NASCAR over the SOHC engine, which faced a joint NASCAR-USAC ban on December 17, 1965.[12]

Turner, then 41, soon notched the first victory of his comeback in a Ford at the inaugural American 500, at the North Carolina Motor Speedway, Rockingham, North Carolina, on October 31, 1965, winning a purse of $13,090.[13] Turner lost his Ford ride in 1966 when: "Ford withdrew its factory backed racing teams from competition when the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing and the United States Auto Club ruled April 6 that Fords equipped with an overhead cam engine must carry 427 additional pounds."[14] Turner started the 1966 season in a Ford, but with the Ford-factory withdrawal, he signed to drive a Chevrolet for Smokey Yunick out of Daytona Beach, Florida.[15]

In 1968 he was the first NASCAR driver to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Death and legacyEdit

He died in an airplane crash near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1970. The crash also killed golfer Clarence King.[16] Police said the Aero Commander 500 piloted by Turner crashed shortly after taking off from the Dubois-Jefferson Airport en route to Roanoke, Virginia.[17]

In December 2017, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources approved the erection of a historic marker denoting Turner's birthplace in Floyd County and detailing his accomplishments.[18]

Motorsports career resultsEdit

NASCAREdit

(key) (Bold – Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics – Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led. ** – All laps led.)

Grand National SeriesEdit

NASCAR Grand National Series results
Year Team No. Make 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 NGNC Pts Ref
1949 Curtis Turner 41 Buick CLT
9
DAB
25
HBO
20
6th 430 [19]
Hubert Westmoreland Olds LAN
1*
HAM MAR
9
HEI NWS
9
1950 Paul Roberts Lincoln DAB
11
5th 1375.5 [20]
Eanes Motor Co. Olds CLT
15
LAN
1*
MAR
1*
CAN
19*
VER DSP
4*
MCF
1**
CLT
1**
HBO
2*
DSP
23
HAM
3
DAR
60
LAN
24
NWS
22
VER MAR
17
WIN HBO
29
1951 Nash Motors Nash DAB
7
CLT
1*
NMO
17
GAR HBO
27
ASF NA - [21]
Eanes Motor Co. Olds NWS
27
MAR
1
CAN CLS CLB DSP
1*
GAR GRS BAI HEI AWS MCF ALS MSF
9*
FMS MOR ABS
15
DAR
57
CLB CCS LAN CLT
19
DSP WIL HBO TPN PGS MAR
14
OAK NWS HMS JSP ATL GAR NMO
1952 PBS DAB
41
JSP DAR
61
CCS LAN DSP WIL HBO MAR NWS ATL PBS 50th 505 [22]
Hudson NWS
20
MAR
12
CLB ATL
13
CCS LAN
37
DAR DSP CAN
5
HAY FMS HBO CLT MSF NIF OSW MON MOR PPS MCF AWS
1953 Lincoln PBS DAB
7
10th 3373 [23]
Olds HAR
30
NWS
22
CLT
24
RCH CCS LAN CLB HCY MAR
20
PMS
4
RSP
14
LOU FFS LAN TCS WIL MCF PIF
16
MOR ATL
14
RVS LCF DAV HBO
1**
AWS
18
PAS
15
HCY CCS
11
LAN
7
BLF WIL
11
NWS
22
MAR
24
ATL
16
Griffin Motors 44 Olds DAR
3
1954 Frank Christian 14 Olds PBS DAB
3
ATL
7
OSP OAK NWS
4
HBO
5
CCS
5
LAN WIL 9th 2994 [24]
Elmer Brooks 44 Olds JSP
13
RSP
22
CLT GAR CLB
1*
LND HCY MCF WGS PIF AWS SFS GRS MOR OAK CLT SAN COR DAR
2*
CCS CLT LAN MAS MAR NWS
Carmen Amica 21 Olds MAR
3
SHA
1955 Raymond Parks 99 Olds TCS PBS JSP DAB
4
OSP
11
CLB HBO NWS
3
MGY
4
LAN CLT HCY ASF TUS MAR RCH NCF FOR LIN MCF FON AIR CLT PIF CLB AWS MOR ALS NYF SAN CLT FOR MAS RSP 34th 1120 [25]
Schwam Motors Ford DAR
58
MGY LAN RSP
35
GPS NWS
20
HBO
2
95 MAS
36
CLB MAR LVP
1956 99 HCY
2
CLT
7
WSS PBS
16
ASF DAB
52
PBS
20
WIL ATL NWS LAN RCH CLB
17
CON GPS
2
HCY HBO
26
MAR LIN CLT
18
POR EUR NYF MER MAS CLT
2
MCF POR AWS RSP PIF CSF CHI CCF MGY OKL DAR
1*
CSH CLT LAN POR CLB HBO NWP CLT CCF 20th 2580 [26]
DePaolo Engineering 26 Ford ROA
24
OBS SAN NOR PIF MYB POR MAR
28
HCY WIL
1957 C22 WSS CON
21
TIC
2
22nd 2356 [27]
99 DAB
7
CON
18
WIL HBO AWS NWS LAN CLT PIF GBF POR CCF RCH MAR POR EUR LIN LCS ASP NWP CLB CPS PIF JAC
Holman-Moody 26 Ford RSP
14
CLT MAS
10
POR HCY
22
NOR LCS GLN KPC LIN OBS MYB
Smokey Yunick 31 Ford DAR
11
NYF AWS CSF SCF LAN CLB CCF CLT MAR NBR CON NWS
Bob Welborn 49 Chevy GBF
23
1958 Holman-Moody 26 Ford FAY DAB
2
ATL
1*
CLT
1**
MAR
6
ODS OBS STR
5
NWS
7
BGS TRN
12
RSD CLB NBS REF LIN DAR
33
CLT BIR CSF GAF RCH HBO SAS MAR NWS ATL 20th 2856 [28]
21 CON
2*
FAY
1*
WIL
13*
HBO
5
126 FAY
4
CLB PIF
2 GPS
19
GBF
John Whitford 98 Ford HCY
24
AWS RSP
19
MCC SLS TOR BUF MCF BEL BRR CLB NSV AWS
Wood Brothers Racing 21 Ford BGS
22
MBS
1959 Doc White 41 Ford FAY DAY
29
DAY
13
HBO
1*
CON
1*
ATL WIL
2*
BGS
22
24th 2088 [29]
Carl Rupert 59 Ford CLB
15
NWS
11
REF HCY MAR TRN CLT NSV ASP PIF GPS
W. J. Ridgeway 22 Chevy ATL
4
CLB WIL RCH BGS AWS DAY HEI CLT MBS CLT NSV AWS BGS GPS CLB DAR HCY RCH CSF HBO MAR AWS NWS
Frank Hayworth 75 Ford CON
24
1960 Holman-Moody 26 Ford CLT CLB DAY DAY
31
DAY
7
CLT NWS PHO CLB MAR HCY WIL BGS GPS
16*
AWS DAR CLT
39
BGS DAY HEI MAB MBS CLT
32
RCH ATL 36th 3300 [30]
W. J. Ridgeway 77 Ford PIF
21
Wood Brothers Racing 21 Ford HBO
17
RCH HMS
Beau Morgan 15 Ford ATL
22
BIR NSV AWS PIF CLB SBO BGS DAR HCY CSF GSP HBO MAR NWS
1961 Wood Brothers Racing 21 Ford CLT JSP DAY DAY
26
DAY
55
PIF AWS HMS ATL
20
GPS HBO BGS MAR NWS
14
CLB DAR
2
CLT CLT
11*
RSD ASP CLT
44
PIF BIR GPS BGS NOR HAS STR DAY ATL CLB MBS BRI NSV BGS AWS RCH SBO DAR HCY RCH CSF ATL MAR NWS CLT BRI GPS HBO NA - [31]
Rex Lovette Pontiac HCY
10
RCH MAR
1965 Petty Enterprises 43 Plymouth RSD DAY DAY DAY PIF AWS RCH HBO ATL GPS NWS MAR CLB BRI DAR LGY BGS HCY CLT CCF ASH HAR NSV BIR ATL GPS MBS VAL DAY ODS OBS ISP GLN BRI NSV CCF AWS SMR PIF
DNQ
AUG CLB DTS BLV BGS 39th 5542 [32]
Sam Fletcher 14 Plymouth DAR
35
Junior Johnson & Associates 2 Ford HCY
22
LIN ODS RCH
36
Wood Brothers Racing 47 Ford MAR
31
NWS
5
CLT
3
HBO
41 CAR
1*
DTS
1966 AUG RSD
4
DAY
11
DAY DAY
25
CAR
18
BRI ATL
13
HCY
2
CLB GPS BGS NWS MAR 24th 12266 [33]
Smokey Yunick 22 Chevy DAR
25
LGY MGR MON RCH
23
Betty Lilly 24 Ford CLT
41
DTS ASH PIF SMR AWS BLV GPS
Smokey Yunick 13 Chevy DAY
4
ODS BRR OXF FON ISP ATL
24
CLT
36
CAR
34
Toy Bolton 47 Chevy BRI
30
SMR NSV AWS
30
BLV RCH
4
HBO MAR
31
NWS
6
Junior Johnson & Associates 26 Ford CLB
3*
BGS
17
DAR
14
HCY
1967 Bill Stroppe 15 Mercury AUG RSD
37
71st 1602 [34]
Yunick-Rich Racing 13 Chevy DAY
28
DAY DAY
25
AWS BRI GPS BGS ATL CLB HCY NWS MAR SVH RCH DAR BLV LGY
Turkey Minton 74 Chevy CLT
DNQ
ASH MGR SMR BIR CAR GPS MGY DAY TRN OXF FDA ISP BRI SMR NSV ATL BGS CLB SVH DAR HCY RCH BLV HBO MAR NWS CLT
34
CAR AWS
1968 Friedkin Enterprises 14 Plymouth MGR MGY RSD DAY BRI RCH ATL HCY GPS CLB NWS MAR AUG AWS DAR
15
BLV LGY CLT
9
ASH MGR
6
SMR
4
BIR CAR GPS DAY ISP OXF FDA TRN BRI SMR NSV ATL CLB BGS AWS SBO LGY DAR
6
HCY RCH BLV 71st 1602 [35]
15 HBO
13
MAR NWS AUG CLT CAR JFC
Daytona 500Edit
Year Team Manufacturer Start Finish
1959 Doc White Ford 43 13
1960 Holman-Moody Ford 53 7
1961 Wood Brothers Racing Ford 33 55
1966 Wood Brothers Racing Ford 21 25
1967 Yunick-Rich Racing Chevrolet 1 25

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Competition Press, December 31, 1959, Page 4 (picture), Page 8 (report).
  2. ^ Curtis Turner at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
  3. ^ Augusta Chronicle, August 11, 1961, Page 13.
  4. ^ The Washington Post, Times Herald, August 23, 1961, Page D9.
  5. ^ Augusta Chronicle, October 25, 1961, Page 8.
  6. ^ Augusta Chronicle, October 23, 1961, Page 7.
  7. ^ Springfield Union, Sept 13, 1961, Page 27.
  8. ^ Augusta Chronicle, October 23, 1961, Page 6.
  9. ^ Plain Dealer, January 20, 1964, Page 32.
  10. ^ Dallas Morning News, July 3, 1964, Section 2, Page 3.
  11. ^ Competition Press and Autoweek, August 28, 1965, Page 8.
  12. ^ Competition Press and Autoweek, January 15, 1966, Pages 1, 11.
  13. ^ Oregonian, Nov 1, 1965, Page 43.
  14. ^ Springfield Union, April 16, 1966, Page 34.
  15. ^ Augusta Chronicle, April 27, 1966, Section A, Page 6.
  16. ^ New York Times, October 6, 1970, Page 50.
  17. ^ Greensboro Record, October 5, 1970, Page 34.
  18. ^ "Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 12 New State Historical Highway Markers Approved". dhr.virginia.gov. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  19. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1949 NASCAR Strictly Stock Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  20. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1950 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  21. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1951 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  22. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1952 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  23. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1953 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  24. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1954 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  25. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1955 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  26. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1956 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  27. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1957 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  28. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1958 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  29. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1959 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  30. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1960 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  31. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1961 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  32. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1965 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  33. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1966 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  34. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1967 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  35. ^ "Curtis Turner – 1968 NASCAR Grand National Results". Racing-Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2019.

External linksEdit