Curtis Turner bigraphy, stories - American racing driver

Curtis Turner : biography

April 12, 1924 - October 4, 1970

Turner's [[1967 Daytona 500 racecar]]

Curtis Turner (April 12, 1924 – October 4, 1970) was an early NASCAR driver. 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.


He is noted for several other racing accomplishments:

  • 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
  • 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.


He died in an airplane crash near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1970. The crash also killed golfer Clarence King.New York Times, October 6, 1970, Page 50. "Police said the aero-commander 500 piloted by Turner crashed shortly after taking off from the Dubois-Jefferson Airport en route to Roanoke." Greensboro Record, October 5, 1970, Page 34.


He was born in Floyd, Virginia and 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. 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.

Competition Press

NASCAR comeback

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,Plain Dealer, January 20, 1964, Page 32. and his star driver Fireball Roberts had died following a fiery crash on May 24, 1964, at the World 600 in Charlotte.Dallas Morning News, July 3, 1964, Section 2, Page 3. 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 Sumper, S.C. Turner was due to compete in the first of 17 scheduled races at Concord, N.C. Aug 21." Competition Press and Autoweek, August 28, 1965, Page 8. 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.Competition Press and Autoweek, January 15, 1966, Pages 1, 11.

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