BY KEITH WALTZ
Originally known as the “Indianapolis of the South,” Georgia’s Lakewood Speedway hosted its first automobile competition, a match race between Barney Oldfield and Ralph DePalma, in the latter part of 1917.
The treacherous one-mile dirt track was located in the Lakewood area south of Atlanta and was unique in that it was constructed around a lake on the Lakewood Fairgrounds. The track was a hotbed for open-wheel racing for many years before becoming a regular stop on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule during the 1950s.
A reported crowd of 26,000 saw Tim Flock win the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at Lakewood Speedway on Nov. 11, 1951. Driving Ted Chester’s 1951 Hudson Hornet, Flock took the lead from his brother, Bob Flock, on lap 14 and led the remainder of the 100-lap race. Bob Flock finished second with Jack Smith third.
The NASCAR Cup Series made a total of 11 visits to the Lakewood track.
The finale on June 14, 1959, featured a strange twist as 21-year-old Richard Petty appeared to have won his first major race. However, the runner-up finisher protested and asked that the score cards be checked. The runner-up was Petty’s father and teammate, Lee.
Eventually, Lee Petty was declared the winner over his son with Buck Baker settling for third-place money.
Baker and Herb Thomas top the NASCAR win list at Lakewood Speedway with two victories each.
The opening of Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1960 resulted in Lakewood losing its NASCAR dates. The track continued to operate for several years, but fell into disrepair during the 1970s and it closed on Sept. 3, 1979.