33 Years Ago Today, An End of an Era

KodiakRusty89

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On February 21, 1988 the final Winston Cup race was held at the Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway. There were 62 race on the original 0.542 track before it was completely rebuilt/reconfigured into the now 0.750 layout. When the track was demolished immediately following the February 1988 event it was an absolute dinosaur by late 80's standards. The other short tracks, Bristol, Martinsville and North Wilkesboro were far more inline with fan and tv needs at that time. What makes the renovation notable is the fact then owner Paul Sawyer wanted to build a superspeedway on the outskirts of the city but couldn't get the zoning needed to build such a facility. After fighting for a couple of years he gave up an went all in on an "ultra modern" 0.750 track at the fairgrounds. When the new track opened later in the year it was certainly a one of a kind short track that was on par with the "big" crown jewel facilities of NASCAR at that time; Charlotte and Daytona. It also served as a useful template for track renovations and construction that became all the rage in the 90's.

Do to these reasons, and many more, I always considered this a significant turning point for the sport. I applaud the entrepreneurial sprit of Sawyer and those like him back in the day. You had to be a facility owner/developer, promoter, community liaison and most of all a risk taker....








 

Speedbowl14

Ryan Preece and short tracks
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From humble beginnings certainly. While many recognize Bristol as being a NASCAR "coliseum" with it being completely encircled in grandstands, Richmond was the same way save for a couple very minute openings.

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DRS3

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I was at the last race on the old track, Richard Petty tore it up with the dozer. Pit road is the old front stretch and all those trees next to the track are gone.
 

gone

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Can't remember if it was the last race, but we attended one of the last races at Richmond before they tore down / reconfigured the track. For the Cup race we sat in temporary aluminum bleachers outside the first turn (that area is part of the track now). It was wild - back then the fast cars banged their right quarter panels against the metal guardrails in the second turn, and we could hear it and see the sparks.

It was a package deal, so we saw the Grand National race too (the day before). The crowd was sparse, so they let you sit pretty much wherever you wanted - we sat in the old covered grandstand along the front stretch (it's gone now, too). We also stayed after that race to watch some of the Cup practice. Dale Earnhardt had trouble during practice, and it was odd seeing his car leave on an open trailer to get fixed at a local racing shop (might have been Emanuel Zervakis's shop) - Earnhardt's car did make it back in time for the Cup race, and I think he did pretty well but I don't remember him winning.
 
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