DIRT TRACKS TO GLORY: The Early Days of Stock Car Racing — as told by the Participants

In less than four decades stock car racing in America developed from catch-as-catch-can chases on small dirt ovals at country fairgrounds to a multimillion dollar industry in which hundreds of thousands of spectators gathered at huge superspeedways to watch nationally famous drivers duel for fame and fortune.

Many of the men who drove the cars back in the days when there were few rules and regulations, and highly uncertain prize money were still active when this book was written. Novelist Sylvia Wilkinson took her tape-recorder into their homes, offices and garages, and edited their memories into fascinating first-person accounts of their lives and times.

There was Bill France, Sr., who saw the financial possibilities and organized NASCAR. There was Bud Moore, Humpy Wheeler, Soapy Castles, Richard Howard, Banjo Matthews, Freddie Lorenzen, Ralph Moody, Tim Flock. There was Dan Gurney, the outsider who earned a place in stock car racing. There was Ned Jarrett, twice Grand National champion and then a familiar face on television as color commentator for CBS. There was Wendell Scott, a Black man in an otherwise all-white sport, and actress Linda Vaughn, queen of speed.

There it was — wild tales of bootlegging on mountain roads, battling the sands at Daytona, high living and fancy exploits before and during and after race days, the development of superspeedways and the nerve required to drive on them, the modifieds, the abortive convertible circuit, the coming of the Grand Nationals and the Winston Cup, the cost in money and men of making a dirt track sport into a vast enterprise, told in the words and memories of the pioneer figures.


Where were you in ’82???  Sylvia Wilkinson’s book is the “American Graffiti” of stock car racing. It’s a fond look in the rear-view mirror of how things were in NASCAR’s golden era, and how the sport developed from 1949 to then. Racing’s early heroes and characters are well-drawn, in their own words, in her early 1980’s interviews. For students of the sport then and now, this is a must-read book.


History is being told here by the people who made it and lived it. Told in their own words. Brings back a lot of memories.  – BOBBY ALLISON

You might not care who won more races, Lee or Richard Petty, but a story of a son hoping for the approval of his father, that’s timeless. You’ll find it written in between the descriptions of Moonshine cars in her 1983 collection of stock car racing essays, Dirt Tracks to Glory, along with stories of women daredevils and Black racers and all the supporting cast of a racetrack, the red clay to Daytona’s dizzy heights. – ELANA SCHERR, CAR AND DRIVER

This book is epic. It is perhaps the best for a look at the real roots of NASCAR back in the day when danger was always on the back bumper and your only friend was your crew chief. This was real racing on slippery dirt tracks against men who swallowed more dust than water. Bootleggers, mountain men and bare knuckle fighters all combined to make the dirt tracks like the old sluggers and mud fields of the NFL.     – H.A. (HUMPY) WHEELER

Dirt Tracks to Glory is an excellent history about early automobile racing in America. The men and machines in this book are the ones who laid the groundwork for the stars of today. We should all remember that the heydays of the 1990s would not have been possible without the sacrifices from the Allisons, the Pettys, the Johnsons and the Flocks of the 50s and 60s. I recommend this book as a resource to provide the reader with a better understanding of where we have been as a sport and where we can go in the future.      DON MILLER, RETIRED PRESIDENT OF PENSKE RACING; CHAIRMAN    OF THE NC AUTO RACING HALL OF FAME

  • Price: US$45.00
  • Publisher: ‎ Racemaker Press
  • Language: ‎ English
  • Hardcover: ‎ 208 pages
  • Dimensions: ‎ 10.25 x 1 x 10.25 inches