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Curator's Corner / Tracks

NASCAR’s One Hit Wonders

Since 1949, NASCAR has visited 55 tracks across the country where the Cup Series raced once and once only

When the NASCAR Strictly Stock Series (now Cup Series) began competing in 1949, the schedule was a mere eight races. By 1951, the series had been rebranded as the NASCAR Grand National Division and the schedule was expanded to a much-more-ambitious 41 races.

In order to grow that dramatically, NASCAR and its founder William H.G. France (Class of 2010) had to find places to race and promoters willing to do the work to make those races successful. Some early partnerships paid huge dividends. For example, NASCAR has raced at Martinsville Speedway continuously since 1949 and at Darlington Raceway since 1950.

But not every venue – especially early on – was a hit. Between 1950 and 1971, the Cup Series raced only once at 55 different tracks. Those tracks were spread all over North America, from Florida in the south, all the way up to Canada and New York state in the east and as far west as Washington state and California.

Here’s some trivia about tracks where the Cup Series raced just one time.

A field of open-wheel midgets competed at Winchester Speedway in the early 1950s. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

First One-Hit Wonder: Winchester Speedway

Opened in 1916, Winchester Speedway is a fast, high-banked half-mile track about 90 miles northeast of Indianapolis. It’s still in use today and over the years has played host to a wide variety of racing series, including open-wheel cars and regional NASCAR series. The one and only Cup Series visit came on October 15, 1950, when Lloyd Moore won a 200-lap race behind the wheel of a 1950 Mercury owned by Julian Buesink, who was also the car owner for 1950 series champion Bill Rexford. First place at Winchester paid $1,000. There’s a sign outside the track that says, “Through these gates pass the bravest drivers in the world.”

Herb Thomas drew a huge crowd in Victory Lane after winning a 100-mile race at Harnett Speedway in Spring Lake, North Carolina in 1953. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Biggest Winner: Herb Thomas

Of the 55 times the NASCAR Cup Series visited a track just once, the biggest winner was Hall of Famer Herb Thomas (Class of 2013), driver of the Fabulous Hudson Hornet. Thomas won nine of those 55 races, all on 0.500-mile dirt tracks. Those nine victories were earned in eight different states: North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, South Dakota, Iowa, Virginia, Pennsylvania and California. Eight of Thomas’s nine victories in these one-off races paid $1,000 each to win. The lone exception was at Merced (California) Fairgrounds in 1956, where winning paid a mere $910. At Merced, Thomas won driving one of Carl Kiekhaefer’s Chryslers; the other eight one-offs were all won in Thomas’ Hudson.

Two other Hall of Famers were big winners in these 55 races: Lee Petty (Class of 2011) and Tim Flock (Class of 2014) won six times each at the one-time-only race tracks.

The last victory for Fireball Roberts was one of the top-paying races of 1963. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Show Me the Money

The average first-place payout of races where NASCAR only ran one Cup Series race was $1,250. In those days, most races paid $1,000 to win. Far and away the biggest payday at a one-and-done track came on November 17, 1963, when Fireball Roberts (Class of 2014) earned $13,190 for capturing the First Augusta 510 on the 3.0-mile Augusta International Raceway road course in Georgia. Roberts’ victory, which came just five days before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, was his 33rd and final triumph of his Cup Series career.

The smallest payout in the 55 races came on June 12, 1958, at New Bradford Speedway in Bradford, Pennsylvania. There, Hall of Famer Junior Johnson (Class of 2010) earned $550 for winning.

Al Keller was the only driver to win a premier series race in a Jaguar. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Foreign Affair

The oddest of these 55 races might have been the 1954 International 100, held only once on a 2.0-mile road course at New Jersey’s Linden Airport. As the name implies, the race had an international flavor, as it was opened up to include foreign cars. Al Keller scored one of his two career victories driving a Jaguar. In fact, Jaguars occupied four of the top six finishing spots. Other marques represented in the race included MG, Austin-Healey, Porsche, Morgan and Henry J, along with the usual assortment of Hudsons, Fords, Oldsmobiles and Plymouths.

Road America hosted its first NASCAR race in 1956. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Road Warriors

In addition to Al Keller’s victory at Linden Airport and Fireball Roberts’ Augusta win, there were three more road-course events among the 55 one-time races. In 1956, Hall of Famer Tim Flock (2014) scored his final career victory in the first Cup Series race ever run on the 4.1-mile Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The NASCAR Xfinity Series has run annually at Road America since 2010. And after a 64-year absence on the Cup Series schedule Road America returned for 2020-21, but after just two races, it was quietly dropped from the 2023 Cup Series schedule.

Also in 1956, Roberts (2014) won on the 1.60-mile road course at Florida’s Titusville-Cocoa Speedway, while a year later, open-wheel star Parnelli Jones triumphed at the 0.900-mile Kitsap County Airport track in Bremerton, Washington.

Bobby Allison won the most recent one-and-done Cup Series race back in 1971. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Last But Not Least

The final time that the NASCAR Cup Series raced for the first and last time at a new track came on June 21, 1971 at Meyer Speedway, a 0.500-mile paved track in Houston. Before an estimated crowd of 9,000, Hall of Famer Bobby Allison (2011) led 253 of 300 laps in his 1971 Dodge to claim the first-place prize of $2,200. The race was notable because it was Allison’s fifth consecutive race victory dating back to the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway over Memorial Day weekend.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.

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