Called by some the “Babe Ruth of stock car racing,” Curtis Turner was among the fastest and most colorful competitors in the early years of NASCAR premier series racing.
- Inducted: 2016
The Babe Ruth of stock car racing
Called by some the “Babe Ruth of stock car racing,” Curtis Turner was among the fastest and most colorful competitors in the early years of NASCAR premier series racing. Turner posted his first of 17 career victories in only his fourth start on Sept. 11, 1949, at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway.
Although many of Turner’s victories came on short tracks and dirt ovals—much of his career pre-dated NASCAR’s superspeedway era—he won the 1956 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and the first American 500 at Rockingham Speedway in 1965. He also won 38 of 79 races in which he competed in the NASCAR Convertible Division. Turner competed in NASCAR’s first “Strictly Stock” race in 1949 in Charlotte and was the only driver to win a NASCAR premier series race in a Nash. He remains the only series driver to win two consecutive races from the pole leading every lap. Turner drove for many legendary NASCAR owners including the Wood Brothers, Junior Johnson, Smokey Yunick and Holman-Moody. Turner was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
Curtis Turner raced in NASCAR during its formative years. Here he drove the No. 16 in a Modified Division race during NASCAR’s second season. His success in that division translated into the NASCAR premier series, where he went on to reach new levels of success and fame. Courtesy of ISC Archives via Getty Images.
Curtis Turner’s stardom made him an invaluable force in endorsing NASCAR. In 1950, an American group of drivers, car owners and officials competed in the 1950 Mexican Road Race in an effort to promote NASCAR racing. Here he is seen fourth from the left as a teammate to NASCAR President Bill France Sr., fifth from the left, for the 2,000-mile event. Courtesy of ISC Archives via Getty Images.
After being banned from NASCAR for his unionization efforts, Curtis Turner returned to the sport four years later. His return included a triumphant win at age 41 in the 1965 American 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway (now Rockingham Speedway). As shown here, he also led the field to the green flag for the 1967 Daytona 500 after setting a new qualifying record. Courtesy of ISC Archives via Getty Images.