CHARLOTTE – A larger-than-life personality whose battles with NASCAR led to a truncated career, Curtis Turner was a bedrock star from stock-car racing’s origins.
Turner drove the first race in NASCAR’s premier series in Charlotte, N.C., in 1949 and scored the first of 17 career victories in his fourth start on Sept. 11, 1949 at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway.
His signature wins were in the 1956 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and American 500 at Rockingham Speedway in 1965. He was banned for several years after trying to organize a drivers union, but he returned before being killed in a plane crash in Pennsylvania in 1970.
Born: April 12, 1924
Died: Oct. 4, 1970
Hometown: Roanoke, Va.
The career: Only driver in NASCAR premier series history to score two consecutive victories while leading every lap from the pole position. … Drive for several NASCAR legends, including Wood Brothers Racing, Junior Johnson, Smokey Yunick and Holman-Moody. … He won 38 of 79 starts in the Convertible Division. … Named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers.
The quote: “As a young businessman, Dad realized he needed something more than a good ol’ boy’s handshake to seal a deal. So he decided to buy a set of law books, and he taught himself how to write a contract, and he wrote a lot of contracts, a lot of businesses, and his life became busier with traveling, and so soon he decided he really needed to fly in the air instead of on the road. He needed to take flying lessons. So he took some flying lessons, and I saw mom and dad studying, Ann Ross Turner, who’s our mom, she was his supporter throughout his racing career, and she was quizzing him in that living room just about every night on either law books or for the flying.” – Margaret Sue Turner Wright, Turner’s daughter