In 1982, the journalist Sylvia Wilkinson, a longtime motorsport correspondent for Autoweek, released a highly unusual book for its time, both in terms of format and subject matter. The author, who largely wrote about sports cars and road racing, decided instead to discuss the very early years of organized stock car racing, mostly in the South. And she decided to present it in the direct words of the people who lived those wild early days, turning their pastime from a largely outlaw activity into part of American motorsport’s foundation. Dirt Tracks to Glory has long been out of print, with used copies bringing huge prices. With NASCAR undergoing a fundamental transition into an entertainment powerhouse, there was clearly a historic place for the re-publication of this book. Forty years later, it’s finally happened.
Unlike the original edition, the Racemaker Press reissuing of Wilkinson’s book is in very large format, totaling 210 page, and fabulously illustrated with historic images. It’s highly anecdotal, each chapter being the memories of a stock car pioneer who participating in the wild early years, starting with the founder, Bill France Sr., and also recalling the experiences of the likes of Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Ralph Moody and the late driver and carbuilder Banjo Matthews, a current NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee. More reminiscing comes from master promoter Humpy Wheeler, whose photo collection helps to illustrate the book. The book’s appreciations also come from my pal Don Miller, the former president of Team Penske, and FOX analyst Mike Joy. The book is priced at $60.00, less than copies of the original were commanding last time I checked. You can also order it from Coastal 181, which offers a galaxy of books on stock car and short track history. Racemaker deserves a lot of credit for returning this very important oral history to print.