Born: April 2, 1924
Home: Floyd, Virginia
Curtis Turner was born April 12, 1924 in Floyd, Virginia. Turner’s love of driving started at a very early age, being a “delivery boy” for family-made moonshine in the remote area of Bent Mountain, Virginia.
Curtis began his racing career in 1946, and proceeded to win 360 races in several different racing series, including 22 in the NASCAR Convertible Division and 17 wins in the NASCAR Grand National series.
Turner developed a feeling that drivers deserved a better deal for their role in the sport. Together with Fireball Roberts and Tim Flock, Turner attempted to organize a driver’s union. NASCAR never looked favorably on an organized union for the drivers and Turner was banned from the sport for life. Curtis continued to race in other sanctioning bodies, until four years later when the ban was lifted. The track owners and fans wanted and needed Curtis Turner back. Driving the red bottom/white top colored #41 Wood Brothers 1965 Galaxie, Turner earned his first victory of his comeback on October 31, 1965 at the inaugural race of the newly built North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, NC.
Not only was Turner a talented race car driver, he was also an excellent business man who became a self-made millionaire buying and selling timber land. Turner conceptualized, secured financing for and built the Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960 before being forced out by his business partners.
Known as the “Babe Ruth of Racing,” Curtis Turner is the only driver to win two Grand National races in a row from the pole by leading every lap. He was also the only driver to win 25 major NASCAR races in one season driving the same car in each race and to qualify for a NASCAR Grand National race at a speed greater than 180 mph. Curtis was also the first driver to climb Pikes Peak in less than 15 minutes in a 1962 Ralph Moody Ford (14 minutes, 37 seconds for the 12.42 mile course.)
Curtis Turner died in an airplane crash near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1970. While today’s drivers are stars, Curtis was a hero who truly was larger than life. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 22, 2016.