We don’t race on Easter. Not if we know what’s good for us.
That’s a tradition going all the way back to the earliest days in NASCAR, though you’d be surprised to learn the one man who didn’t observe the sanctity of Easter Sunday.
That would be Bill France.
Big Bill France.
There will be no race Sunday, and there hasn’t been an Easter race since 1989 when the second race of that season was snowed out. Richmond rescheduled the Pontiac Excitement 400 for the next available open date, which turned out to be Easter.
Richard Petty was among those who voiced his concerns, saying he wanted no part of racing on Easter. Ironically, the King wrecked his Pontiac and the backup car was so slow he didn’t qualify.
So we ran a race on Easter without Petty, who was also going to be the grand marshal before he packed up and drove home to Level Cross.
The strangest part of the story is that Petty that week said he hadn’t run on an Easter since they used to run a holiday race at old Winston-Salem Speedway, a half-mile dirt track that was later called Peace Haven Speedway.
Indeed, the forerunner to Bowman Gray Stadium was billed as the fastest track in North Carolina. Curtis Turner won the first race there in 1948 and said it was the best track in the country. He took home $2,500.
That was a huge payday in 1948, and legend has it that he had to remind the track promoter and the owner that it indeed paid that much. The owner?
Big Bill France.
Buck Baker and Fireball Roberts were also in that race, though one prominent driver of his day decided to skip it.
Lee Petty, father of Richard.
In later years, France relented and moved the Winston-Salem race to Easter Monday, and all these years later, the only race ever to be run on Easter itself was the rescheduled Richmond race.
Before he left the track at Richmond the day before Easter in 1989, racing commentator Chris Economaki asked Petty what would go through his mind the night before his first missed race after 513 consecutive starts.
“I’m goin’ to sleep,” Petty said. “That’s what I’m gonna do.”
There will be no race this week in Richmond or Winston-Salem or anywhere else.
And by the way, the ground where the old Peace Haven Speedway was located? They say it’s haunted.