Curtis Morton “Pops” Turner
Curtis Morton "Pops" Turner was born April 12, 1924, in Floyd, Virginia. He was a lumberman by trade, and one of the greatest drivers and showmen in stock car racing. He officially started his racing career in 1946 after leaving the military. He won his very first NASCAR Winston Cup, previously known as "The Grand National," race at Langhorne, Pennsylvania in 1949. Turner went on to post 16 more wins in 180 Winston Cup races. He won four times in 1950 and three times in 1951. Turner is among the most famous of all racing competitors and was known internationally. He was a legend in his own time for his accomplishments both on and off the track. Turner reportedly won more than 380 races during his colorful career as a driver, promoter and racetrack builder. He went all the way to victory lane in the Southern 500 in 1956, which he called "the easiest race I ever drove". In 1956, Turner won 22 of 43 Convertible races. He won 11 of 31 in his only other full season in the ragtops. In 1957, Turner wound up with 38 victories in 85 outings on the circuit that folded after the 1959 season. He boasted a winning percentage of 44.7, the best in NASCAR history in any division. Turner won a total of five Grand National and five Convertible races between 1958 and 1959 while also winning the pole for the Third Annual Rebel 300 Convertible race. In 1959, Turner accepted the invitation to become a board member of the first Atlanta Speedway Organization. Turner was hooked on the prospect of building a superspeedway in Charlotte. His unsuccessful attempts were due to financial difficulties, a major hardship in the speed demon’s life. He borrowed money from the Teamsters Union on the condition that he would organize the drivers. Bill France, Sr. disapproved of this union and banned Turner from NASCAR. Turner was then reinstated in 1965. On October 31, 1965 he raced in the inaugural American 500. Turner went 239 laps and the victory took a total of 4 hours, 54 minutes and 17 seconds. This was Turner’s last major racing triumph, although he did not end his career until 1968. During his Grand National career he won 17 of 180 races, with winnings totaling $118,673. Family and friends were shocked when a fatal airplane crash took the life of Pops Turner on October 4, 1970 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.