Short track asphalt stock car racing was born at Bowman Gray Stadium. The quarter-mile in Winston-Salem, North Carolina was the first weekly short track founded by Bill France, Sr. in 1949 and has hosted nearly 1000 weekly racing events since.
With Bowman Gray Stadium came rivalries. Over the years, some of the most hard-nosed racers have battled on the track, in the football field that makes up the track’s infield or in the pit area. Rivalries were what made the TV show “Madhouse” popular a few years ago and keeps upwards of 15,000 fans on their feet on a weekly basis.
One such rivalry, between six-time BGS Modified division track champion and the track’s all-time wins leader Junior Miller and another six-time track champ Burt Myers, divided crowds between boos and cheers depending on which side of the battle you were on in the late 2000s. Since, however, Miller’s reign as the “King of the Southern Modifieds” began to slip a bit as he entered his 60s and began limiting his starts at “The Stadium,” while Myers continued his winning ways through his 2013 track championship and continuing another rivalries with other drivers such as Tim Brown.
Saturday night, however, the rivalry that brought so much attention to Bowman Gray and sold lots of t-shirts for both Myers and Miller years ago was rekindled.
Miller, who extended his all-time wins list lead with number 72 last week at Bowman Gray, was in front of Myers on a green-white-checkered restart in the 100-lap Modified precursor to the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event. Miller, Myers and third-place Tim Brown, completed the first lap and a half of the two-lap shootout without incident.
Then “The Madhouse” went mad once again in turn three.
Myers gave a shot to the back bumper of Miller, sending the 63-year-old for a spin. Myers slipped by the spinning Miller car and hustled back to the checkered flag for his 60th career Bowman Gray Modified victory.
The nearly capacity crowd at BGS were on their feet for the fireworks, fully knowing that there would be more even after the race in true “Madhouse” style. Indeed there were, as Miller got his car re-fired from the spin and began chasing after Myers, who was circling the track in celebration. Myers dodged every attempt at Miller’s retribution and the two drove off into the infield in a Bowman Gray-style game of “chicken.” Despite the best efforts of the track’s pace car, safety crews and Winston-Salem police officers, Miller was able to get to Myers’ car and cause some contact in the infield.
Miller climbed from his car and began looking for Myers, who had driven away from the infield altercation and into victory lane. Security was able to get Miller back to the pit area without any further incident between the drivers. The same can’t be said for some of their supporters.
Myers was greeted in victory lane by a chorus of cheers and boos. After climbing from his car, a woman was seen throwing a jab into Myers’ stomach. Before the woman could be separated from the victory lane scene, in a video posted to YouTube Saturday night (viewed below), she can be seen slapping Pam Myers, Burt’s mother, across the face before being subdued and escorted away from victory lane.
Myers continued his victory lane interview that was barely audible in the grandstands with the shouts of praise or disdain that were still resonating from the crowd.
“Did I turn him around? I sure did,” said Myers in his victory lane interview. “This is Bowman Gray racing.”
Myers also noted that he was pushed into Miller by third-place Tim Brown, but video evidence seems to suggest otherwise.
No matter what, Saturday night’s Modified race at Bowman Gray rekindled one of the most intense and talked-about rivalries in Bowman Gray history. There’s still a lot of racing to be held at the quarter-mile in Winston-Salem over the summer, and it’s almost a guarantee that there will be more of this rivalry to be seen each and every Saturday night.
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @mattkentfield