Richmond Raceway unveils Wall of Honor to salute legendary names

September 19, 2018

NASCAR’s newest attraction is ready to open its doors Friday, but not before stopping to pay tribute to Richmond Raceway’s storied history.

The track unveiled a Wall of Honor on Tuesday afternoon, four panels commemorating people who helped shape the area’s racing scene. More panels will be unveiled before future races.

Sitting in the middle of the spectacle was the “Flying 11” car raced to more than 700 victories by Ray Hendrick. Hendrick’s son, Roy, a racer himself, drove the car in.

“It’s just so cool seeing what they did to honor these guys,” Roy said. “As long as they do this, they will never run out of really good Virginia drivers to honor.”

The unveiling came days before the track opens its doors on a $30 million infield expansion, dubbed Richmond Raceway Reimagined. Billy Sawyer, the son of the track’s former owner, Paul Sawyer, was among those on hand. Paul Sawyer received a panel on the wall.

“He was so proud of this facility,” Billy said. “Even when it was dirt, he always said he had a major league sport in a minor league park. The dream is finally fulfilled. We reconfigured Richmond in 1988. He’d be proud his lifelong legacy is being updated and continues to carry his name.”

The 1988 renovation paved Richmond and made it the ¾-mile short track it is today. The Sawyers, who owned the track from 1955 to 1999, turned Richmond into the destination it is. Ever since 1959, the track has hosted two Cup Series races annually.

Track president Dennis Bickmeier said it will be another amenity for fans.

“They’re going to see the future, and get a look at the past,” he said. “Given our history and legacy, you could fill all these walls with people who made an impact at Richmond Raceway, or in the commonwealth.”

Bickmeier’s team is racing to the finish line to complete the upgrades before fans arrive Friday.

An official ribbon-cutting is set for Wednesday morning, and Bickmeier said he’s receiving assistance from other nearby tracks.

“I feel good that we’ll be ready for everybody on Friday,” he said.

First, though, Tuesday’s ceremony, which featured a number of relatives of the honorees.

The inaugural wall honors Sawyer, NASCAR Hall of Famers Joe Weatherly, Curtis Turner, Wendell Scott, and Glen and Leonard Wood, and local legends Hendrick and Junie Donlavey.

The honorees were decided by a panel chaired by longtime Richmond Times-Dispatch motor sports writer Randy Hallman.

Also on the panel are Dick Conway, Al Pearce, John Dodson, Billy Thurston and consultants Bill Sawyer and Dave Fulton. Richmond staff represented on the committee are Dennis Bickmeier, Linwood Burrow and Brent S. Gambill.

At the ceremony, Roy Hendrick reminisced on how the track used to be known as the fairgrounds site, the site of some of his father’s greatest successes as a driver.

“There were two races each day during the fair, morning and night,” he said. “I loved the night race. We’d stay out here all day long riding rides while Daddy was in the little beer joint.

“I don’t remember him ever losing a race here — I really don’t. He won them all.”

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