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In 1936, the widow of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company President Bowman Gray donated $30,000 to the city to build a stadium. A Work Projects Administration grant of $100,000 was approved and a 42 acre site was chosen. The property in part lay in a natural bowl-shaped depression. Less than a year later the stadium was named for Mr. Gray. The race track was built in 1949 by Bill France as a farm club for his Florida races. Fonty Flock won the first race. In 1954 6,000 seats were added to the south end, for a total capacity of 18,000.
The first Grand National (now Sprint Cup Series) event took place in 1958. Racing legends David Pearson, Junior Johnson and Marvin Panch all took the checkered flag. Richard Petty won his 100th race here, and team owner Richard Childress fell in love with racing as a teenage peanut salesman.
Wake Forest College played football at the stadium even before the school moved to Winston-Salem and continued to do so until Grove Stadium (now BB&T field) was built in 1968. For many years, high school teams and the Piedmont Bowl, which featured pro-football teams, also played there. In the 1960’s it was a concert venue with Dick Clark’s Cavalcade of Stars where sell out crowds of teenagers rocked to Gene Pitney, The Orlons, and Lou Christie. Today Bowman Gray stadium is the home of the Winston-Salem State University Rams football teams and summer Saturday nights are filled with the smell of fuel from the modified, sportsmen and street stock racers.
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