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Lost Speedways Character Spotlight: Cleveland County Fairgrounds



Was the crash on Oct. 23, 1956, that nearly killed NASCAR’s brightest star, Herb Thomas, a coincidence? Or was it a deliberate attempt to alter the point standings and rob Thomas of his third championship? Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matthew Dillner seek answers as they explore the track where it all happened - Cleveland County Fairgrounds.


Featured in Lost Speedways Season 2, Episode 7: – “Conspiracy or Coincidence” are:


Chuck Piazza

The dirt late model circuit of the Carolinas in the 1960s and 70s was one of the most competitive pockets of short track racing in the country, and right at the center of it was a New York transplant named Chuck Piazza. After finding success in the late model ranks at New York/Pennsylvania strongholds like State Line and Eriez Speedways, Piazza moved south to take on the country’s best, and soon found himself going head to head with Hall of Famers like Ralph Earnhardt, Stick Elliott, Freddy Smith and Hayward Plyler. Piazza would best them on numerous occasions and go on to log victories at Spartanburg, Concord, Metrolina and Cleveland County Fairgrounds. Piazza would return to the famed fairgrounds in Shelby to talk about his history at the track as well as his competitors from the era with the Lost Speedways crew.

Brownie King

Hailing from Johnson City, Tennessee, Brownie King was an early mainstay on the NASCAR Grand National circuit. From 1956 to 61 King would make 87 starts in the Cup division, racking up 26 top-10 finishes and finishing ninth in the season points standings in 1957. He would also run well in the short-lived NASCAR Convertible series, coming home fifth in the season standings in 1959. King also secured the 1962 track championship at nearby Bristol Motor Speedway, a year after the famous ½ mile track opened. In 1956, King bore witness to one of the most catastrophic events in NASCAR’s history, Herb Thomas’ career-ending crash at Cleveland County Fairgrounds. King appeared on Lost Speedways to give a first hand account of the wreck, as well as weigh in on the controversy and mystery surrounding it.


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