Curtis Turner: From NASCAR banishment to celebrated Hall of Famer
Curtis Turner was banned from NASCAR for attempting to start a driver’s union in 1961, only to be reinstated four years later after a number of other drivers and track operators lobbied for his return.
Now, 55 years after Bill France barred him, Turner posthumously was inducted Saturday into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Tim Flock, who also had been banned with Turner, was inducted into the NASCAR Hall in 2014.
His daughter, Margaret Sue Turner Wright, who opened a museum about her father’s exploits in 2001, spoke with the media after the induction ceremonies and was asked about the union controversy, which stemmed somewhat from the funding needed to build Charlotte Motor Speedway, of which Turner was a part-investor.
“He tried to save the track at one point. He and Bruton (Smith) were working on this deal together for a long time, and they ran into trouble, and financing was a big issue when they hit granite because it was going to be so expensive to try to blast through there and fix it and also get it done in time for the race they had already advertised.
“So he was looking for financing. He was looking for more help because he didn’t have it. So this is where he eventually went to try to form a Teamsters’ Union because he was turned onto Jimmy Hoffa, and (Hoffa) said, ‘Well, I’ll loan you the money if you can get a union going.’
“So Daddy thought, well, this is what the drivers need, this will probably help them. They didn’t have big purses then. They couldn’t get insurance. That was a laugh. There was nobody that could get insurance then because of racing was a pretty dangerous sport.
“So that is my awareness of it, and that didn’t work out at the very end, even though they told them that they would do that, because then they changed their mind and said, oh, we can’t do that, it’ll be a conflict of interest.
“But at the time, everyone was on board with Daddy and they were trying to help the track, and the racers that they sort of started dropping off from it because Bill France didn’t like the idea of the union, which that was his choice, but he didn’t want to have anything else controlling him, which I kind of understand that. But it was just a matter of not allowing that to happen because he wanted the freedom away from that.
“Tim Flock was the only one that stayed on with daddy. All the other drivers did drop out of that original agreement, and they were going to do that to try to help.”