WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Contrary to what some may believe, Gray Garrison’s not named after Bowman Gray Stadium. But he probably wouldn’t mind if he were. Garrison is President of Winston-Salem Speedway, Inc. He’s the promoter and essentially the person in charge of racing at NASCAR’s longest-running weekly track.
Every Saturday evening, for 17 or 18 weeks between April and August, as many as 15,000 people jam Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem to watch. But this is nothing new to Garrison.
Garrison’s grandfather, Alvin Hawkins, the man who would later found NASCAR, and Bill France, were dirt-track racing promoters.
“I think it was in 1949, someone had the idea, ‘Well they’ve got a little paved track in Winston-Salem, why don’t you see what happens with paved?’ And, of course, pavement was kind of a new thing back then,” Garrison says. “They decided to promote a race here in Winston-Salem and we’ve been here ever since.”
Garrison now represents the third generation of his family producing and promoting racing at Bowman Gray.
“I think a promoter is trying to keep everything going in the right direction,” he says. “[During a race] I’m listening to scoring. I’m listening to our chief steward, which is race control. I’m listening to track, crew; I’m listening to ticket-sellers.”
Garrison points out he sells “entertainment.” In fact, he describes it as racing, wrestling, and religion.
“We race. We get out and discuss issues sometimes like they do in wrestling,” he says. “And religion because we have people that sit in the same seat. They’ve been sitting there for year after year after years like they do in church.”
He goes on to say: “I feel like it’s my job to make it exciting for them, make it something that they can remember and say ‘Man, I can’t believe what I just saw. I gotta come back next week and see what happens.’”
And by all indications, Garrison’s doing his job quite well.
For more information about Bowman Gray Racing, visit bowmangrayracing.com.