The rich early history of Modified racing at South Boston Speedway spanned a decade, starting shortly after the track opened in August of 1957. Modifieds continued to be the speedway’s featured racing division through the 1968 season.
Throughout the years South Boston Speedway has hosted events for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and iterations of the SMART Modified Tour, continuing the history of Modified racing at one of NASCAR’s premier short tracks.
Eddie Crouse became South Boston Speedway’s first NASCAR track champion in 1960 and continued his outstanding career in the NASCAR Modified division by winning back-to-back NASCAR national Modified titles in 1962 and 1963. Crouse was a consistent winner at South Boston Speedway in 1960 and was one of the state and country’s top Modified drivers.
However, it is the late Ray Hendrick who shines as the biggest star of Modified racing at South Boston Speedway.
Hendrick captured the first of his five career South Boston Speedway NASCAR track championships and the second South Boston Speedway NASCAR track championship in 1961.
He followed up by winning the South Boston Speedway NASCAR Modified Division championship again in 1963 and added titles in 1966 and 1968, the final season in which Modifieds were the track’s featured racing division. In 1979, he won the South Boston Speedway NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division title.
While there are no official numbers to back it up, Hendrick is credited as being the most prolific winner in South Boston Speedway’s history. Known as “Mr. Modified” and “Rapid Ray” Hendrick collected more than 700 victories while racing in the NASCAR Modified Division and in the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Division which evolved to become today’s NASCAR Xfinity Series. He was named NASCAR’s Most Popular Modified Driver in 1970 and 1971.
A majority of Hendrick’s victories at South Boston Speedway came while wheeling the famed Flying No. 11 Modified coupe fielded by Jack Tant and Clayton Mitchell.
Hendrick retired from racing in 1982, but in 1986 his son, former South Boston Speedway NASCAR Late Model Stock Car Division Champion Roy Hendrick, talked him into racing one final time and offered to have his dad race one of his Late Model Stock Cars. The elder Hendrick raced his last race in 1986 at South Boston Speedway during an “Old Timers Night” event.
Hendrick’s philosophy during his 36-year racing career was that he would race anywhere and everywhere, and he did, winning major events up and down the east coast. He also raced sporadically in the NASCAR Cup Series. He made 17 starts and captured two Top-Five and six Top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The Richmond, Virginia resident received several major honors in recognition of his outstanding racing accomplishments including:
• Inductee - National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame (1993)
• Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers (1998)
• First Inductee - Virginia Motorsports Hall of Fame 2003)
• Inductee - International Motorsports Hall of Fame (2007)
• Being Ranked No. 4 on All-Time Top 10 Modified Drivers list (2010).
Hendrick was the leader of the legendary “4 H Boys” from Richmond, Virginia, a foursome that was at the heart of the success and lore of Modified division racing at South Boston Speedway and the Commonwealth of Virginia. The three other members of the “4 H Boys” included Sonny Hutchins, Runt Harris and Ted Hairfield.
Hutchins racked up as many as 400 wins while driving mainly for Junie Donlavey and Emanuel Zervakis. Hutchins was co-champion with Bob McGinnis for the South Boston Speedway NASCAR Modified track championship in 1965 and later won three South Boston Speedway NASCAR track championships racing in the Late Model Sportsman Division.
Harris collected an estimated 300 wins over the course of over 30 years of racing. He won the South Boston Speedway NASCAR Modified Division title in 1964 and again in 1967.
Hairfield captured an estimated 200 wins during his racing career. He won the 1962 South Boston Speedway NASCAR Modified Division championship.
Few had a greater impact in the history of Modified racing at South Boston Speedway, in the Commonwealth of Virginia and in NASCAR.