Racing History

Carolina Posse Was Feared Throughout The Southeast

CAROLINA CHARGER: Ralph Earnhardt was one of the stock-car racers from the 1950s and 1960s known in the South as the Carolina Posse. (NSSN Archives Photo)

CAROLINA CHARGER: Ralph Earnhardt was one of the stock-car racers from the 1950s and 1960s known in the South as the Carolina Posse. (NSSN Archives Photo)

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Alabama Gang, led by Bobby Allison out of Hueytown, Ala., ran roughshod in the Southeast.

And when it comes to the dirt tracks in Pennsylvania, who hasn’t heard of the Pennsylvania Posse?

There was one such bunch very few people ever have heard of or were familiar with.

That was the Carolina Posse that was grouped mostly in the Concord, N.C., area and was dominant mainly at dirt tracks in the 1950s and 1960s.

Considered members of the Carolina Posse were Dink Widenhouse, Matt Simpson, Bunk Simpson, Tommy Boger, Slab Widenhouse, Ralph Earnhardt (father of the late Dale Earnhardt), John Ray Eury, George Manteuss and Red Irwin.

“There were a couple of others, but it’s hard to remember them all,” said Steve Young, who was a mechanic for a lot of the modified cars used by some of those drivers.

“Of course, everybody’s heard of Earnhardt and Dink (Widenhouse). They were the big winners and considered the leaders of the Carolina Posse, although nothing was ever formalized along that line.

“That’s just what they became known as because when they usually showed up at a race track, they dominated everything and one of them used to come away a winner.

“They always seemed to have the best cars and the latest equipment and their knowledge of race cars was unmatched.”

The Carolina Posse usually could be found at Metrolina Fairgrounds in Charlotte, N.C., Southern States Speedway in Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, S.C., Columbia (S.C.) Speedway, Asheville-Weaverville (N.C.) or Hickory (N.C.).

“Most of us are dead or whatever now,” said Widenhouse, “and although we were never organized as the Carolina Posse, that’s what we became known as because we’d show up at a race track and pit together, hang out together and if anybody ever got in trouble, all of us were there to help. They knew we were there and that we meant business.

“We never set out to all show up at any particular track, but it seemed to happen that way a lot and a lot of us became very close friends over the years.”

Frank and James Russell’s garage in Concord served as the unofficial headquarters of the Carolina Posse.

“A lot of teams or car owners back then didn’t have their own shops or garages where they could work on their cars,” said Young. “Usually they had to do it where they could find space or find a garage, like the one the Russells had, who didn’t mind keeping the cars for the guys.

“I’ve worked on many a dirt-track race car at Russell’s Garage.” Widenhouse said, “Anytime you wanted to talk racing or find out who won during the weekend, just show at Russell’s and you could find out everything you needed to know.”

And the Carolina Posse rode on.

Posted by on Nov 3 2009 Filed under A Lesson in History, Racing History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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