ES Independent Column – Hilltop Speedway

My wife’s dream when she was six years old was to be a professional race car driver. This ambition was triggered by attending the races at the Hilltop Speedway just outside Eureka Springs. She would accompany her father and she said she always wore her Hee-Haw overalls.

Curtis Hull built the race car track on a high flat top hill east of town a few miles. It opened for business April 5, 1974. The quarter mile long track had a D shaped design with the straight stretch in front of the grandstands that seated 2500. The racing surface was red clay and entertainment was provided between races. An emergency vehicle was always on standby.

Ratha Lawler lives down the road from the old racetrack and was a frequent attendee of the races held there. She provided me with some old articles about the speedway and pages out of the program books. Bobby Scarrow published these Hilltop Racing Review books that sold for fifty cents.

The races were held in the evening and I’m told the roar of the engines could be heard for miles around, even on the grounds of the Great Passion Play. Some of the notable local racers that performed at the speedway were Bill Billings, George Butler, Donnie Franklin, Jerry Moon and Bob Sherman.

My mother lives in the old Curtis Hull house and when I was in high school, I’d ride my Uncle Don’s old gray mare Lulabelle up at the racetrack. The announcer’s stand still stood up high between the wooden grandstands and the concrete safety wall still encircled the track. I’m told that after the Hilltop Speedway ceased operations, concerts were held there, with notables such as Grandpa Jones performing. It was called Rocky Top by then.

My wife, Diane, may have never been paid to race cars like she once wanted, but if you’ve ever ridden with her you know she is still partially living her dream.

If you have information or memories of the Hilltop Speedway, let me know at steve@steveweems.com or at Post Office Box 43 in Eureka Springs, 72632.

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