Appalachian State houses one of stock car racing’s premier collections

Appalachian State University’s Stock Car Racing Collection in Belk Library works to preserve the sport’s history while offering scholars, reporters, fans and others an opportunity to conduct research.

There are numerous exhibits for people to visit and learn the history of stock car racing, including the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega Superspeedway and the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame at Darlington Raceway.

Now, there’s also a place to do extensive research on the sport – at the Stock Car Racing Collection located in Belk Library at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.

The collection features items including books, periodicals, race programs, driver cards, and much more, as well as collections of personal papers donated by individuals in racing. A highlight is a collection donated from the family of Richard “The King” Petty.

Curator Suzanne Wise oversees the collection that now features thousands of documents, periodicals and items that anyone can use for research or just to learn more about the sport.

It’s been a labor of love for the veteran librarian that grew out of a need to serve students who were taking a class on stock car racing in the late 1990s.

“It really started on an informal basis with an elective class that was supposed to be taught just one time in the early 1990s on the history of stock car racing and it proved to be so popular they started teaching it once a year every year,” said Wise.

“I started buying items to help students write their research papers and along the way I was finding information.”

After purchasing materials for those students, Wise and others at the university realized this was something that could grow into a permanent fixture on campus.

The Dean at the time saw the value of establishing the collection, especially with where we are located geographically. The process evolved to the point that when we moved into our new building in 2005, we finally had space to bring it all together and it became the Stock Car Racing Collection.

Suzanne Wise

While the University owns all the materials in the collection once they’re donated, this doesn’t limit access to just students of ASU.

“This collection is owned by a non-profit, state-funded university and it’s open to anyone to use for research,” said Wise. “Anybody who walks through the door is welcome to use the material on-site.”

Although Wise started this collection to help students complete their studies and research papers, over the nearly two decades since its inception, the collection has become noteworthy far outside North Carolina.

“We probably have one of the largest stock car racing collections anywhere in the world,” added Wise. “There are a lot of materials we don’t have that we hope to get and as we’ve become better known throughout the industry we get more people contacting us about offering their collections.

“That is how we were able to secure the Richard Petty Collection. His wife Lynda collected material on Richard’s career and was running out of space, so she donated a lot of material. The late Bob Myers also donated his research files to us. Marvin Panch’s daughter has also donated items documenting her dad’s career.”

The university setting also offers a secure and comfortable place to preserve the content, much to the pleasure of those who donate the materials.

“We can provide professional services to preserve the materials professionally and a way that will preserve them well into the future,” said Wise. “We use acid-free materials when storing the articles and if we get newspaper clippings, we make professional copies on acid-free paper to preserve them along with other items we either purchase or have donated to the collection.”

The Stock Car Racing Collection also features video and audio collections including the Hank Schoolfield Universal Racing Network Collection.

While Wise doesn’t have hard numbers and she notes that ASU is not the only institution that keeps a collection of stock car racing material, she feels it’s one of the strongest.

“We’re reasonably comprehensive with our collection and we’re open to anybody who wants to use the materials for research and we now have international recognition of our collection that is one of the largest in the world,” said Wise.

“In fact we have a young man scheduled to come down from Canada and use some of our materials for a research project he’s working on about labor unions in racing from the South like Curtis Turner’s days of trying to organize the drivers in the 1960’s.

“The fact that he’s coming to us shows me that people know about us and are learning what we have to offer here with our collection.

The Stock Car Racing Collection has an advisory board that advises on outreach efforts and also helps secure more items.

“Their main task is to be ambassadors for the collection and make people aware of what we have here and what we offer both if they want to use it or if they have materials themselves that they would like to see preserved forever,” said Wise.

“One of our long-time board members, Deb Williams, was helpful in reaching out to Bob Myers and helping us secure his collection.”

Located in northwestern North Carolina and about an hour from Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Wise invites anyone who plans to drive through the area to visit the collection.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve built and continued to build with our Stock Car Racing Collection and welcome anyone to come by and check it out for themselves whether they are writers or just race fans,” said Wise. “We feel they’ll enjoy the materials.”

Notable Collections

  • Richard Petty Collection
  • Raymond Parks Collection
  • Marvin Panch Collection
  • Bob Myers Collection
  • Dick Beaty Collection
  • G. Wayne Miller Collection
  • Hank Schoolfield Universal Racing Network Collection
  • Central Pennsylvania Racing Association
  • Len Milde Collection
  • Clippings File
  • Driver Cards
  • Fan Club Newsletters
  • Magazines, Journals and Newspapers
  • Media Guides
  • Photographs
  • Race Programs
  • Trading Cards  

Want to learn more?


EDITOR’S NOTE: Tim Southers serves on the Stock Car Racing Collection Advisory Committee.

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About this article
Drivers Richard Petty
Teams Richard Petty Motorsports
Article type Special feature