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NASCAR fans met at a track as teens. They'll celebrate 50 years at Charlotte Speedway.

Peggy and Leon Harrison are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend.
Peggy and Leon Harrison are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. Charlotte Motor Speedway

Charlotte Motor Speedway was the perfect honeymoon destination for Leon and Peggy Harrison when they married in their home state of New Jersey on May 18, 1968.

They'd caught the racing bug early in life. So they made sure to attend the 1968 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on their honeymoon in the South. They and 60,000 other fans watched Buddy Baker defeat Donnie Allison under the race's sixth and final caution flag.

The couple, now retired and living in Holden Beach, N.C., have since watched nearly two dozen races while camping at the 1.5-mile track.

Nowhere else, they said, would they want to celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary this weekend.

Leon, 72, and Peggy, 71, said they had hoped to enjoy a quiet dinner of oysters-on-the-half-shell to mark the occasion with friends Dave and Sandy Poole at a Hickory Tavern in University City. They do that every year, they said, but illness in the Poole family has kept the Pooles at home in Clearwater, Fla., they said.

Sandy Poole, however, had informed her ticket agent at the speedway of the Harrisons' 50th anniversary, and the speedway upgraded their seats to the clubhouse, speedway spokesman Scott Cooper said.

The speedway also gave the couple pre-race garage and pit passes, and an invitation to the annual Saturday morning breakfast at the Speedway Club. The couple is also featured in an article in the Coca-Cola 600 race program.

'"We were country folk," Leon Harrison told the Observer on Friday. He grew up on his family's New Jersey farm. "We didn't get out of town much."

The couple met in high school in 1964 at New Jersey's Flemington Speedway in 1964. They grew up in a rural part of the state, Leon on his family's farm.

Peggy worked as an administrative assistant and in other roles at a New Jersey hospital and a pharmaceutical company.

Leon is a Vietnam veteran and retired union heavy equipment operator who drove late models and modifieds at dirt tracks in the Northeast from the 1960s until 1980.

"It’s always been a passion of mine,” he said. “When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, I’d go to Flemington to watch races, and it hooked me forever.”

Peggy Harrison grew up a race fan, and the 1968 race unveiled a new type of racing to her.

“That was the first NASCAR. race I saw,” she said, remembering how fans sat on concrete seats.

“You have to know NASCAR and be at the races to know what it feels like,” Peggy Harrison said, describing the military flyover and pageantry as "breathtaking."

She loves the camaraderie with fellow campers, she said, and can't wait to enjoy the fun once more and what she called her and her husband's favorite track.”

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak
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