October 17, 1965 – NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Harold Kite dies after wreck

Harold Edwin Kite, born on November 13, 1921, in East Point, Georgia, left an indelible mark on the NASCAR Grand National Series during his short but impactful career. He was a determined racer, but his journey to the racetrack was paved with diverse experiences.

Harold Kite attended Commercial High School in Atlanta and graduated in 1939. His commitment to service led him to join the U.S. Army in June 1942, and within a short span, he achieved the rank of first lieutenant. His military journey took him to the 1st Armored Division, where he faced the perils of combat during the Anzio landings and even got wounded in action in January 1944. His valor and dedication remained unwavering, and he continued to serve in the Georgia National Guard while pursuing his passion for NASCAR. By the time he clinched a remarkable win at Daytona Beach, he held the rank of captain, commanding the 201st Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company.

NASCAR summary

Kite after winning in Daytona

In 1950, Harold Nite made his NASCAR Grand National Series debut, embarking on a journey that would earn him a place in racing history. Starting from the third position on the iconic Daytona Beach Road Course, he quickly surged to the lead, eventually leading 38 of the 48 laps and securing a remarkable victory. It was a breathtaking performance that set the stage for his career.

Kite’s 1951 season marked his return to the track. He achieved a career-high 25th place in the points standings, starting 38th in the historic Southern 500. He defied the odds by finishing 6th in a colossal field of eighty-two cars, demonstrating his skill and determination. However, Kite’s other race that year at Columbia Speedway ended with a less favorable 29th place finish.

Kite made two more appearances in the years to come, demonstrating his enduring passion for racing. In 1955, he encountered engine troubles during the LeHi race at Memphis-Arkansas Speedway, leading to a 25th-place finish. His second race that year at Darlington Southern 500 saw him finish in 43rd place, plagued by various issues.

In 1956, Kite adopted a different approach, racing at the small Shelby track located at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds. Although the field was small, with just 17 competitors, Kite faced difficulties and finished in 11th place.

The Harold Kite accident

harold kite wreck
Kite’s wrecked Plymouth.

A tragic turn of events awaited Harold Nite on October 17, 1965 when he made his long-awaited return to the sport at Charlotte Motor Speedway. On the second lap of the National 400, Kite became entangled in a five-car pileup on the fourth turn. His Plymouth collided with other cars, and the impact was devastating. Harold Nite, at the age of 43, was tragically pronounced dead upon arrival at the infield hospital, marking a somber end to a remarkable career.

In recognition of his contributions to racing and his enduring legacy, Harold Nite was posthumously inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in 2011. His courage, dedication, and passion for the sport continue to inspire racing enthusiasts, ensuring that the name of Harold Nite will forever be etched in the annals of NASCAR history.

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