Nascar’s North Wilkesboro Speedway will get another chance to shine
North Wilkesboro Speedway is as old as NASCAR. The 5/8 mile short track was one of NASCAR’s first program tracks holding its first event in 1949, the same year the sport was founded.
The track, located in Wilkes County in western North Carolina, held races, including 93 Cup Series races, until 1996, when it was the victim of a “realignment” of schedules. After a controlling interest in North Wilkesboro was purchased in part by Speedway Motorsports, then run by Bruton Smith, NASCAR-assigned dates were moved to other Speedway Motorsports-owned tracks such as Texas Motor Speedway. It was a decision that was not well received by many fans of the sport at the time. However, the track was closed the same year with Burton Smith forced to hire extra security for himself on the track when he rone is the last race of the Cup.
The site briefly reopened in 2010 and hosted races from the now inactive ASA Late Model, USARacing Pro Cup and PASS Super Late Models series, but closed again in the spring of 2011 and has remained closed ever since.
Talk of another track revival gained traction last year when the the state budget provides $18 million improve water, sewer and other infrastructure for the track; shortly after, the track announced its reopening, although at that time it was unclear which series would be racing there
On Thursday, current Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith, son of Bruton, answered that question.
“The future of North Wilkesboro Speedway is bright,” Smith told a group of 250 people gathered for the 75th annual Wilkes County Chamber of Commerce members’ celebration. “There is a great opportunity to revive this fantastic place, not just a racecourse, but a place that can host many events, a place where people will come from afar and enjoy the community, enjoy the region and enjoy special moments. events.”
Fans loyal to the track volunteered last year to begin the process of cleaning and restoring the facility. Smith said attention can now turn to the upgrades and renovation projects needed to reopen the legendary track.
“Water, sewer, electricity, roads, connectivity – those are a lot of the basics that we need to get done,” Smith said. “We want to retain the character of the property, celebrate the history, but, of course, make it safe, convenient and enjoyable for everyone who comes to visit.
“In the automotive world, I’d call it a resto-mod. It’s gonna look old, but it’s gonna run like new. When you think of nostalgic opportunities, this is one of those opportunities on a million.
“Our hope is to celebrate history and look to the future. North Wilkesboro Speedway is an incredible historic location for NASCAR. It’s almost like Fenway Park is in baseball. I think with this money from the state and the US bailout, we can make some dreams come true at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Smith also said a NASCAR comeback is definitely on the table.
“We have specifically – and I will thank Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World
Smith also showed renders of what he hopes the freeway will look like online once the renovation is complete.
“It means everything to anyone who lives in Wilkes County,” said Terri Parsons, widow of NASCAR legend Benny Parsons and a longtime supporter of the facility’s revitalization. “Coming back from the freeway, it just lit a light bulb again in this whole community. You can see by the attendance tonight, everyone in the city, everyone in the county supports him and wants to see something come to life there.
“I’m very excited to hear the ideas that are coming from Speedway Motorsports,” said Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, whose district includes Wilkes County. “This track is a symbol of our community. He (Smith) used the word “hope”. It’s very exciting to see the vision he presents and how it ties into the past and looks to the future.
Smith also thanked the community for their efforts, from volunteer cleanup crews to business and political leaders.
“Bringing back the races, bringing back the special events, bringing back the tourism, creating a very special place for the community to come together, it’s exciting,” he said. “When you think of nostalgic opportunities, this is one of those in a million opportunities.
“I think North Wilkesboro Speedway has a bright future ahead of it. This wouldn’t happen without the incredible support of the community in this room as well as the people who have been on the circuit to help us bring the circuit back. Anyone could have said this place has gone too far, but this community has rallied together and brought it to a place where we can rebuild it and it can be a fantastic gem.