For more than a quarter century, North Wilkesboro Speedway has stood as a fossilized reminder of the cost of NASCAR’s growth — a racetrack left behind in the name of national stock car racing expansion. But North Wilkesboro, North Carolina was never truly forgotten, and a new life for the speedway may soon turn from a dream to a reality.

At the Wilkes County Chamber of Commerce’s 75th Annual Membership Celebration Thursday night, Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith shared his company’s vision for the reopening and future of North Wilkesboro Speedway, which held NASCAR races from the sport’s inaugural season in 1949 until the track closed in 1996.

The prospect of revitalizing the historic highway was recently made possible by the 2021-2022 North Carolina State Budget, which allocated $18 million for racetrack infrastructure improvements as part of the plan. American rescue. While Smith noted that work still needs to be done on the highway’s facilities and infrastructure, he presented a conceptual future of the highway through a series of renderings that featured both a return for NASCAR as well as as alternative uses as an entertainment facility.

“In the automotive world, I would call it a resto-mod. It’s going to look old, but it’s going to run like new,” Smith said. “When you think of nostalgic opportunities, this is one of those in a million opportunities. Our hope is to celebrate history and look to the future. North Wilkesboro Speedway is an incredible historic location for NASCAR. is almost like Fenway Park is for baseball. I think with this money from the state and the American Rescue Plan, we can make some dreams come true at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Smith specifically mentioned the “real possibility” of the track hosting a future NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, an idea backed by Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis.

North Wilkesboro went from one of NASCAR’s original speedways to a relic of the sport’s past when the track was purchased by Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Bruton Smith in the mid-1990s following the death of track founder Enoch Staley. With the track becoming antiquated and NASCAR seeking racing in bigger, more glamorous markets, the two North Wilkesboro dates on the NASCAR calendar were sent to SMI’s new Texas Motor Speedway and Bob Bahre-owned New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which bought the Staley family share. property in 1996.

Although the track has remained abandoned since then – save for a popular two-year revival in the early 2010s – the idea of ​​revitalizing the speedway and restoring it to its former glory has become a passion project for Marcus Smit. and, Bruton’s son, as well as local volunteer groups. Volunteer efforts have included those of the NASCAR industry, such as when Dale Earnhardt Jr. led an effort to clean up the track surface in 2019 so it could be scanned and virtually preserved by iRacing.


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