North Wilkesboro Speedway rejig plans


Upgrade of North Wilkesboro Speedway Image: North Wilkesboro Speedway

The motorsport company Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith shared his vision for the future of the North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina, US, during the Wilkes County Chamber of Commerce 75th Membership Celebration on January 20th, 2022.

The ‘North Wilkesboro Speedway’ stated that earmarked within the North Carolina State budget that was passed in November 2021 was $18 million toward infrastructure improvements at the historic 0.625-mile facility. That money, Smith said, will go a long way toward modernizing the iconic venue to bring motorsports, concerts and other entertainment options to the Wilkes County region.

Speedway Motorsports, LLC is an American company that owns and manages auto racing facilities that host races sanctioned by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR – American auto racing sanctioning and operating company that is best known for stock car racing), IndyCar Series (highest class of regional North American open-wheel single-seater formula racing cars in the United States), the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), World of Outlaws (American motorsports sanctioning body), and other racing series. The company’s headquarters are located at Concord, North Carolina, United States.

The 40,000-capacity North Wilkesboro Speedway is a former short oval racetrack located on U.S. Route 421, about five miles East of the town of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, or 80 miles North of Charlotte. It measured 0.625 miles and featured a unique uphill backstretch and downhill frontstretch.

Smith told a group of 250 people gathered for the event – “The future of North Wilkesboro Speedway is bright. There is a great opportunity to revive this fantastic venue to be, not just a race track, but a place that can host lots of events, a place that people will come to from far away and enjoy the community, enjoy the region and enjoy special events.”

The ‘North Wilkesboro Speedway’ further stated that thanks to the efforts of local volunteer groups, cleanup around the 75-year-old race track began several months ago and attention can now turn to prioritizing the necessary upgrades and refurbishment projects to reopen the North Wilkesboro Speedway. Smith highlighted his vision for the property through a series of renderings that showcased not only a return to racing, but also alternative uses like serving as a concert venue.

Added Smith, “Water, sewer, electricity, roads, connectivity – those are a lot of the building blocks that we need to get done. We want to keep 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 car world, I would call it a resto-mod (a classic car that has been restored, but modified with modern parts and technology). It’s going to look old, but it’s going to work new. When you think about nostalgic opportunities, this is one of those one-in-a-million opportunities.”

Smith continued, “Our hope is to celebrate the history and look forward to the future. The North Wilkesboro Speedway is an amazing, historic place for NASCAR. It’s almost like what the 37,731-capacity Fenway Park in Boston is to baseball. I think, with this money from the State and the American Rescue Plan, we can make some dreams a reality at the North Wilkesboro Speedway.”

Smith noted the “real possibility” of bringing a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event – “We specifically – and I’ll thank Marcus Lemonis, the CEO of Camping World for his voice of support – we specifically think it’s a real possibility to bring back NASCAR and the Camping World Truck Series (pickup truck racing series) to the North Wilkesboro Speedway. Those races are nationally televised events, and it’s a national NASCAR touring series. We have a number of those (races) in our portfolio, and I would love to see one of those here.”

Seeing renderings of the re-envisioned speedway and hearing Smith’s ideas for the future of the property was welcome news to lifelong residents, community leaders and business owners.

Stated Terri Parsons, widow of NASCAR legend Benny Parsons and a longtime advocate of revitalizing the facility, “This means everything to anybody that lives in Wilkes County. By the speedway coming back, this has just turned a light bulb on in this whole community again. You can see by the attendance tonight (January 20th), everybody in the town, everybody in the county supports it and wants to see something come alive out there.”

Enthused Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, whose district includes Wilkes County, “I’m very excited to hear the ideas that are coming from Speedway Motorsports. This track is a symbol of our community. He (Smith) used the word ‘hope.’ It’s very exciting to see the vision that he’s putting forth and how it’s tying to the past and looking to the future.”

Smith also used the opportunity to thank the community for its efforts – from cleanup crews to business and political leaders – to help return the legendary facility to its former glory – “Bringing back races, bringing back special events, bringing back tourism, creating a very special place where the community can gather, it’s exciting. When you think about nostalgic opportunities, this is one of those one-in-a-million opportunities. I think there’s a bright future ahead for the North Wilkesboro Speedway. It wouldn’t happen without the amazing community support that’s in this room as well as the people who have been out at the speedway to help us bring the speedway back. Anybody might have said this place is too far gone, but this community rallied and brought it to a place where we can rebuild it and it can be a fantastic jewel.”

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