A pledge of $1 million has further increased the possibility of NASCAR’s return to the famed short track
North Wilkesboro Speedway opened in May 18, 1947 as a dirt track. It hosted it’s first NASCAR Cup Series race in 1949. In 1957, the 0.625-mile track was paved. It hosted two NCS events from 1951-1996,
The North Carolina track hosted it’s final NASCAR Cup Series race on September 29, 1996, won by Jeff Gordon. Soon after, the gates went up for good and trees began to re-claim the property.
Following the 1996 season, the track was sold to the former owner of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Bob Bahre as well as Bruton Smith. As the property needed upgrades, what was really sold were the race dates.
The spring race was moved to Texas Motor Speedway. The fall race was moved to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Ever since, NASCAR fans have been pissed. Finally, higher level management has been listing to the fans, short tracks have become a focus on the NASCAR schedule and a dirt race has even been added. But, there’s more…
“I just want to let you know we haven’t forgotten about North Wilkesboro,” Smith said. “We haven’t given up on it. I’m thinking, we’re working on it, no promises.”
North Wilkesboro community begs for NASCAR return
The local community has heard that comment. Local businesses and bumper stickers have been plastered with a simple message.
“We want you back.”
The Wilkesboro, NC, chamber of commerce is spending $5,000 on the billboard ad banners. They are being hung and placed all over the county.
Now, the interest has continued to grow. The CEO of Camping World has stepped up to pledge an investment in the property.
Marcus Lemonis, “I’m willing to invest up to 1 million into the complex and even have a small Camping World store on property.”
In December 2019, Dale Earnhardt Jr and SMI President Marcus Smith opened the gates and cleared the racing surface of trees. iRacing scanners were then deployed on the surface. The track has since been re-born in the digital world.
Terri Parsons is the widow of Benny Parsons. She has been leading an effort to stir interest back into the community.
“For me, it’s both business and personal,” Terri Parsons told the Morganton newspaper.
“When Benny found out he wasn’t going to make it with lung cancer, it was on his list of 10 things he gave me to get done for him. It was No. 3 on the list and the hardest to get done. It’s a personal thing that way.”
“But my background is tourism. I was the director of tourism for the state of Florida, and he knew that I could help the local community if they would let me.”
“I’ve lived here 14 years now since he passed away. What it means to me is that I’ve watched a little community here and the county struggle financially ever since I’ve lived here. I knew about Lowe’s leaving, and I knew, of course, about the speedway closing.”
A re-paving wouldn’t be required. As NASCAR returns to dirt racing, a new and much cheaper option has been added for bringing North Wilkesboro Speedway back to life.