CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There is once again a glimmer of hope that racing could return to North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway, which last hosted racing in 2011.
eNorth Wilkesboro Speedway is one of three North Carolina motorsports venues that will receive funding following the approval of the state budget by Governor Roy Cooper Thursday. The historic facility is set to receive $18 million for infrastructure and other improvements.
In addition, Charlotte Motor Speedway is slated to receive $13 million, with Rockingham Speedway tabbed for a $9 million boost. Like North Wilkesboro, the funds will be used for infrastructure and other improvements.
Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports LLC, which owns North Wilkesboro Speedway, released a statement Friday and indicated the long-term goal is to return racing to the .625-mile race track.
“The allocation toward North Wilkesboro provides the starting capital needed to rebuild the infrastructure of the historic facility. With state budget amounts now finalized, we can zero in on project priorities and determine work schedules,” the statement read. “The goal will be to modernize the property so that it can host racing and special events again in the future.
“I’d also like to thank all the members of the Wilkes County community who have donated their time and hard work to help demolish old buildings and clear brush and debris. We are truly grateful for what you’ve already done and we look forward to rebuilding North Wilkesboro Speedway.”
North Wilkesboro Speedway is one of NASCAR’s most beloved race tracks. It hosted its first race in 1947 when it was a dirt track, with the NASCAR Cup Series visiting the facility for the first time during the tour’s inaugural season in 1949.
That race, the final of eight races on the schedule that year, was won by Bob Flock.
The track hosted 93 NASCAR Cup Series races from 1949 to 1996. Following the death of track owner Enoch Staley in 1995, 50 percent of the track was sold to SMI owner O. Bruton Smith, with the other half later purchased by New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s Bob Bahre.
Following the final NASCAR Cup Series race at the track in 1996, North Wilkesboro was removed from the NASCAR Cup Series schedule in favor of Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Bahre later sold his half of North Wilkesboro Speedway to Speedway Motorsports as part of an agreement to sell New Hampshire Motor Speedway to the company in 2007.
North Wilkesboro Speedway sat dormant until 2010, when a group called Speedway Associates leased the track from Speedway Motorsports.
During its brief return, North Wilkesboro hosted mostly late model and other stock car events. The last event held at North Wilkesboro Speedway took place on April 11, 2011. Known as “The Race,” the Pro All Stars Series super late model event boasted a $75,000 winner’s share that was earned by Chris Eggleston.