Trevor Cline runs the bottom groove at Mountain Creek Speedway. (Lucas Halbert photo)

Mountain Creek Speedway: Family, Farming & Racing

A few hundred yards off Little Mountain Road in Catawba County, N.C., past the cow pastures and down a sleepy dirt road, lies Mountain Creek Speedway. 

Upon arrival, the one-sixth-mile track is initially hidden by a green wall of trees, but the reddish-orange dirt on the racing surface soon becomes too harsh of a contrast to ignore.

Since the late 1970s, the D-shaped oval has been a playground for everything from quads to karts. While it’s become a local haven for racers since it opened to the public in 2017, a love for the sport wasn’t necessarily the leading proponent of the track’s establishment.

“When my grandfather purchased that particular piece of property, it was originally being farmed. But really, that bottom didn’t grow good crops, so it really was almost worthless for farming,” explained track owner Adam Stewart. “So my dad went down there and decided to build a track.”

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The starting line scene at Mountain Creek Speedway. (Lucas Halbert photo)

With a race track being the agreed-upon alternative to farming the land, Mountain Creek Speedway was born.

Keeping up the track has become something of a joyful “hobby” for Stewart, who’s full-time job involves farming 2,500 acres of family land in Catawba County, where the speedway is located.

Be that as it may, Stewart has slowly been improving and growing the modest North Carolina facility since its first major event was run in May, 2018. From 2018 to 2020, the track was active nearly every weekend, hosting box stocks and outlaw karts.

But at a certain point, Stewart found the event frequency difficult to keep up with, which led him to introduce a few changes in 2021.

“Quantity was kind of kicking our family’s butt,” Stewart said. “So we started looking for what the best way was to do quality over quantity. And that’s when we started backing our race weekends down, and finally down to about once a month throughout the summer.”

However, in 2022, a noticeable spike in popularity in the 600cc micro sprint scene caught Stewart’s attention. He decided, for the first time, micros would race at the “Cage at the Creek.”

“Really, it was kind of supposed to be a test run this year,” Stewart explained. “But with bringing in the micros, we decided to increase the safety as well, which we really needed to do anyway.”

Over the winter, the family installed a 19-foot catch fence, new corner lights and improved fire-suppression systems to make the facility micro sprint-ready. On April 2, Mountain Creek held their inaugural non-winged micro event, attracting 23 competitors to the one-sixth-mile. Local racer Tim Nye was among them.

Since building his first micro sprint in 2014, back when “there were no other cars around,” Nye has witnessed several changes to the local racing scene.

During his first few years of car ownership, he used to make the two-hour trek to Rockfish Speedway in Raeford, N.C., to compete. On a “good night,” about 15 cars lined up, he reports.

Local racer Tim Nye guides his No. 42 micro sprint around the high line at Mountain Creek. (Lucas Halbert photo)

Then, Millbridge Speedway in nearby Salisbury, N.C., stepped up to include non-winged micro sprints in their season slate in late 2019 with the TRD Micro Showdown.

Ever since, the track has hosted micro races on a semi-weekly basis.

“From that time forward, I think everybody’s seen the potential of how cool the 600s were and lot of the up-and-coming people viewed that as something new to get their kids into,” Nye said. “Now, it’s growing.”  

With only two other dirt tracks in the area — Millbridge (30.7 miles away) and Rockfish (165.6 miles away) — having another place to race at Mountain Creek wasn’t something Nye took for granted.

“You’re always going to have little things here and there, but at the end of every race, Adam (Stewart) comes up and he’ll ask how it went, what we thought and what they can do to improve,” Nye said. “They’re definitely always looking out for the racer.”

Trevor Cline is another driver who has taken quite a liking to Mountain Creek, though it’s mostly due to the technical track setup.

Cline, who won this year’s Wednesday night track championship at Millbridge, claimed two victories at Mountain Creek this season.

“It’s not symmetrical. It gives you two different corners, so you’ve got to remember that while you’re out there. You’ve got to do different things every single lap,” Cline said. “This place, you’ve got to adapt to the race track a lot more than Millbridge. It’s gone the bottom, it’s gone to the fence, it’s gone to the slider lines. You don’t really know what it’s going to do.”

His feedback for the track after season one? More races.

Though Stewart recognizes many racers have asked for an expanded schedule, he shared that the 2024 format will likely resemble this year’s nine-race schedule. Juggling family, farming and racing isn’t as easy as one might think.

“The balance we had this year worked,” Stewart said. “Next year, the goal will be to do something similar, but to make the races bigger individually. I really would like to see a lot bigger purse for the micro sprints on a monthly basis.”

Regardless of the frequency, two-time Mountain Creek winner Neal Allison is pleased with what the speedway has done for the North Carolina micro sprint scene.

Neal Allison at Mountain Creek Speedway. (Lucas Halbert photo)

“The more tracks the merrier. If you have competition with the tracks, it makes both tracks better. And it also brings more cars along, because there’s more tracks to race at,” Allison said.

There are a few challenges facing Mountain Creek, with the track recently stumbling into an issue with one of its neighbors. The track’s Oct. 15 event did not run, as officials needed to file an appeal with the county in order to continue racing.

However, once the appeal was sent, the track resumed operations and ran its season finale — the Chad Bush Clash on Nov. 19.

“At some point in time, we may be going before the Board of Adjustment in Catawba County for a public hearing. And that’s where we’ll need all the help we can get, especially from the local community that supports us,” Stewart noted.

While he urges locals to stay in tune with the Mountain Creek Facebook page for updates on the hearing, he is confident the track will remain open in 2024 and beyond.

Stewart has shown consideration to the community in many decisions related to the speedway’s operations — such as the limited frequency of when they run, making sure the race is over at a decent time and mandating mufflers to help reduce the noise.

“By no means are we wanting to be a nuisance in the community and we try to mitigate that every way we can,” Stewart said.

Ironically, he feels the same way when it comes to the racers who visit his track, and Mountain Creek’s overall position in the North Carolina micro sprint ecosystem.

“We want to keep it as competitive as possible, and also being as fun as possible at the same time,” Stewart said. “I think with us being that extra place to race, I think it works out good, because I like to see racers have that chance to race everywhere — not just our track.”