Silence blankets the valley
By: Shane Harvell
May 25, 2017
Photo Credit: Ken Fager/Flickr.com
Before the creation of the infamous stock car racing organization that is now known as NASCAR, the North Wilkesboro Speedway served as a testing facility for local Bootleggers. This challenging and unique short track, which possesses a downhill sloped front stretch and a uphill grade backstretch, opened up in the year of 1947 as a dirt track upon the young racing circuit. The initial contractor of the speedway was a man by the name of Enoch Staley. He profoundly decided to build the track within his hometown after he witness the growing potential and popularity of the new sport. As the sport blossomed, the North Wilkesboro Speedway became known as one of the fastest and most intense short tracks with sellout crowds. In order to finish well, experience at the track was an valuable asset. Drivers had to maneuver their machines around turns three and four totally different from entering turns one and two, since the track is not an perfect oval. True legends such as Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon all have had success at the original track that helped NASCAR earn its reputation today. The speedway went on to host ninety-three Winston Cup Series races up to 1996. Sadly, the track now eerily overlooks the completed U.S. Route 421. The paint from previous sponsors are slowly fading away as vegetation claims the worn racing surface. The soul of the small town of North Wilkesboro has been dying for nearly twenty-two years. The town no longer possesses the economic benefit of having two races upon the circuit that would draw in about 80,000 tourist per year. Why did NASCAR abandon its roots? Well, NASCAR had long set its eyes upon expanding the regional sport onto a national stage. The rapidly growing sport simply gathered up its belongings and traveled to the markets where the money was. Frankly, NASCAR outgrew North Wilkesboro as it catered to larger venues such as Martinsville, Bristol, and Charlotte. The owners of the speedway made no attempt to upgrade or expand the property in order to remain on the circuit. Perhaps, the ability to park the spectators was an major issue for North Wilkesboro due to the fact that the speedway is virtually landlocked. People had to be bused in from miles away just to enter the gate. New owners of the tack sent one of North Wilkesboro’s races to the new Texas Motor Speedway, while the other one was sent to, oddly enough, New Hampshire. There have been some attempts to revive the history by the recent joining of the USA series circuit in 2010. I, personally, would love to see NASCAR place North Wilkesboro back upon the circuit and eliminate the follow the leader road course races. The majority of race fans come to the race solely to witness the act of trading paint that results in the “Big One.” Major improvements to the racing surface, stadium seating, luxury boxes, and fences must be completed if my wish ever comes true. Not to mention the need of the installation of the SAFER barriers as well. The enormous speedways of today have overtaken the smaller short tracks. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that NASCAR would downsize its expectations just to return home.
Below: Before and After photos of the North Wilkesboro Speedway
Photo Credits: Jeremy Markovich/Flickr.com and Christa Thomas/Flickr.com
Sources: NASCAR Race Hub Feature