North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has proposed spending $10 million to improve the infrastructure at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
The proposal is part of the governor’s recommendation on how to spend $5.7 billion the state will receive from the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden.
Gov. Cooper’s plan calls for $10 million each to North Wilkesboro Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and The Rock (formerly Rockingham Speedway).
“We’re very pleased to see Governor Cooper’s support of motorsports and statewide tourism in his new budget,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith in a statement. “Motorsports is a significant part of not only North Carolina’s past but also its future to create jobs and grow tourism.
“The proposed allocations from the American Rescue Plan can have a significant impact on renovating parts of Charlotte Motor Speedway as well as starting restoration efforts at North Wilkesboro. Our team at Speedway Motorsports will get to work on the best ways these funds could be utilized and we’ll watch closely as the proposals continue through the legislative session.”
The North Carolina legislature must approve the recommendations of Gov. Cooper’s plan before anything can be done.
“This pandemic brought us a once-in-a-generation challenge, and these funds have brought us a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Gov. Cooper said Wednesday in a media briefing before introducing his recommendations. “Let’s use them to make transformational change for our state.”
NASCAR raced at North Wilkesboro from 1949-96. Bob Flock won the track’s first NASCAR race in Oct. 1949. Jeff Gordon won the track’s final Cup race in Sept. 1996. Other winners at North Wilkesboro include Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough.
NASCAR left the track after it was sold. Bruton Smith purchased half of it and used one of the track’s dates for Texas Motor Speedway. Bob Bahre purchased the other half of the track and used its date for a second race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Bahre sold his share of North Wilkesboro Speedway to Bruton Smith in Nov. 2007 as part of the deal to purchase New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Racing returned to North Wilkesboro in 2010. A 14-year-old Chase Elliott won the Labor Day Classic 200 at the track on Sept. 4, 2010, the first major event there since the 1996 Cup race. The last race at the track was in 2011.
The speedway has continued to fall into disrepair since.
North Wilkesboro has retained a dedicated following. Many fans hope the track will be revived to host NASCAR races. In a recent interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the Dale Jr. Download, Marcus Smith said that “we haven’t forgotten” about North Wilkesboro.
In December 2019, Earnhardt and Marcus Smith helped clear the track of weeds and debris, so the track could be scanned for iRacing.
Rockingham Speedway hosted Cup races from 1965-2004. NASCAR Hall of Famer Curtis Turner won the track’s first race in 1965. Matt Kenseth won the track’s final race in 2004. Rockingham hosted Camping World Truck Series races in 2012 and ’13 before the series left the track.
Excited to see an opportunity open up for North Wilkesboro. Never expected that place to ever make a come back, but maybe there’s a worthy purpose for it yet. https://t.co/LRvRnmEShz
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) May 19, 2021