SMI executive: Goal is to “modernize” North Wilkesboro for racing, events

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Speedway Motorsports president/CEO Marcus Smith issued a statement Friday on North Carolina’s state budget, which includes funding for North Wilkesboro Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Rockingham Speedway as part of the American Rescue Plan.

Forty million dollars are allocated to the three race tracks in the budget, which was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Roy Cooper.

The budget states $18 million of that is specifically allocated to Wilkes County “to coordinate with relevant local government units for water and sewer and related infrastructure projects for service to the North Wilkesboro Speedway.”

Smith stated: “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 goal will be to modernize the property so that it can host racing and special events again in the future.”

North Wilkesboro, which is still owned by Speedway Motorsports, hosted NASCAR racing from 1949-96. It has sat largely idle since then, outside of hosting select racing events in 2010 and ’11.

NASCAR on NBC’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. visited North Carolina lawmakers in August to push for motorsports funding in the state budget. In late 2019, Earnhardt led an effort to have North Wilkesboro’s track surface cleaned up and scanned for iRacing, so the track could at least be preserved virtually.

Along with the $18 million for North Wilkesboro, the budget allocates $13 million to the city of Concord for improvements at Charlotte Motor Speedway and $9 million to Richmond County for improvements at Rockingham Speedway.

Marcus Smith’s full statement can be read below.

“I’d like to thank Gov. Roy Cooper, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and all our state legislators for their support of motorsports and economic development in the new state budget. The allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan are investments in the future for the motorsports and tourism industries of North Carolina.

“While Charlotte Motor Speedway is considered modern by many standards, it’s still more than 60 years old and in need of infrastructure improvements to maintain its position as an attractive venue for world-class events. We’ll use the state allocation toward upgrading fan amenities along our frontstretch, and we’ll have more details to share at a later date as we prepare for the Coca-Cola 600 next May.

“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 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.”