Does $10 million seize your consideration? It grabs mine. Now let’s see the way it grabs the eye of the movers and shakers in authorities and automotive racing.
For a quarter-century the outdated North Wilkesboro Speedway has sat closed, unhappy, empty, rusting and rising weeds on a hill overlooking a busy Freeway 421. The Speedway has been an embarrassing roadside testomony to the impotence of the hometown space to do one thing, something with a advantageous facility, a regional establishment.
Efforts to resuscitate the race observe through the years have come and gone. Of late, it’s been coming. And now the state has supplied a cool 10 mil in federal pandemic restoration cash if we will one way or the other, someway do one thing good with the 40,000-seat Speedway.
“Nothing goes to cease us from getting that race observe reopened,” vowed Wilkes County board chairman Eddie Settle of Elkin to the North Wilkesboro newspaper upon announcement of the state supply in Could. “I’ve been working for 2 years on getting it reopened, and I’ve made plenty of racket to get it observed.”
Gents, begin your engines.
A kicker in all of this can be a required $2.5 million grant match of the state supply. That determine didn’t faze Settle, regardless of an economic system in search of to get again on its toes following the pandemic.
However there’s a fair larger kicker. Even with all of that cash, simply what can we do with the outdated Speedway?
A return of NASCAR racing is just about dominated out. There’s not going to be one other Holly Farms 400 or First Union 400. To start with, there’s no extra Holly Farms or First Union. Instances change. And the Speedway is just not large enough for a headline, twenty first Century NASCAR race.
However there was one other attention-grabbing little nugget within the announcement in regards to the Speedway. The state additionally pledged as much as $5 million for what it known as a Motorsports and Moonshine Heritage Path.
We don’t know what meaning but. However when Virginia created its Crooked Highway heritage path in 2003 selling the mountains’ old-time music heritage, it led to the constructing of the advantageous Blue Ridge Music Middle museum and live-music venue on the Blue Ridge Parkway close to Galax.
May the Speedway observe Virginia’s lead? The top of the Gander Mountain outdoor-recreation retailer chain has pledged a cool million and expressed curiosity in constructing a retailer on the Speedway, in accordance with Autoweek digital journal. A museum and retailer might be connected to minor-league racing, reminiscent of within the SRX, ARCA or NASCAR’s truck collection. For instance, the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame museum in Canton, Ohio, additionally has a stadium subsequent door for video games.
“Our staff at Speedway Motorsports will get to work on the most effective methods these funds might be utilized,” Speedway proprietor Marcus Smith pledged after the state announcement. “We’ll watch intently because the proposals proceed.” The governor mentioned he expects 5 new occasions for his cash.
Speedway Motorsports took the outdated North Wilkesboro spring NASCAR race to Texas 25 years in the past. However Smith made waves in March when he instructed racing legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a web-based podcast that “I simply need you to know that we haven’t forgotten North Wilkesboro. We haven’t given up on it. It means we’re considering. We’re engaged on it. No guarantees, however we’ve not forgotten about it.”
Earnhardt got here to the Speedway in 2019 to assist map the observe for video-game racing. “I’m all in on actually focusing again to our core viewers,” he mentioned on the time. “They love North Wilkesboro. They love the historical past.”
NASCAR’s core viewers, a few of whom received turned off by the abandonment of the Speedway and different modifications in current instances, has been on the thoughts of the racing enterprise of late. Following an odd dirt-track race on the paved Bristol Motor Speedway in March, NASCAR mentioned it wished extra such throwback occasions. North Wilkesboro was steered as a venue.
The state additionally has supplied the identical amount of cash to reopen the outdated Rockingham Speedway, the place NASCAR racing led to 2004.
“We wish you again” indicators and bumper stickers with the outdated North Wilkesboro Speedway emblem have been handed round by the Wilkes Chamber for a month now in a publicity effort to revive curiosity right here.
Legend has it that stock-car racing received its begin right here after World Struggle II with Sunday afternoon races amongst moonshine drivers in cow pastures. North Wilkesboro was the location of one of many first organized stock-car races, on a dust observe in 1947. Since then the game has produced native stars like Junior Johnson and Benny Parsons.
There’s been loads of racing heritage made right here and now there’s loads of cash. Subsequent, let’s see what comes out of the storage within the coming months for our hometown space treasure.