Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith shared his vision for the future of North Wilkesboro Speedway during the Wilkes County Chamber of Commerce 75th Membership Celebration Thursday night.
Earmarked within the North Carolina state budget that was passed in November was $18 million toward infrastructure improvements at the historic 0.625-mile facility. That money, Smith said, will go a long way toward modernizing the iconic venue to bring motorsports, concerts and other entertainment options to the Wilkes County region.
“The future of North Wilkesboro Speedway is bright,” Smith told a group of 250 people gathered for the event. “There is a great opportunity to revive this fantastic venue to be, not just a race track, but a place that can host lots of events, a place that people will come to from far away and enjoy the community, enjoy the region and enjoy special events.”
Thanks to the efforts of local volunteer groups, cleanup around the 75-year-old race track began several months ago and attention can now turn to prioritizing the necessary upgrades and refurbishment projects to reopen North Wilkesboro Speedway. Smith highlighted his vision for the property through a series of renderings that showcased not only a return to racing, but also alternative uses like serving as a concert venue.
“Water, sewer, electricity, roads, connectivity — those are a lot of the building blocks that we need to get done,” Smith said. “We want to keep the character of the property, celebrate the history, but, of course, make it safe, convenient and enjoyable for everyone who comes to visit.
“In the car world, I would call it a resto-mod. It‘s going to look old, but it‘s going to work new. When you think about nostalgic opportunities, this is one of those one-in-a-million opportunities.
“Our hope is to celebrate the history and look forward to the future. North Wilkesboro Speedway is an amazing, historic place for NASCAR. It‘s almost like Fenway Park is to baseball. I think, with this money from the state and the American Rescue Plan, we can make some dreams a reality at North Wilkesboro Speedway.”
Smith noted the “real possibility” of bringing a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. “We specifically – and I‘ll thank Marcus Lemonis, the CEO of Camping World for his voice of support – we specifically think it‘s a real possibility to bring back NASCAR and the Camping World Truck Series to North Wilkesboro Speedway,” he said. “Those races are nationally televised events, and it‘s a national NASCAR touring series. We have a number of those (races) in our portfolio, and I would love to see one of those here.”
Seeing renderings of the re-envisioned speedway and hearing Smith‘s ideas for the future of the property was welcome news to lifelong residents, community leaders and business owners.
“This means everything to anybody that lives in Wilkes County,” said Terri Parsons, widow of NASCAR legend Benny Parsons and a longtime advocate of revitalizing the facility. “By the speedway coming back, this has just turned a lightbulb on in this whole community again. You can see by the attendance tonight, everybody in the town, everybody in the county supports it and wants to see something come alive out there.”
“I‘m very excited to hear the ideas that are coming from Speedway Motorsports,” said Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, whose district includes Wilkes County. “This track is a symbol of our community. He (Smith) used the word ‘hope.‘ It‘s very exciting to see the vision that he‘s putting forth and how it‘s tying to the past and looking to the future.”
Smith also used the opportunity to thank the community for its efforts — from cleanup crews to business and political leaders — to help return the legendary facility to its former glory.
“Bringing back races, bringing back special events, bringing back tourism, creating a very special place where the community can gather, it‘s exciting,” he said. “When you think about nostalgic opportunities, this is one of those one-in-a-million opportunities.
“I think there‘s a bright future ahead for North Wilkesboro Speedway. It wouldn‘t happen without the amazing community support that‘s in this room as well as the people who have been out at the speedway to help us bring the speedway back. Anybody might have said this place is too far gone, but this community rallied and brought it to a place where we can rebuild it and it can be a fantastic jewel.”