You may have noticed in the last couple of months a few new pictures added to the website header. They feature two tracks: North Wilkesboro Speedway, and the much lesser known Occoneechee Speedway.
TC and I decided in the beginning we would see how long it took for someone to ask before we wrote something about it. So the grand prize winner is Savannah, who wrote us this past week asking about the history of the track with the funny name.
The Occoneechee Speedway is located in Hillsborough, NC, about 45 minutes west of Durham on I-40. The track was originally built as a place to run out horses. In the 1940s while out flying his plane Bill France Sr. spotted the river-front facility and along with several investors converted it into a .9 mile oval (the track opened in 1948).
When the NASCAR Strictly Stock Series began racing a year later Occoneechee (later Orange Speedway) helped fill the schedule of that first season. Twice a year for the next 20 years, NASCAR’s founders competed on the mile long dirt track.
In 1968 though, after mounting pressure from local religious groups and the construction of the modern Talladega Superspeedway, Occoneechee Speedway was dropped from the series.
So for almost 30 years the track sat unattended, eventually becoming overgrown and largely unrecognizable, until 1997 when it was purchased by Preservation North Carolina with help from the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. Since then, the trust along with the Historic Speedway Group has been working to preserve and partially restore the track.
They have cut down some of the 40 year old Sycamore trees to expose the track surface once again, and they have rebuilt some of the long collapsed structures on the site. Today there are several trails on the property that are open and free to the public.
The group proudly boasts that the track is the only dirt track remaining from the inaugural season and one of only three race tracks on the National Register of Historic Places.
This day trip is great if you love nature, and especially great if you love NASCAR. They have even hosted a car show and racers reunion for the last two years. As a great lover of history in the sport I recommend the trip to Hillsborough for anyone.
In the coming weeks we are going to add pictures from our excursion to the Metrolina Speedway, located on the Metrolina Fairgrounds property in North Charlotte. This track had a short lived stint as an asphalt oval in NASCAR, but has spent most of its life as a dirt track.
The forty year old track last saw a race at the beginning of this decade and has sat largely dormant since then. It is currently for sale (so if you’re interested) and in not so great condition. This track is not open to public, but if you’re feeling adventurous (which I am not condoning) it is not hard to get in.
Thanks Savannah for the question, we have been waiting for a while to write this post! Look for more pictures throughout this upcoming season.