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Governor Cooper celebrates racing's return to North Wilkesboro Speedway


(Photo by Travis Dockery / 389 Country) Dirt track racing will make a return to North Wilkesboro this year.

Tomorrow will mark 75 years since the first race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 18, 1947, and on the eve of that historic day, Governor Roy Cooper visited the speedway to highlight the significant investments it will receive for repairs from the state budget and celebrate the return of racing. The Governor was joined by Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith, NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner Richard Childress, legendary NASCAR driver Harry Gant and local Wilkes County officials. For the first time in more than a decade, North Wilkesboro Speedway will host races in August and October 2022 with Racetrack Revival.


“North Carolina’s speedways are strong economic drivers for communities across the state that bring friends, families, and neighbors together for a rip-roaring good time,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “North Wilkesboro Speedway is just one of many racetracks that will be able to cross the finish line on much-needed repairs with these state funds – racing on these tracks is back and here to stay.”


“From grassroots to NASCAR and from the mountains to the coast, motorsports are truly an economic engine for North Carolina,” said Marcus Smith, President and CEO of Speedway Motorsports. “We’re grateful for Governor Cooper and the state legislature’s support of motorsports. This investment will not only revive North Wilkesboro Speedway, but also support tourism and jobs statewide for the future.”


“In addition to being an economic engine, motorsports are an important part of North Carolina history and culture,” North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Secretary Reid Wilson said. “The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is excited to announce that the Moonshine and Motorsports Trail will launch in 2023 to help celebrate the rich and diverse history of distilling and racing in our state. The trail aims to drive tourism and benefit local economies across the state, particularly in smaller communities.”


“North Carolina is the birthplace of motorsports and NASCAR,” said N.C. Commerce Chief Deputy Secretary Jordan Whichard. “The industry contributes millions to our economy, employs thousands of North Carolinians, and offers special training through our state’s colleges, universities, and technical schools. With these new investments, motorsports can positively outpace its pre-pandemic impact."


During the visit, RCR Chairman and CEO Richard Childress drove Governor Cooper around the track in a vintage racecar (Chevrolet Camaro pace car), and the Governor toured the speedway to see the proposed restoration project. Taylorsville, N.C. native Harry Gant, who won 18 premier series races during his career including the Southern 500 in 1984 and 1991, also joined the Governor’s visit to celebrate the return of racing at North Wilkesboro Speedway.


In his budget proposal last year, Governor Cooper first included funds to revitalize speedways across North Carolina and in November 2021, the he signed state budget including these funds into law. The budget allocates American Rescue Plan funding to speedways across the state, with North Wilkesboro Speedway receiving $18 million. Governor Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Commerce announced today that 15 local governments have been awarded $45.8 million to help 17 motorsports venues recover from the pandemic. The money can be used for water, sewer and other infrastructure projects pertaining to the speedways. The grants will enhance local tourism, travel and hospitality industries that benefit from the many motorsports events held in North Carolina.


North Wilkesboro Speedway is one of the first NASCAR tracks and was home to two Winston Cup Series races for several decades. The final NASCAR Cup Series race at North Wilkesboro was held in 1996 and won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon. The track has sat largely abandoned in recent years, but community efforts have helped to bring racing back.


Racetrack Revival will feature nearly a month of grassroots racing on the current pavement in August. Then following removal of the old asphalt, racing will return on the original dirt in October.

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