The Sleeping Jewel: Remembering North Wilkesboro Speedway

Brandon CaldwellCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2009

From 1949 to 1996, fans twice a year enjoyed the best racing money could buy.

The track was North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Fans would gather on concrete seats, walk a mile to the track, and park in the mud in people's front yards, stand in long lines at one concession stand, and believe it or not, enjoy themselves.

Fans would go to Charlotte.

The huge facility with lights, plenty of parking, many food stands, and park on asphalt, and still crowd down to the simpler North Wilkesboro.

See, a fan doesn't care where he/she is—if the racing is good.

Which makes me wonder why we left this place.

People turn off California from the comfort of their living room, yet would sit on concrete in North Wilkesboro.

And now, here we are in 2009.

The Junior Johnson grandstands are covered with trees, weeds are covering over the asphalt, and the Winston Cup signs are still around the track.

Turn Three has a Pontiac sign, and the Union 76 sign still stands on the front stretch.

Still there like we left it yesterday, and we could race there tomorrow. 

The scoring tower is still there, and the gas station still looks like it's in business.

Yet it rests. Rests waiting for someone to buy it from owner Bruton Smith.

It's not dead, it's dormant. Ready to chew up another car's tires—and thrill people again.

And still it rests. Like your father sleeping in the night. Waiting for someone to wake it up.

This track, these stands, they mean something to people.

They mean something to an entire town.

You drive by the sign, "North Wilkesboro Speedway," and people think nothing.

Well the next time you do, stop, look around, and remember what used to happen there.

It'll get you excited about racing again, and make you want to sit in those concrete seats one more time, and watch the cars circle 500 more times.