Speed returns to NWS
Seeing it from the highway is one thing.
Seeing it while standing on the track, the same track where Dale Earnhardt and Ricky Rudd wrecked their cars during an infamous rivalry, that's another thing altogether.
Saturday you're invited to stand on the finish line, "where it all happened," and be a part of racing history as stock cars return to the North Wilkesboro Speedway (NWS) for the first time in 14 years.
NWS is full of history, and, according to Speedway Associates president Alton McBride, that's exactly what people want to experience at the Speedway Saturday.
"All we want to do when people come here ... is for them to feel like they got a piece of history that reminds them of the good things of the past ... with a new spin," McBride said.
He's aiming for nostalgia, and, as you're standing in the stadium, its original paint cracking in places from years of history, you'll see he delivers.
"It's apparent to everybody ... that people are very hungry for a back-to-basics society," he said. "That's what we're trying to give them."
Renovations have been a lengthy, arduous process, hampered by weather delays, but it's all coming together. The track is completely race-ready as it stands today and Saturday, they'll prove it. "It's really nothing more than a cleanup job," marketing associate and speedway enthusiast Todd Morris said. "When they shut it down, they shut it down clean."
The all-day "Red Dirt Rising Checkered Carpet Premiere" event is from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and starts with the Buck Baker Driving School day program, where you will have your chance to drive on the historic track.
The "Legendary Flathead Ford" Racing Series happens in the evening, the first race at the speedway since its reopening.
Next, rising country music star Matt Dylan ("Carolina Moonshine") plays a live concert until dusk, when the movie, Red Dirt Rising, will premiere. Picture cars from the movie, antique moonshine cars and cast and crew will be on hand for what speedway officials are calling a "Checkered Carpet Event."
It's been a long time.
The first race at the speedway happened May 18, 1947. The track averaged three races a year until its last race, Sept. 29, 1996.
Saturday's event is just one of many things planned for the speedway. "This thing is being opened up as a full service facility," Morris said.
Bike races are already part of the track's repertoire, and it hasn't exactly been empty since its new owners took over. "Ten to 50 people a day come out here, just to walk the track," Morris said.
"People come to pay their respects to what we're doing," McBride said.
Some come to take pictures of the wall where Bobby Allison and Richard Petty collided in 1972.
Others come to see where Lee Petty spun Junior Johnson out of the lead with fourteen laps to go in 1960, or where Johnson won his first NWS race (after completing an 11-month prison sentence for moonshine hauling) in 1958.
Others come to see where it all began.
For more information, or to purchase tickets for Saturday, visit http://www.savethespeedway.net or http://www.redirtrising.com.
Along with Saturday's event, here are a few other reasons to get to the track:
NWS Crit Series - Sanctioned by USA Cycling- Mountain bike racing takes place every other Wednesday at 6 p.m. from April 7-Aug. 25.
NWS Open House - Experience the magic for yourself. NWS will be free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. July 3.
Southern Truck and Tractor Pullers Association Double Show - 5 p.m., July 3. Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for kids (6-15) in advance.
Pro All Star Series (PASS) 200 laps- Friday and Saturday, Sept. 3-4, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
USA Racing Pro Cup Championship Series- Sunday, Oct. 3, 10 to 6 p.m.
Short Track Shootout Weekend - Friday, Oct. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 31, 1 p.m. Friday through 5 p.m. Sunday.
Kings Ransom 300 Series Championship Race - Sunday, Oct. 31, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
PASS 300 Laps - Richest Super Late Model Race in the South, April 7-9, 2011.