Thousands return to Wilkes Speedway
If you have any doubts the North Wilkesboro Speedway's back in business, try saying that to the 4,000 people present at its relaunch event Saturday: The all-day Red Dirt Rising Checkered Carpet Premiere extravaganza.
The day started at 8 a.m. with the Buck Baker Driving School day program where hundreds had their chance to hit the track, followed by the "Legendary Flathead Ford" Racing Series, rising country music star Matt Dylan's ("Carolina Moonshine") live concert; and a screening of the movie, Red Dirt Rising.
Picture cars from the movie, antique moonshine cars and cast and crew were on hand for what speedway officials called "Checkered Carpet Event."
It was a long time coming.
The first race at the speedway happened May 18, 1947. The track averaged three races a year until its last race, Sept. 29, 1996.
But that was then.
In its reincarnation, the speedway will host multiple yearly events, and not just races: Community events, concerts, film projects and more.
"Four thousand coming out on one day is definitely a great showing of support form the surrounding community," and beyond, speedway spokesman Steven Wilson said.
Race fans trekked from as far away as Iowa to experience the nostalgia firsthand.
"People are just ecstatic about the speedway being re-opened," Wilson said, "so far it's nothing, but good things."
And those good things are just beginning.
"It's just going to be bigger and better from here," he said.
The next big event happens July 3, the North Wilkesboro Speedway Open House, free to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., followed immediately by the Southern Truck and Tractor Pullers Association Double Show (5 p.m., $15 for adults in advance, $7 for kids in advance).
If you've never seen a truck pull, it could be the start of a whole new obsession.
"They're jet-powered trucks and tractors that pull on a dirt course with a weighted sled behind them. They have a 300-foot pull-off that they compete on," Wilson said.
The vehicles are usually farm tractors or trucks with jet engines installed.
"They pull the sled down the dirt course," Wilson said.
To purchase tickets, or learn more about the relaunch of the speedway, visit http://www.savethespeedway.net.