One of the great stories of auto racing, and particularly NASCAR, has been the resurrection of North Wilkesboro Speedway.
We’ve had the pleasure of seeing a groundswell of support rise up and inspire people with the right connections and resources to bring that historic speedway back to life. Unfortunately, as that story has lifted the spirits of so many racing fans, the hearts of numerous other fans have been smashed to bits as yet more and more iconic racetracks are being shuttered in the name of shopping and neighborhoods.
Race fans need to pay attention and actively support their local tracks before there is nowhere for race fans to go on a weekend night.
This weekend will mark the last race for the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas. For casual fans, that might seem sad, but just another story of a racetrack closing its doors.
The fact is, this is the 45th year of the World of Outlaws. Its very first race took place at Devil’s Bowl Speedway on March 18, 1978. This racetrack is the birthplace of the most famous, winged Sprint Car series on the planet. Without this track, who knows if anyone ever hears the name Steve Kinser, Donnie Schatz or Kyle Larson?
Asphalt tracks are not immune to the closing hammer either.
Greenville-Pickens Speedway, in upstate South Carolina, has seen some of the most famous names in NASCAR compete for trophies. Unfortunately, the land adjacent to the track is owned by a real estate developer and the property where the track sits has decreased in value over the last couple of decades. The owner of the track is receiving an offer to make some money on the track and associated property from the real estate developer.
As with so many other tracks we have seen go by the wayside, there is more money to be made from the property as a housing development or a shopping center than there is as a racetrack. Greenville-Pickens has raised millions of dollars for the Shriner’s Hospital through an annual charity race, but that kind gesture very well isn’t going to keep the wrecking ball from hitting the venerable raceway.
It isn’t just circle tracks that are facing closure in this time of higher real estate values.
Bandimere Speedway in Jefferson County, Color. made an announcement during its NHRA event earlier this year that it would be closing its doors this year as well. Ironically, its final event of the season is this weekend as well.
Unlike the other tracks mentioned so far, the Bandimeres, who own the track, are actively trying to secure investors and funding to open another facility in the area, just hoping for lower real estate values. Drag strips across the country have been closing over the past few years and they tend to receive a lot of pressure from local neighbors due to their high noise levels.
The list of tracks closed over the last two decades is long and distinguished. There are two common threads that run through every single story that is associated with a race track closing. Real estate value is always high on the list.
Most tracks were developed in the suburbs or outskirts of small towns and cities where land was cheap and there were no neighborhoods. As the years have gone by the suburban sprawl of those metropolises has engulfed many of these tracks and the homeowners often complained about the noise. The neighborhood developers eventually offer a hefty sum to track owners and eventually it becomes an offer that they cannot refuse.
In addition to the real estate values, there is also the loss of attendance for most local tracks. As the options for entertainment on any given weekend night have grown from a handful to hundreds, if not thousands of opportunities, the draw to get people into the stands and ultimately make money has become less and the ability to make money running a local track has become more and more difficult.
Speaking to the crowd who reads stories on this website it is certain that the audience is at least somewhat interested in local racing. Most of you should still live within a relatively short drive of a local racetrack.
As the schedules begin to come out for 2024, please take a look and circle a night or five when you might be able to make it to the track for a night of racing. When you attend, try and buy some refreshments and possibly a T-shirt or other piece of merchandise. That small investment might just be the difference between a 2025 schedule and another neighborhood.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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