Saturday, May 10, 2014

North Wilkesboro Speedway

On Friday, 9 May 2014 (a beautiful spring day), the Ancient Nomad pulled up to North Wilkesboro Speedway just hoping to take a few exterior shots and possibly to get a glimpse of the track. An older gentleman was mowing grass beside the track on a Toro riding lawnmower (the kind with two handles for steering). He saw me and drove up. I asked if he planned mowing that large field with such a small mower. He said sure. Then he said come on and gestured toward the track. He unlocked the padlock on the main gate and we walked into one of the shrines of NASCAR. I could not believe my luck. His name is Paul Call, and he has been the track’s caretaker since it closed in 1996. He lives in a small house beside the track and has been told by the track owners that he can stay there for life. He owns 40 acres across US 421 -- mows his hay there and gives it away. Paul said the broom sage would always grow back, and that the United States was becoming just the rich and the poor.
Paul took me to the grandstand just at the start-finish line. The place is in pretty poor shape. Buildings are in disrepair, and grass has invaded the once proud track surface. Paul had worked for NASCAR almost all his adult life, knew all the names, and all the stories. Said Tim Richmond was the best driver he ever saw. Knew about the old Asheville/Weaverville track (once an airport). Said that a man named Sluder owned the track and disappeared one race night before the purse money was handed out; and that race winners would have beat him up if they had found him!

Told me not to miss Hickory Motor Speedway. Related the story about the concrete at Hickory under the public toilets giving way, and he and another guy had to jack it up so race attendees could relieve themselves. He knew the history of Orange Speedway in Hillsborough, North Carolina (topsoil given to the city; river nearby, etc.). Said that Bill France built the track and owned it. Said that Junior Johnson actually was in favor of closing North Wilkesboro, but I may have misunderstood him. Paul was a very interesting and thoughtful person. He made my day. Unfortunately, he doubts that the track will ever see another race – too much money needed. Said Bruton Smith and Bob Bahre purchased the track so they could move the race dates to New Hampshire and Texas.

1 comment:

  1. me and my wife just went to the track the wind was really blowing and it was cold as all get out .the track was locked up but we had driven all the way there and we were determined, so we went next door to the track to see someone to help us see the track and Mr Paul Call came to the door with his pug doggy (bella) and let us into view the track and he was awesome he made the trip worth wild