Well, and defending my master’s thesis. Apparently, they think that I do, in fact, know something about historic race tracks. And that I can defend my research in an academic setting. One of these days, dear readers, I hope someone at the new and upcoming NASCAR Hall of Fame, or NASCAR or a team or someone in motorsports feels the same way!
I got to defend my thesis out at Martinsville Speedway. It was a beautiful day for it. Perfect for talking about stock car racing heritage and why its important. After 3.5 hours (yes, really) of defending my stuff, I headed out to Bowman-Gray Stadium. Lots of fun Saturday night short track racing. Hi to my new friends out there!
And to make sure that I got my fill of NASCAR’s first tracks, I spent Sunday morning walking around Occoneechee Speedway. The only stock car track to be listed on the National Register. Yes, Indy is on there, but they wouldn’t let us come play until 1994, so we’re just going to let Occoneechee have its own honor.
I need to find some good early pics of Occoneechee. It was a ghost track, until Preservation North Carolina and HOST stepped in to save it. Its now a beautiful walking trail- part of a larger one actually.
Oh well, heck! Ask and you shall receive. If you go take a peek at the Eno River Valley Home page, there it is! What the track used to look like! http://www.enoriver.org/eno/parks/occspdwy.htm
I will upload my pics, and you can see the changes in the landscape. The track was closed in 1968, when some of the more uptight citizens didn’t take too kindly to having the roar of stock car engines in their county. Occoneechee held races from 1948 until 1968. Big Bill France purchased the lot (and incidentally, sold it to Preservation North Carolina, giving it a second life) and added it to the schedule. According to the brief history on their website, 17,000 folks showed up to watch the cars along the one mile dirt track.
Bob Flock won that first Strictly Stock race in his 48 Olds. It was the third race of the season.
As I walked along the track, I fancied that I was the only one of the handful of folks out there that day that was a race fan. Two joggers, two dog walkers. All going the wrong direction for a race track. 😀
My best surprise of the day was coming up on the concrete bleachers. I knew that they were there, I had seen pictures…but the site of this rural ruin, a piece of stock car racing history, well, it took my breath away. Went and sat up at the top for a long time and thought about the cars going by. Go visit! Its free, its beautiful and its racing history! We like that! I was excited that I got to get to three of eight (!) of the first tracks that NASCAR raced at, ever. If I had more time this weekend, I would have gone on out to North Wilkesboro again, just for the heck of it.