On Saturday, November 8, 2008 the green flag waved for the first time in 40 years at the Occoneechee Speedway

Top Quote Once one of NASCAR's finest, Occoneechee Speedway was closed in 1968. With intervention from some key people it was saved from extinction. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) November 12, 2008 - Formerly one of the premier tracks on the NASCAR circuit, the 9/10 mile dirt oval was closed in 1968 after 20 glorious years of operation. The track lay dormant for nearly 30 years before it was purchased from the France and Staley families by The Historic Preservation Foundation of NC (PNC) in the spring of 1997. That purchase was made possible by generous grants from the James M Johnston Trust and Classical American Homes Preservation Trust (CAHPT). In the fall of 1997, ownership of the old track was transferred to CAHPT. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in May of 2002 alongside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Bonneville Salt Flats. In 2007 a group of volunteers called the Historic Speedway Group (HSG) joined in the effort to restore this piece of racing history. Through the thick undergrowth and pine trees one could barely see the outline of the track along the banks of the Eno River. The concrete grand stands, once filled with thousands of cheering fans were overgrown with vines and trees. After nearly 2 years of sweat and many worn out chain saw chains and blades, the old race track and some of its original facilities were revealed and opened to the public as a park with walking trails and historical markers through out the facility.

    On Saturday afternoon, the roar and thunder of race cars, the smell of racing fuel, and cheers from anxious fans once again filled the air. No, this wasn’t an actual race, but rather the site of the 18th annual banquet of the Old Timers Racing Club (OTRC). Through the efforts of OTRC president Mike Sykes, and HSG, vintage race cars, many of which actually raced at Occoneechee, were brought to the track for parade laps. Several of the cars were piloted by racing legends such as Whitey Norman, Paul Lewis, Brownie King, Fred Harb, Dink Widenhouse, Hank Thomas, and Billy Biscoe. Huge smiles, tales of racing back then, and gratitude were certainly the order of the day.

    “When we began the restoration we never dreamed we would see cars on the track,” said Frank Craig of the HSG, standing at the location where Bobby Isaacs once ran Bondy Long’s car into the Eno River during a race. Craig spent much of his youth at the track and remembers some of the great racing legends who came there such as Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, and Fireball Roberts. Bill Mangum whose father Gordon Mangum was one of the early racing pioneers recalls, “I was working the pit gate once when I saw Curtis Turner pull up in a taxi. He and 2 more in his group tried to get in pits but they didn’t have enough pit passes. I made him go back and get another one.” Mangum laughed as he remembered the story and early battles between his father and Turner. “This brings back some great memories,” said Whitey Norman as he climbed out of the Bob Welborn ’57 Chevy convertible that he raced back then…and drove around the track today.

    The event was covered by the video team of and feature photographer, Ray Lamm. “We spend hours on the road gathering and sharing racing history,” said Jeff Gilder, creator of “This makes it all worthwhile. The guys responsible for restoring and preserving this old speewdway are champions. This is a huge win for the recognition and preservation of racing history.”

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