|Efforts for speedway resume|
|Written by Steven B. Wilson|
|Friday, 06 January 2012 16:15|
After the North Wilkesboro Speedway’s much heralded reopening in 2010 ended abruptly this past May, efforts to bring the historic track back to life are under way again.
The latest efforts involve putting together a group of investors to buy the track property from Charlotte-based Speedway Motorsports, said Terri Parsons of Purlear, Wilkes Chamber of Commerce board chairman and widow of Wilkes County native and NASCAR celebrity Benny Parsons.
Mrs. Parsons said that while Parsons was in the hospital a few weeks before his death from lung cancer in January 2007, the couple made a list of 10 goals they wanted to accomplish in Wilkes County. She said the return of motorsports racing to the North Wilkesboro Speedway was the only one still unfulfilled.
“We have had people go talk to Bruton Smith (Speedway Motorsports chairman and chief executive). He is willing to sell, but he isn’t interested in renting it as before,” said Mrs. Parsons, referring to Speedway Associates Inc.’s lease of the speedway from Speedway Motorsports.
Buying the North Wilkesboro Speedway “is being pursued from a lot of different avenues,” she added.
Media reports have listed $12 million as the asking price for the speedway.
Mrs. Parsons said Smith’s attorney told her during an event at her Rendezvous Ridge Winery near her home that Speedway Associates’ three-year lease, which included an option to purchase the speedway, expired June 30, 2011.
Speedway Associates President Alton McBride Jr. of Lake Norman announced the lease with an option to purchase in late 2009.
“We waited in a timely fashion to make sure we weren’t stepping on the agreement” with Speedway Associates. “We wish Alton (McBride) nothing but the best.”
Mrs. Parsons said McBride “proved to the motorsports racing world and the local community (in Wilkes) that the North Wilkesboro Speedway was a viable product. It was the first speedway sanctioned by NASCAR and that makes it historic.”
Speedway Associates brought the first races to the historic track since its last NASCAR race in September 1996 when four Pro All Stars Series races were held Sept. 4 and 5, 2010. There were other races and events later in 2010 and the 2011 season kicked off with a Super Late Model Race race on April 7-9.
Then, on the night of May 8, McBride, issued a press release saying the speedway was closed due to lack of money. The remaining schedule of events that year, including six weekends of racing and three weekends of other events, was cancelled.
In a closed session meeting with Wilkes County commissioners on May 18, McBride unsuccessfully sought financial assistance from county government.
Responding to a request from the Wilkes Journal-Patriot for an update on his involvement with the speedway, McBride stated in an email last week, “I have had no dealings regarding the North Wilkesboro Speedway since the day of the last commissioners response of ‘no financial or incentive involvement for HNWS.’ That action on their part seems to have put the final nail in the coffin of that facility as far as anyone is concerned in the motorsports industry.”
He added, “You cannot expect any business group to make a home in an environment that is all take without any give. I have been busy on other positive opportunities and have not heard a word about the past other than all the great things achieved and the further missed opportunities.”
Keith Walsh, Wilkes County building inspections department director, said no one has approached his department about improvements needed at the speedway since McBride.
The speedway opened in 1946 as a dirt track. It hosted NASCAR fall and spring races until it was closed after losing these race dates.
Wilkes Journal Patriot