North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has allocated $40 million dollars to improve three racetracks in the state as part of the American Rescue Plan. Iconic NASCAR venues Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, and Rockingham Speedway will all receive millions for infrastructure improvements.
According to the North Carolina 2021-2022 state budget, the three tracks will receive different amounts of money for the improvements. $9 million will go to Rockingham for water and sewer and other infrastructure projects. $18 million will go to Wilkes County for water and sewer and other infrastructure projects. Finally, the City of Concord will receive $13 million for similar projects related to water and sewer and related infrastructure.
Additionally, all three tracks will be eligible for some extra money. Motorsports venues sanctioned by NASCAR, NHRA or IHRA are eligible for $5 million grants, provided they have run a Cup Series race since Sept. 29, 1996.
Gov. Cooper originally unveiled this plan on May 19. His initial proposal would have sent $10 million to each track for renovations. Another $5 million would go to The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in order to develop, connect, and market new and existing natural and cultural tourism trails. The plan also included a Motorsports and Moonshine Heritage Trail, a nod to NASCAR‘s history.
Speedway Motorsports Responded to the Big News With a Grateful Statement
Following the news of the budget, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith released a statement. He discussed the potential updates to Charlotte Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway, two tracks that Speedway Motorsports owns, and confirmed that the company will share several details in the coming months.
“I’d like to thank Gov. Roy Cooper, House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and all our state legislators for their support of motorsports and economic development in the new state budget,” Smith said in a statement on November 19. “The allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan are investments in the future for the motorsports and tourism industries of North Carolina.
“While Charlotte Motor Speedway is considered modern by many standards, it’s still more than 60 years old and in need of infrastructure improvements to maintain its position as an attractive venue for world-class events. We’ll use the state allocation toward upgrading fan amenities along our frontstretch, and we’ll have more details to share at a later date as we prepare for the Coca-Cola 600 next May.
“The allocation toward North Wilkesboro provides the starting capital needed to rebuild the infrastructure of the historic facility. With state budget amounts now finalized, we can zero in on project priorities and determine work schedules. The goal will be to modernize the property so that it can host racing and special events again in the future.
“I’d also like to thank all the members of the Wilkes County community who have donated their time and hard work to help demolish old buildings and clear brush and debris. We are truly grateful for what you’ve already done, and we look forward to rebuilding North Wilkesboro Speedway.”
Smith & Dale Earnhardt Jr. Have Pushed for NASCAR’s Return to North Wilkesboro
North Wilkesboro has played an important role in NASCAR’s history. The famed short track first hosted Cup Series races in 1949 and continued to do so until 1996, a race that Jeff Gordon won. Though North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted other motorsports events until 2011 when it finally shut down.
While NASCAR has not competed at the track since Gordon’s win, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Smith have pushed for a return. They partnered together in 2019 to clear the debris and weeds so iRacing could scan the track for virtual races. Earnhardt, in particular, has also openly advocated for the track’s return.
With Gov. Cooper signing the budget, NASCAR will now move one step closer to racing at the famed short track. Earnhardt and Smith could potentially see Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, and the other major stars facing off at a track where Richard Petty, Lee Petty, Terry Labonte, Bobby Allison, and Herb Thomas all won races.