ECONOMAKI: Rejuvenated North Wilkesboro

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North Wilkesboro Revitalization Continues

BIG CROWD: A large crowd was on hand for Sunday’s short-track racing program at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway. (Adam Fenwick Photo)

HARRISBURG, N.C. — Race fans across the country were saddened when North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway closed at the conclusion of the 1996 NASCAR season. Almost annually a new rumor would spring about the track’s revival, but little ever happened at the five-eighths-mile asphalt oval, which played a part in creating more than a few NASCAR legends. That was until approximately a year ago when a group led by Alton McBride, Jr., was successful in securing a lease on the fabled facility and began preparing the track for racing. Sunday’s track program, which featured the USAR Pro Cup division, and included modifieds and street stocks, drew a crowd estimated at 10,000 folks, significantly larger than the reopening of the facility on Labor Day weekend. The final event of year, which will include the Ron Varney’s Sunoco National Tour late models and several other divisions, is set for Oct. 29-31. Already attention is turning to next season’s opener at North Wilkesboro, which will feature the Pro All Star Series late models racing for a whopping $75,000 to win. If you were one of the many who missed this grand old race track, get yourself a ticket from www.savethespeedway.net. McBride is one who remembers a lot about North Wilkesboro tradition. When the venue hosted two NASCAR races each year, the fall event was always held in conjunction with the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. Members of the media who covered the fall race were always rewarded with a free bag of apples courtesy of the track. McBride continued that tradition this year during the USARacing Brushy Mountain 250.

Larry Camp, managing partner with the USARacing Pro Cup Series, told NSSN Sunday at North Wilkesboro Speedway, “I think we might be coming to North Wilkesboro twice next season.” USARacing was the first series to announce a race date at the historic .625-mile facility this year after it was revealed the track would re-open after being shuttered for 14 years.

It’s not every day that a man aboard a plane during a flyover prior to a race also waves the checkered flag to end the event, but that’s exactly what happened at North Wilkesboro Speedway Sunday. Bobby Allison joined Captain Harry O’Nan of Delta Airlines and Captain Scott Edwards of U.S. Airways aboard a Piedmont Airline DC3 provided by the Carolina Aviation Museum of Charlotte, N.C. After the flyover Allison was rushed back to the track in time to wave the checkered flag during the USARacing Pro Cup Series Brushy Mountain 250, which was won by Jeff Agnew.

Often accused of being bad for the environment and not concerned about green technology, NASCAR appears (according to SportsBusiness Journal) on the verge of signing a significant sponsorship contract with Growth Energy, which produces Ethanol. Sunoco, the official fuel of NASCAR, will remain in that capacity with the possibility that NASCAR’s racing machines could make the eventual transition to a 15-percent Ethanol blend. NASCAR, Sunoco and Growth Energy are reportedly working through some concerns about the agreement.

Despite being at the forefront of controversy with Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, et. al. in Dover, Del., the previous weekend, Denny Hamlin was all smiles and laughs during a media luncheon Sept. 28 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hamlin and motorsports artist Sam Bass unveiled the unique Bass-designed race program cover for the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 weekend at Bruton Smith’s flagship superspeedway. After looking at the artwork, which features Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota and other cars around a prominent image of Harvick’s helmet, Hamlin drew laughter from the assembled media and fans when he quipped, “I recognize that helmet.”

Taking it to the streets. That’s how Charlotte Motor Speedway is promoting its NASCAR events this month, thanks to a partnership with the Charlotte Area Transit System. Two CATS buses have been wrapped in a unique stock car-like design featuring ticket information and logos for the speedway’s three NASCAR nights Oct. 14-16. The custom wraps are the first for CATS, which operates more than 70 routes in the Queen City, transporting more than 22 million passengers each year.

Former Charlotte Motor Speedway General Manager H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler is working with street rods these days. Wheeler has come up with the HemiCat, which basically combines a 1949 Jaguar sedan with a modern-day Chrysler 300. Wheeler is collaborating on the car with Floyd West, who operates Klassic Rides out of Denver, N.C.

Anthony Hamilton, the father of 2008 Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton, visited the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 as a guest of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and driver Mike Conway, a longtime competitor and friend of Lewis Hamilton.

Former Lotus F-1 driver Trevor Taylor has died from cancer at the age of 73. In 29 grands prix, he managed one podium finish for Lotus at the 1962 Dutch Grand Prix. He always raced with a yellow helmet and overalls and was widely credited as the originator of the yellow stripe down the middle of Team Lotus racing cars as a result of officials at the Indianapolis 500 objecting to all-green cars on Lotus’s arrival at the Brickyard in 1963.

USA won the F-1 in Schools World Finals Singapore 2010. Amada Clark, Niemann Pest, Mark Nanney, Tony Griffin, Brandon Miranda and Yatrik Solandi, from James Madison Middle School and Southeast High School, made up team Unitus Racing, which won the award. Unfortunately, the release did not mention where the students were from. F-1 in Schools is a global multi-disciplinary challenge for students 9 to 19 years of age.

AB Productions, the new promoter at The Milwaukee Mile, has reported tremendous response from fans seeking tickets to the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series event at the one-mile oval June 19. “Response has been outstanding,” said AB Productions CEO Chris McGrath, who said the promoters would be contacting former season ticket holders who have left messages via phone or the Internet about purchasing tickets for the race. To order yours log on to www.milwaukeemile2011.com.

Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment, Inc. and Dover Motorsports, Inc. have combined the two businesses through a merger, which could strengthen both companies. Dover Motorsports, Inc. owns race tracks in Dover, Del.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Madison, Ill.

According to a press release distributed by HANS Performance Products, the number of racing drivers using the HANS Device has surpassed 110,000.

Need a sweatshirt for those cool autumn nights? This weekend’s UMP DirtCar Championships at Eldora Speedway may be your last chance to get an NSSN 75th anniversary sweatshirt at the track. They are $25 at the Haye Vending souvenir stand. Still want one, but not going to Eldora? Call the NSSN office, but you will have to pay shipping.

Gary Storey, a longtime participant in Ron Hedger’s SuperFans competition in this newspaper, died Sept. 23 after a long battle with cancer.

IMCA has renewed its contract with Hoosier Racing Tire through the 2015 season. Hoosier will continue to manufacture the IMCA stamped G60-15 tire for the modified, stock car and Northern sportmod divisions; the IMCA SCL stamped tire for late models; and the IMCA stamped 500 tire for Southern sportmods.

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