FENWICK: An Ode To Concord Speedway

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Adam Fenwick
Adam Fenwick

CONCORD, N.C. — Concord Speedway was one of the most unique short tracks in the Southeast.

We say was because in July it was revealed that Copart, a provider of online vehicle auction and remarketing services, was purchasing the speedway property. The track, a fixture on the regional racing scene for years, is being demolished as a result.

It’s a sad end for the facility that featured a half-mile paved tri-oval and a quarter-mile paved oval for Legend Car and Bandolero racing. Some of the sport’s top stars have competed at the track, which started life as four-tenths-mile dirt track before being converted into a paved track during the mid-1980s.

Through the years we’ve covered numerous races at the track, with several standing out as unique for a variety of reasons.

The first of those races took place in 2010 during the annual North-South Shootout, which featured SK modifieds, tour-type modifieds and asphalt late models sanctioned by the ARCA/CRA Super Series.

The day was, for lack of a better phrase, full of chaos. The SK modified feature saw Steven Reed nearly leave the track after blowing a tire while racing into the backstretch dogleg. His car tore down roughly 40 feet of fence along the backstretch before careening back into the track and coming to rest.

Reed was OK, but the mayhem wasn’t over.

The ARCA/CRA Super Series race was nuttier than a fruitcake, with contact between Matt Brooks and current NASCAR Cup Series star Ryan Blaney sending Brooks’ car flipping into turn one during the opening circuits. Brooks walked away, but his car was destroyed.

That was just the start of a wild day for Blaney, who flipped his car late in the race. Colt James ended up winning the race after most of the field either wrecked or dropped out with mechanical issues.

Another standout memory came during a 2016 PASS South super late model and Southern Modified Racing Series doubleheader. Bobby Measmer Jr., a local boy who enjoyed a ton of success racing late models at Concord, found himself battling for his first tour-type modified win at his home track.

In order to earn it, he had to beat one of the best tour-type modified drivers in recent memory. Connecticut native Ryan Preece entered the race as the favorite, but Measmer had more experience at Concord Speedway.

That paid off for Measmer, who passed Preece on lap 120 and led the rest of the distance to earn his maiden victory in a tour-type modified. Victory lane was a mad house as Measmer and team owner Kevin Hughes soaked in the moment in front of a hometown crowd.

“Kevin Hughes and his Bobby Measmer team just put a whooping on us,” Preece said at the time.

Another moment that comes to mind took place in 2011. The USARacing Pro Cup Series was battling for survival and Camp & Associates’ Larry Camp, who had served as the organization’s managing partner, was ousted by the tour’s ownership group shortly before a race at Concord Speedway.

Pro Cup Series co-owner Jack McNelly spoke to the drivers and teams in attendance, assuring them the series would continue. They had been dedicated to the series, so McNelly was determined to be dedicated to them.

That race was won by Brad Rogers, the younger brother of multi-time Pro Cup champion Clay Rogers, who finished second that day.

That race was a key moment in series history as McNelly partnered with series director Chris Ragle and eventually rebranded the series as the CARS Tour. However, were it not for McNelly standing up and promising not to give up that day at Concord, that may not have happened.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the last moment that comes to mind is the last race on the half-mile track — the 2018 North-South Shootout.

Due to a scheduling conflicts with a PASS event at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway, we weren’t at Concord Speedway for what turned out to be the track’s last race.

However, SPEED SPORT cohort Jacob Seelman was there and recapped the day.

Driving for Tommy Baldwin Jr., Jon McKennedy started from the pole and led early in the race before a pit stop. He eventually made his way back to the front and held off multi-time North-South Shootout winner Matt Hirschman to earn the trophy.

“I’ve won a lot of races in my career, up and down the East Coast, but this is one of the biggest,” McKennedy said.

After the engines fell silent, the haulers were loaded, everyone went home and the lights were turned off at Concord Speedway that night. Racing never returned to Concord Speedway, a track with so much character and uniqueness in a racing era where cookie-cutter tracks are the norm, rather than the exception.

NASCAR Cup Series competitors such as Chase Elliott, Blaney, Corey LaJoie, Preece and William Byron raced at Concord. It’s a shame the next generation of up-and-coming NASCAR stars won’t have the same opportunity.