Sports & Motorsports
Hickory Motor Speedway
Everyone has to start somewhere. So start your next trip to North Carolina where some of NASCAR’s brightest stars began their racing careers.
Hickory Motor Speedway, located on Highway 70 just off I-40 at exit 128 in Newton, NC, has played host to some of the biggest names in motorsports through its more than 50-year history. As you walk up to the ticket window, the Wall of Fame on the left and the list of past track champions on the right, honor some of the sport’s founding fathers, including Junior Johnson, Harry Gant, Dennis Setzer and Ned Jarrett.
Short-track racing is the name of the game at Hickory Motor Speedway and there is no better place for drivers to learn car control and how to balance patient and aggressive driving. The .363-mile oval, which features up to 14 degrees of banking in the turns and 8 degrees down the straightaways, is all about door-to-door, bumper-to-bumper racing action. The Late Models are the fastest cars that regularly turn laps at the speedway. Most Saturday nights from March through August they are supported by three other divisions: the Limited Late Models, the Pro-4s and Street Stocks. From time to time, the track also plays host to traveling racing series.
Each week at tracks across the country, drivers take what they’ve learned at Hickory Motor Speedway and apply it in NASCAR’s premier division – the Sprint Cup Series. Denny Hamlin, who currently drives the Fed–Ex sponsored No. 11 for Joe Gibbs Racing, won the speedway’s Fall Brawl in 2003 and 2004. Brian Vickers made the speedway his home track before driving for Rick Hendrick and is now the No. 83 for Red Bull racing. The division’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., raced at Hickory early in his career – the same track where his grandfather, Ralph, won five championships in the 1950s.
The tradition of drivers cutting their racing teeth at the “Birthplace of the NASCAR Stars” continues today. Chrissy Wallace, niece of retired and former Sprint Cup champion Rusty Wallace, raced weekly at Hickory in 2006 and 2007. She is now racing her way up through the NASCAR divisions, currently competing in the Craftsman Truck Series. Third-generation racer Coleman Pressley, who won the Bobby Isaac Memorial at Hickory in 2006 and 2008, also competed in the truck series in 2009. So keep your eye on the track – you way be watching the next superstar.
Just by sitting down, racing fans participate in the track’s history. Portions of the grandstands, which feature both aluminum bench seating and concrete bleachers, are named after some of the greats who turned laps at the Catawba County race track. For families who like to watch races together, the speedway offers a non-drinking section and a fenced-in playground for children outside the third turn. There is also parking for RVs.
By Peter Anderson
By Peter Anderson
added: December 22, 2008
updated: February 8, 2011