Short-Track Racing

Bowman Gray StadiumShort-Track Racing

Bowman Gray Stadium draws more fans than any other weekly racetrack in the country

North Carolina short tracks, from quarter-mile paved bullrings to half-mile dirt ovals with sweeping turns, host a variety of race cars and events from spring to fall. There is one close to wherever you are in the state, making it easy to fill a Friday or Saturday evening with racing excitement. You also might see one of NASCAR’s future stars.

Bowman Gray Stadium
Winston-Salem
Bowman Gray Stadium draws more fans – about 17,000 each Saturday night – than any other weekly racetrack in the U.S. The track is a flat, quarter-mile oval around a football field, just like the one you ran on in high school. The track’s tight confines encourage contact and stoke tempers among drivers, which brings fans to their feet and return the next week. That’s how the stadium earned its nickname, The Madhouse. The first race here was held in 1949, and at one point NASCAR’s top series, now called Sprint Cup, raced at Bowman Gray. Today, the weekly program includes modifieds, sportsman, street stocks and stadium stocks. Most Saturdays the stadium gates open early, allowing you to go inside and use a cushion or blanket to save your seat. You also can tour the pits during the afternoon, examining the cars and talking with the drivers. The stadium closes to racing by mid-August, when the Winston-Salem State University Rams open their season.

Caraway Speedway
Sophia
Caraway Speedway is a little tricky to find. But it’s worth your time to wind along the narrow country roads that lead to the half-mile track with tight corners. Its Saturday evening program includes late model, stock and sportsman divisions. If you don’t want to sit in the modern grandstands – those in turn one have seats with backs – you can tailgate behind the backstretch and turn three. Park anywhere in the grassy field, including against the track’s outside wall, where you’re right next to the action.

Carolina Speedway
Gastonia
Just west of Charlotte, Carolina Speedway is a half-mile dirt oval where several divisions, including late models, race on Fridays. The track hosts several traveling series each season, including United Sprint Car Series sprint cars. Austin and Ty Dillon, grandsons of NASCAR team owner Richard Childress and drivers in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series, respectively, raced late models here. It’s close to Gastonia Municipal Airport, which NASCAR team owner and driver Tony Stewart has used, flying in on more than one occasion to drive his sprint car.

East Lincoln Speedway
Stanley
East Lincoln Speedway is a tight-cornered third-mile dirt oval that is co-owned by Ray Evernham, who was Jeff Gordon’s crew chief before engineering Dodge’s NASCAR return. Limited sportsman, open-wheel modifieds, late models, micro-sprints and U.S. Legends are the weekly divisions on Saturday nights from April through September. The track doesn’t forget about its youngest fans. Treats and events, such as bicycle races complete with trophies, are offered weekly for children.

Fayetteville Motor Speedway
Fayetteville
Late models are the top division at Fayetteville Motor Speedway, a small half-mile dirt oval where Dale Earnhardt won several races. Starting in March, Saturday nights here are race nights. The regular racing program also includes open-wheel modifieds, super street and pure stocks.

Hickory Motor Speedway
Hickory
Hickory Motor Speedway is called the Birthplace of NASCAR Stars. Harry Gant was a track champion here, as were NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees Jack Ingram, Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett. It’s about a third-mile long, banked and hasn’t been repaved in a long time. That means you’ll see a lot of passing in the Saturday night races run March through October. Weekly divisions include late models, four-cylinders, street stocks and super trucks.

Orange County Speedway
Rougemount
Some of the top Sprint Cup stars have raced at Orange County Speedway, including Jimmy Johnson, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton. The paved track is 3/8-mile long and high banked. Races for late models, sportsman, pure stocks, street stocks and modifieds are held every other Saturday night from April through October.

Rockingham Dragway
Rockingham
If you get tired of watching oval-track racing head to Rockingham Dragway. It’s a quarter-mile drag strip that hosts weekly events from March through November. Shows include International Hot Rod Association nitro-methane burning funny cars, National Hot Rod Diesel Association truck and tractor pulls, motorcycles and even International Model Drag Racing events, where remote-control cars are raced.

Pete Anderson is a Gastonia-based writer who says lakes, race tracks and barbecue joints are his favorite places to enjoy North Carolina.

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