Parsons honored as his dream of a revived speedway is realized

North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway renovation

For Parsons, it was always about No. 3.

The No. 3 and NASCAR racing have become synonymous over the years yet in this case it was not about the late Dale Earnhardt.

The No. 3 Terri Parsons was most concerned about was the third item on the bucket list created by her late husband, Benny, when doctors informed the NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and broadcaster he was dying of cancer.

Since Benny Parsons passed away Jan. 16, 2007, Terri had managed to scratch off nine of the 10 items on what had become a crinkled, faded piece of yellow legal pad paper that had been folded and unfolded hundreds – perhaps thousands – of times.

“I got everything left on the list done but I kept coming back to this No. 3,” she said.

Now, none of the items on the list were easy by any means – No. 1 was getting the home in Wilkes County the couple had started to build finished, and it was only 40-percent complete at the time.

Yet, No. 3 was definitely going to be a challenge. It read something like, “See about getting North Wilkesboro Speedway reopened for this county.”

“Oh, reopen a speedway. How hard can that be?” Parsons said with laugh.

How hard indeed.

A brief history

North Wilkesboro Speedway, opened in 1947, and was one of the eight tracks on the original NASCAR Cup schedule in 1949.

Won by Bob Flock, the then-dirt track eventually shifted to asphalt in 1957. It continued to host the Cup Series until 1996. That 93rd and final race was won by now-Hendrick Motorsports executive and Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.

After a majority interest in North Wilkesboro was purchased in part by Speedway Motorsports, led then by the late Bruton Smith, its coveted Cup Series dates were sent to other tracks owned by the company in Texas and New Hampshire.

Without the NASCAR races, the track had no lifeblood to sustain it and essentially shuttered as did many of the county’s businesses.

North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway renovation

Photo by: Jim Utter

Many have tried and failed over the years to create a viable return of racing to the dormant speedway.

The track briefly reopened in 2010 and hosted races from the now-inactive ASA Late Model Series, USARacing Pro Cup Series, and PASS Super Late Models, but closed again in the spring of 2011.

A glimmer of hope struck during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. sparked interest in the track when he asked to have it scanned for use in the iRacing Series.

NASCAR incorporated the track during its eNSACAR Pro…

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