Sinkhole at North Wilkesboro digs into track’s history

Sinkhole at North Wilkesboro Speedway

During grandstand cleaning and inspection last week in preparation for the upcoming NASCAR All-Star weekend in May, track operations staff discovered cracks in the original concrete in section N of the grandstands toward Turn 1.

Crews began removing seats to determine the extent of the damage. During the process, an open area of approximately 700-square-feet was discovered underneath the aging concrete, which may well be site of a long-rumored secret moonshine still.

A history soaked in moonshine

It was in the N.C. foothills where whiskey makers co-opted steam engine technology from the railroads to build stills that produced exceptional moonshine. They delivered their product in cars re-engineered for speed and nimbleness to outrun federal agents – contributing to NASCAR’s creation.

“When we began renovating and restoring North Wilkesboro Speedway in 2022, we’d often hear stories of how an old moonshine still was operated here on the property under the grandstands,” said Steve Swift, senior vice president of operations and development at Speedway Motorsports.

“Well, we haven’t found a still (yet), but we’ve found a small cave and an interior wall that would have been the perfect location to not only make illegal liquor, but to hide from the law as well.

“We don’t know how people would have gotten in and out, but as we uncover more, there’s no telling what we might find.”

Sinkhole at North Wilkesboro Speedway

Photo by: Speedway Motorsports

So far, approximately 600 seats have been removed from sections N and O, and Speedway Motorsports staff are evaluating the next steps for foundation repair and concrete replacement in advance of the all-star weekend.

“Now we have a race before the race,” Swift said. “The area that’s been affected by the sinkhole is a frontstretch grandstand area with some of the best views of the track. We’ll have a lot of work to get done.

After opening in 1947, North Wilkesboro became one of NASCAR’s original race tracks when it hosted the season finale for what is now the Cup Series in 1949. The .0625-mile short track hosted NASCAR races until it closed in 1996.

Following an extensive restoration, NASCAR action returned to North Wilkesboro last season with a Truck Series race and hosted the annual All-Star Race.

Goodyear Tire Test at North Wilkesboro Speedway

Goodyear Tire Test at North Wilkesboro Speedway

Photo by: Will Tharp / Charlotte Motor Speedway

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