Local News

Efforts to Preserve Hillsborough Track Hits DOT Road Bump

Posted December 18, 2007
Updated December 19, 2007

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— The Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsborough was shut down in 1968 when the races moved to Talladega, Ala. A volunteer group wants to restore the property to what it looked like in its glory days, but a proposed bypass could halt their efforts.

"Big names like Wendell Scott, Richard Petty, Richard Petty's father raced here and Dale Earnhart's father raced here," said Bill Crowther, Occoneechee Speedway site manager.

The speedway's infield was once covered with fans. Now it's covered with trees.

"This property has been preserved by neglect," Crowther said.

Crowther and volunteers have created three miles of walking trails on the property as part of a restoration project.

"As they walk, they could learn a little about the history of Hillsborough and in this case, the history of NASCAR," Crowther said.

There may be a fatal road block in front of their restoration plans, however. The state Department of Transportation proposes a bypass to connect Highway 70 with St. Mary's Road.

"That's the sad part of the story. We certainly hope not," Crowther said.

The speedway was listed in 2002 on the National Register of Historic Places, and Crowther believes that should stop the DOT's plans.

"Since it is the only dirt track left from NASCAR's first season, there might be some national importance here. So if that's the case, then we become a national landmark," he said.

DOT is proposing three routes for the bypass. One goes right through the track, one runs beside it, and the third is nearby. Crowther is opposed to all three options.

Richard Petty won the last race at the Occoneechee Speedway. He took home $1,600.


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  • happeninghillsborough Dec 20, 2007

    According to recent traffic count studies, traffic is currently rated a Level D at all intersections in Downtown Historic Hillsborough. After Gateway Center is completed, a new intersection will be added and traffic will be degraded to a Level F. As government growth in downtown increases, so will the pressure to do something to alleviate traffic congestion with a viable alternative. Elizabeth Brady Road bypass is the only viable option with funding. No other viable alternatives have been suggested. EVERY SINGLE HILLSBOROUGH ELECTED OFFICIAL HAS VOTED THE BYPASS AS THE TOWN'S NUMBER ONE NCDOT ROAD CONSTRUCTION PRIORITY.

    With that being said, NCDOT sometimes has a mind of its own. They upped the priority of the I-85 widening project ahead of everything else. Had that not happened, the bypass would be under construction soon. As it stands now, construction won't start until 2012.

    You don't have to like the facts and opinion I present, but as I see it, that is your problem.

  • happeninghillsboroughhater Dec 20, 2007

    Are you that dense? Leave it be. I don't normally like to participate in these type forums but you are unreasonable. I'm sure you feel empowered by bullying people on discussion boards like this, but give it a rest. Let the people enjoy places like the speedway or poet's walk. Just because you can't get away from the computer and exercise doesn't mean the town should take that away from everybody else. I can understand if you feel slighted by this post, but let the people speak. You have obviously researched this and feel that your political figures are in the right, but if you are literate enough to read the rest of the posts in this forum, you will find that you and the elected officials you speak of are in the minority. I don't want to downplay the importance of the NCDOT, but it seems like their participation in fixing I-85 would be time and money better spent. If you are from Hillsborough, embrace your history, nascar or not. Don't act like an ignorant carpetbagger.

  • irishale Dec 20, 2007

    ... be tolerated sometimes to preserve things that are important to us... whether it be a very unsightly parking deck, or a bypass a little too close (BUT NOT THROUGH) a historic site. Hillsborough certainly has it's share of growing pains to contend with, however I hope that it doesn't lose it's true character dealing with the changes.

  • irishale Dec 20, 2007

    If the bypass can be built without destroying the historic features of the property (the track, the stands, couple other 'building' sites), then I would have no objection. My objection is to a route that would destroy these features. I've been to the site, and it's relaxing to walk the track and imagine what it was like when the races were going on back in the track's heyday. The first NASCAR walking trail... for all things there MUST be a first... why not there? Unless you're holding a car show that 40,000 people show up for, the existing road is adequate... but another wouldn't hurt. Regardless of the owner's true motives, the site IS a registered historic site, and thus is afforded a certain amount of protection... and for that, history buffs should be grateful. Traffic IS horrendous, and while I dont' live there, I do visit VERY frequently, and my heart is saddened by the changes brought by growth. Unfortunately lack of growth means death in too many cases, a necessary evil must

  • happeninghillsborough Dec 19, 2007

    Even though it isn't the best route, the bypass can still be built without going through the racetrack. If one truly celebrates the automobile, wouldn't a road in or near the racetrack offer an opportunity for a different type of tourism, auto-tourism, a type of tourism that is reminiscent of old Route 66 and other automobile heritage. Whoever heard of a NASCAR walking path? That's silly and doesn't celebrate the heritage of the automobile. Why not see the bypass as an opportunity to add an additional entrance or to gain more visitors? If the bypass goes through the speedway property, over 85% of the property will remain intact. It doesn't have to be an "all of nothing" proposition.

    Mark my words and make no mistake that the "Historic Speedway Group" is being severely mislead by Crowther and Classical American Homes Preservation Trust (the owners of the speedway property). The moment the "Historic Speedway Group" wants to clear trees will be the moment these two partners se

  • happeninghillsboroughhater Dec 19, 2007


    I know how you feel. I too have a personal vendetta against Historic properties and nature. Seriously though, it sounds to me like you stand to lose something if the bypass doesn't go through the speedway. Do you really need to get somewhere so fast that another bypass is necessary? I know that Churton has its fair share of traffic, but come on, its not like it ranks up there with the NJ Turnpike! I'm actually surprised you turned the channel from Fox News long enough to actually see this story. Before you try to respond, I recommend that you BYPASS the Hummer in your driveway and take a walk down there and enjoy the surroundings. Hopefully that would be enough to change your mind. And leave the chainsaw at home!

  • OpinionOnEverything Dec 19, 2007

    This has nothing to do with an historic racetrack. It's about property owners who want to maintain a low supply of residential lots in the town. Keeping the town small and quaint is a great concept, but it often forces less desirable property owners to the suburbs or lower-priced outskirts of town because they can no longer afford the property taxes.

  • OpinionOnEverything Dec 19, 2007

    I'm getting sick and tired of preservationists howling about sites and buildings that have been neglected for so long becoming historic sites, if only the whole area stopped growing, and if only the city or county would pitch in a few million dollars to stop those mean old developers and DOT. The only poeple who want this already own their little quaint patch of land in historic Hillsborough, and are only interested in rising property value above all else. Screw everyone else! I got here first, now there's no room for you to move in next to me.

    This racetrack had no support until the DOT decided to put in a much-needed bypass to get through-traffic off of Churton St. and on to their homes north of town. Get it through your head that this area is growing and not everyone can afford to buy a historic property in downtown Hillsborough. The town is going to get newcomers the more "quaint" you make it appear. If you don't like it, move on to Yanceyville!

  • historicspeedwaygroup Dec 19, 2007

    Attn: Hillsborough Residents & Race Fans; Please support our efforts in the Preservation & Restoration of this Historic Speedway. Please contact the NCDOT, Hillsborough's Town Board, and elected Officials and tell them "NO" to the Bypass.
    Thanks, Ed Sanseverino

  • irishale Dec 19, 2007

    Milkman, you're right on. Happeninghillsborough... I fear you've missed the point. There are already bypasses around hillsborough, the fact that it takes a few miles probably makes it too inconvenient for some people. The NCDOT may be an expert on traffic routing, however they are not experts in what's best for a community. 40,000 people seemed to enjoy this site being there... there are state operated historic sites in this state that would LOVE to have that many people visit in an entire year, much less in ONE DAY. Remember when Hillsborough was HISTORIC Hillsborough? This site IS part of Hillsborough's history. If being 'in touch' with the community means to be quick and willing to bulldoze history like this, then I don't want anything to do with it. Let's build a bypass through the Wright Brothers Memorial... or better yet, let's knock down Jockey's Ridge to make a highway. Because YOU don't value this historic site does not mean it should be destroyed.