Efforts to Preserve Hillsborough Track Hits DOT Road Bump
Posted December 18, 2007 8:52 p.m. EST
Updated December 19, 2007 5:37 a.m. EST
Hillsborough, N.C. — 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.