WILKESBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Wilkes County leaders hope a new racing schedule and improvements to the North Wilkesboro Speedway could be the thing to make their county a destination and not just a stop along the way.
The buzz comes after a weekend announcement by Speedway Motorsports about two multi-week racing events in August and October and a timeline for a construction overhaul of the speedway.
“In the 90s, we took several big hits with the manufacturing and Lowes offices moving. The race track was just another big hit. I don’t think we quite realized it at the time,” said Keith Elmore, chairman of the Wilkes County Commissioners.
In a 1996 study, the North Wilkesboro Speedway brought around $32 million to the area every year.
When racing comes back, leaders say it could have an even bigger impact.
“From my understanding, across the area, it could mean as much as an $80 million impact,” Elmore said.
“This goes all the way down to Main Street USA with people coming into your coffee shop or coming in to get their car washed, and maybe they stop in the gas station to buy ice and food and snacks for the race,” said Steven Wilson, the co-founder of Save the Speedway.
Leaders with the Wilkes County Chamber of Commerce tell FOX8 they’re already getting calls about available land around the track after the announcement of construction and additional races.
Leaders believe they’ll need more hotels and places to stay for the thousands of people coming to events at the speedway.
“That also spurs job creation because as people come to town, people need more help in their businesses. They’re going to buy more products that are going to stock these businesses,” Wilson said.
Most of all, county leaders and advocates believe the track has to be more than racing to survive.
“Car shows, concerts, swap meets, one on one drags, there’s a litany of things this track could hold and keep it working year-round,” Wilson said.
Leaders with Speedway Motorsports believe upgrades should be finished by 2024.
Tickets for racing events in August and October go on sale Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.