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"Why NASCAR leaving North Wilkesboro was a Worse Decision Than You Thought"

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  • "Why NASCAR leaving North Wilkesboro was a Worse Decision Than You Thought"

    Good stuff!

    "I didn't hear a single comment about airboxes, "carbashians", or how terrible the car looked. I did see dozens and dozens of little kids in awe of the speed and how cool the cars looked. We should learn from our children."
    --Danny Noonan

  • #2
    Would love to see Cup back at North Wilkes.

    This video makes a few good points, but most of it doesn't. The cost analysis was simplistic, at best, and the "moral" portion sounded like a crack-pot conspiracy theory.
    DVR . . . . Life is too short to watch commercials.

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    • #3
      How so? Besides that track, what industry or business did North Wilkesboro have to keep it going?
      "I didn't hear a single comment about airboxes, "carbashians", or how terrible the car looked. I did see dozens and dozens of little kids in awe of the speed and how cool the cars looked. We should learn from our children."
      --Danny Noonan

      Comment


      • #4
        There's an argument to be made that SMI could have bought the track for the dates, then sold it off later on to someone to run as a local short track before the infrastructure collapsed. But that SMI had some moral obligation to the Wilkesboro area is nuts. They're out to make money, and even if they aren't making as much now, they sure as hell got their investment back in droves for at least a decade after they bought NWS.

        I'm not sure that modern Cup at North Wilkesboro would actually be all that great, anyhow.

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        • #5
          One thing that the people that lament North Wilkes never mention, or take into consideration, is that Martinsville and Bristol are both less that 100 miles away (as the crow flies). Kind of an over saturated market.

          And on the SMI front, also Charlotte (the SMI flagship) wasn't all that much farther from North Wilkes. Smith may have wanted to cut down on the competition.

          The author of the piece did not give any data to support how much the races at North Wilkesboro Speedway were a part of the economy of North Wilkes county. So far, just a bunch of emotional claptrap without real data.


          DVR . . . . Life is too short to watch commercials.

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          • #6
            I'm willing to go in with "Bringing back North Wilkesboro might be good PR". With only one Atlanta race and one Darlington race, that market is not as crowded as it was in 1996. Lee Roy is generally correct though - this is more akin to a loose hypothesis of how it might have been a bigger money issue than any kind of serious case study. No discussion of sponsor activation or network interest or what have you.

            Do I feel bad for the folks in Wilkes County? Sure. I also did a cursory search and discovered that many of the economic issues there were typical for the region; decline of the furniture and tobacco industries and departure of some large corporations (biggest among them being Lowe's) for greener and more urban pastures caused significant declines in household income. The county is significantly below the national and state averages in educational attainment and above those same indexes for high school dropout rate. A race would provide some opportunities to make money, but hardly turn everything around there any more than it would bolster economic activity in areas with far greater potential like Fort Worth or Atlanta.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by ACCP View Post
              There's an argument to be made that SMI could have bought the track for the dates, then sold it off later on to someone to run as a local short track before the infrastructure collapsed.

              .
              Hickory Speedway isn't that far away and does so-so. I think the annual NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION is one of the biggest nights on their schedule which isn't exactly short track racing.

              Bowman Gray is nearby and is the 800lb gorilla when it comes to asphalt short track racing in NC.

              Concord Motor Speedway was recently closed down permanently and Caraway is another so-so venue

              The last thing the area needed was one more asphalt short track running weekly.

              It would have just diluted the supply of available asphalt race cars and eventually closed anyhow.

              They tried special shows with regional series and they flopped.


              Live like Dave

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              • #8
                The video does more to defend the abandonment of the track than critique. Being younger, and not that in tune with the business end of racing at the time, I didn't realize just how far behind NW was. Similar to dropping the dirt tracks in favor of the "modern era" I imagine the powers that be in NASCAR could see that the track just wasn't capable of keeping up with the big business that they had become. It is a shame that the track couldn't have remained in use for Busch, Trucks, and a few big latemodel races a year, but in reality the facility needed a lot of investment to even remain capable of holding that level of racing. It is pretty easy to let ten or twenty years slip by and let a building, or any facility, fall far behind standard, and the money needed to catch up is always hard to find.

                The economics and ROI for the speedpalaces built during the boom are hard to comprehend, but I have little doubt that the Smiths, Frances, ect. have done well for themselves. Now comes the battle to maintain those facilities in a new time, with a new economic reality in front of them, as mentioned in the video. In so many ways, and in so many places, we have lived through the "golden years" of a variety of venues, and many will disappear in favor of a new flavor of the day.
                "He went into a tire barrier, which is certainly the nicest of all the barriers." -Bobby Unser, Denver '90

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by KevMcNJ View Post

                  Hickory Speedway isn't that far away and does so-so. I think the annual NIGHT OF DESTRUCTION is one of the biggest nights on their schedule which isn't exactly short track racing.

                  Bowman Gray is nearby and is the 800lb gorilla when it comes to asphalt short track racing in NC.

                  Concord Motor Speedway was recently closed down permanently and Caraway is another so-so venue

                  The last thing the area needed was one more asphalt short track running weekly.

                  It would have just diluted the supply of available asphalt race cars and eventually closed anyhow.

                  They tried special shows with regional series and they flopped.

                  My guy quit going to South Boston because of a stupid 2 tire rule they implemented. You could only but 2 new tires each race. How can you set up a race car with 2 used tires? You can't.

                  Caraway said Hey, if you come here to race we will give you 2 new tires if you buy 2 new tires. Well, hell, where do you think everybody went? SoBo was down to 8 LM's.
                  "Far better it is to dare mighty things, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat" -Teddy Roosevelt

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The work is fine. It makes several mistakes. First, all this “moral” argument. The point of business is to make money, not to support this or that place because it was this or that. But the largest argument is that the author falls into the excuse makers trap of accepting that the NASCAR “boom” was some sort of “bubble” that would eventually burst. Nope. Of course, the NASCAR decline is 100% man-made, and in no way organic nor inevitable.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by happyscrappy-t View Post
                      ...but in reality the facility needed a lot of investment to even remain capable of holding that level of racing. It is pretty easy to let ten or twenty years slip by and let a building, or any facility, fall far behind standard, and the money needed to catch up is always hard to find.
                      Which begs irony because if they would held out just five more years, they would have been around when the new centralized TV package kicked in (2001), and would have benefited from a huge influx of cash. They would have been able to afford renovations, and increased purse, etc. NW was poised to ride a wave of prosperity, but were kicked off the train before they got a chance to enjoy the fruits of the boom. All simply so Loudon & Texas could poach their coveted dates.

                      North Wilkesboro badly needed renovations, but so did a lot of tracks at that juncture. Daytona International Speedway ca. 1996 was in no great shape either. Rotting wooden benches, and chicken bones & pull tabs left over from the '70s were beneath your feet. Even the garage were primitive. But nobody cared since it was the Daytona 500, it made a lot of money, and it looked good on TV. Things would only get better.

                      DW said a while back one of the lesser-known reasons NW was often 'shunned' was that they posted one of the smallest purses in Cup - but often resulted in a lot of damage to the cars. Thus the purse often wasn't enough to recoup the costs for the weekend. That was a big deal in the 70s and 80s. Again, an issue that would have been more or less erased once the TV package kicked in and the purse would have been bolstered.

                      IIRC, the North Wilkesboro area was further downtrodden after the closure of a nearby Holly Farms poultry processing plant. Thus the area went into decline after a series of economic shifts...particular industries (mentioned above) that were once strong in the rural south had withered - and not because the track had closed.

                      ***
                      One tour of the "Ruins of North Wilkesboro" pointed out an interesting thing. The billboards that were still legible....Holly Farms, First Union, and many others....all companies that no longer exist in the area or were long since taken over etc....not to mentioned Winston which is no longer part of the sport.


                      ***

                      I don't really buy the "saturation" argument 100%, as NASCAR existed and flourished in the region for decades with two races at each track in such a tight radius. If anything, going down to one race per year may have been warranted (i.e., Darlington, Atlanta)...but to drop both races and go to Loudon a second time (a race that's now also dead, by the way) was short-sighted. Did they have a "moral obligation" to keep the place open...absolutely not...but the problem I have is they didn't purchase the track in good faith. They purchased it to shut it down and poach the dates. And stayed mum on their intentions - even though everyone knew what they were.

                      I miss North Wilkesboro, I'll take track that track any day over one of the 1.5 mile cookie cutters. It was a racy track, with a neat uphill-downhill configuration. Better than Martinsville because it was a little longer/faster, and plenty different from Bristol because it lacked the banking. And the 40,000 seat capacity....once belittled and decried for being "too small" seems just right for a Cup race nowadays.
                      Doctorindy.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I don't really buy the "saturation" argument 100%, as NASCAR existed and flourished in the region for decades with two races at each track in such a tight radius. If anything, going down to one race per year may have been warranted (i.e., Darlington, Atlanta)...but to drop both races and go to Loudon a second time (a race that's now also dead, by the way) was short-sighted. Did they have a "moral obligation" to keep the place open...absolutely not...but the problem I have is they didn't purchase the track in good faith. They purchased it to shut it down and poach the dates. And stayed mum on their intentions - even though everyone knew what they were.
                        Agree with all of this.
                        Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the Keenest of them all?

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                        • #13
                          According to Google Maps, North Wilkesboro Speedway is 97 miles to Bristol, 103 miles to Martinsville, and 80 miles to Charlotte Motor Speedway. I think it is relevant, because NASCAR was expanding at the time, and moving races to underserved markets was justified.
                          DVR . . . . Life is too short to watch commercials.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Lee Roy View Post
                            According to Google Maps, North Wilkesboro Speedway is 97 miles to Bristol, 103 miles to Martinsville, and 80 miles to Charlotte Motor Speedway. I think it is relevant, because NASCAR was expanding at the time, and moving races to underserved markets was justified.
                            Texas Motor Speedway was going to get a Cup date, the facility was simply too grand to ignore it. Just at the time, all the parties were playing a curious game of hardball. NASCAR "refused" to expand the schedule to add Texas (they were at 31 races at the time), so SMI found an easier route by poaching the N.W. date. Buy the track, shut it down, and move the date. Of course within no time, NASCAR had expanded to the schedule to 36 races, which proved their stalemate was probably a load of B.S.

                            The Carolinas were saturated with NASCAR, whether Cup tracks or Busch only tracks. North Wilkesboro was probably seen as the "weakest link" and most likely/easiest to shut down. Sponsors were interested in new venues. When the owner died, it became prime real estate. But the real value was its two Cup dates. Texas and Loudon basically paid $7 million for a Cup date, and half of the shares to an old racetrack came with it in an envelope.

                            North Wilkesboro is mere nostalgia to me now. I don't use up any energy longing for it to come back. It's gone forever...just like Riverside, Ontario, Nazareth, etc., or dozens of old ballparks/stadiums.
                            Doctorindy.com

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