Today, Asheville is known for outdoor adventures aplenty and world-famous food and brews. But DYK it was once loved for roaring engines + short dirt tracks? Overlooked and nearly forgotten (except by the locals that filled their days + nights watching the sport), this past time is a moving part of Asheville’s history — and one that put us on the national racing map.
First, a little context. While the speedways stopped running in Asheville in 1999 (the height of NASCAR), a 2010 memorial honoring the racing history of Asheville’s Motor Speedway shed a small light to the over 50 years of racing traditions in the WNC area.
The multiple raceways provided work for many retired military, local auto-shops + more. My own grandpa (Digital Media Intern Jordan here), Bill Puckett Jr. (seen kneeling above), worked on Banjo Matthew’s X car after working as a tank mechanic in the Army.
Let’s dive into Asheville’s racing history from 1949-1999.
- The first track in the area was at Hollywood Road in Fairview, where it hosted 1/3 mile dirt track races from 1949-1952.
- The Asheville-Weaverville track (now Buncombe High School) ran from 1950-1969 as a 1/2 mile, high-banked dirt track until it was paved in 1957.
- The Tourists’ own McCormick Field was used as a paved 1/4 mile racetrack from 1956-1959 with the pit crews posted up in the dugouts.
- The New Asheville Speedway, now known as the Asheville Motor Speedway, ran a 1/3 mile track from 1961-1999. The Carrier Park MellowDrome now sits where the track once was.
- The Asheville-Weaverville track, McCormick Field track, and the Asheville Motor Speedway hosted races for the NASCAR Grand National (known as the Winston Cup in later years).
- The thunderous roar of the tracks could be heard all over town, mainly in downtown and West Asheville.
- The Asheville Motor Speedway was purchased by RiverLink in 1999 after raising $1.1 million. $250,000 was donated from Biltmore as they were building the Biltmore Inn at the time (which was in earshot of the speedway). Meetings regarding the purchase did not include media + public input at the time.
- Well known drivers like Richard Petty, Bob + Robert Pressley, Jack Ingram, Ralph Earnhardt, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Banjo Matthews, Junior Johnson, Dickie Plemmons + more raced at the various Asheville tracks.
The sale of Asheville Motor Speedway in 1999 left many locals (like my grandpa) feeling that the heart of Asheville had been lost, while others were excited for new tourism opportunities and developments that the old racetrack would bring. While we miss being able to see fast cars whipping past on tracks, it’s always fun to take a drive down memory lane, and reflect on the metaphorical tire marks that these race cars left on Asheville.
Have any local racing stories? Let us know in the comments below. ⬇️