Racing at Wake County a Step Back in Timeby Jason Beck April 4, 2015 0 comments
At short tracks across America, young drivers are agonizing over their path to NASCAR stardom. Half-million dollar haulers dot the infield and race outcomes are usually decided during qualifying.
Thankfully, there are still places like Wake County Speedway. Nestled between a mobile home park and an auto repair business on the outskirts of North Carolina’s state capitol, the racetrack is a step back in time.
On Friday nights fans pack the bullring’s bleachers, not to see the next NASCAR star but to watch their neighbors battle door to door for a small check and a trophy.
The vast majority of the racers are from within 20 minutes of the track. As children, most played together under the towering grandstand.
“I grew up here,” said Alex Fleming, Friday night’s late model winner. “Growing up I could either go watch a football game or go to the race track on a Friday night, and thankfully I chose the race track. It has been awesome.”
Most of the drivers understand the grand purpose of the speedway, which opened as a dirt track in 1962. After his most recent win, Fleming, a two-time track champion from Raleigh, N.C., performed a lengthy burnout and donuts on the front stretch. This delighted the crowd, but will hinder Fleming, who by rules will have to race on the same tires again next race.
“For me, I love it being a show, and I love putting on a show for people,” he said. “It’s more of a personal atmosphere, here. This still has the family feel, rather than going to watch a NASCAR race.”
Kristin Gault, a former winner at the track, has raced at other speedways but prefers to bring her four-cylinder car to “The County.” The 25 year old, who lives about 3 miles away, says the relaxed atmosphere at her home track is different.
“It’s always something our family does together,” she said. “We all grew up with the same people. Most of the people here live right around here, and it’s just a great community – it’s like everyone is family.”
Everything about the race program is planned with the fans in mind. Only open trailers are allowed in the pit area, allowing an unobstructed view of the racing surface. The tight corners make for close racing. On Friday, every feature event was decided by a late-race pass for the lead.
“This place is awesome,” said Jim Bounds, another Raleigh driver. “It’s the most fun you can have.
“The racing is good, it’s side by side the whole night,” he said. “I hate the term ‘rubbing is racing,’ but at Wake County Speedway, it is.”
Wake County had five feature divisions on the schedule for their most recent night of racing: Late Models, Four Cylinders, Legends Cars, Bandoleros and Bombers. Even after a later than planned start, all of the action concluded by 11 p.m.
Tickets are only $12 for adults and even cheaper for seniors and children. Races are run every-other Friday, April through September.