Hidden Gems – Occoneechee Speedway

Latitude 36º 4′ 26.71″ N/
/Longitude 79º 4′ 53.65″ W

About Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail

Located near Hillsborough, NC Occoneechee Speedway was one of the first two NASCAR tracks to open and is the only track remaining from the inaugural 1949 season. The site is now heavily forested in 40 year old pines and sycamores. Visible still are the grandstands which once held thousands of enthusiastic fans and the mile–long oval track where such legends as Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett, Louise Smith and Junior Johnson once spent their Sundays competing in the “Strictly Stock” and Grand National series. This site is one of only three race tracks on the National Register of Historic Places.

The speedway is located on the Eno River, down the riverwalk from Hillsborough. Four miles of trail take you along its banks and along the 1-mile oval Occoneechee/Orange Speedway. It is a unique outdoor site combining history, culture, and our natural resources.

For more information about the history of the Occoneechee-Orange Speedway and a link to race results, visit: http://www.enoriver.org/what-we-protect/parks/occoneechee-speedway/.

How to get there:

DRIVING DIRECTIONS to Occoneechee Speedway from I-85: take Exit 165 and head north on Hwy. 86 (away from the shopping center). In ½ mile, you will come to a stoplight. Continue straight at the light onto Elizabeth Brady Road. In 0.3 miles, turn right into the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail parking lot. Park here in this gravel lot. The physical address is 320 Elizabeth Brady Road, Hillsborough NC 27278.

HIKING DIRECTIONS to Occoneechee Speedway: Start at the informational wayside display at the south end of the parking area. Turn to your left and take the trail ahead of you. In a few hundred yards, the trail will intersect with the host access road. Turn right on the old road. You will soon see another wayside display with a large map of the property. Take the Spectator Trail to your left. In 0.25 miles, at the top of the hill, you will come to the rebuilt ticket office. Turn to the right and pass through the opening in the fence. Stop at this third wayside display for a look at the history of the site. Then, turn to your right and head down the Terrace Trace Trail. You will loop past the outhouse, the restored concession stand/press box and down to the original concrete grandstands. Head down the grandstand steps to the track and the flag stand. You are now on the original dirt track of the Occoneechee Speedway (this is the Speedway Trace Trail). Take a right, and in a couple hundred yards make another right at the first bend in the track. Head up the short hill. This should bring you back out to the map wayside display at the host access road. Take the road straight back out to the parking lot. This round-trip hike is less than a mile.

The Classical American Homes Preservation Trust provided the historic photos below. The bottom right photo captures a beautiful scene of the track on a sunny Sunday in autumn. The Eno River is just past the trees on the far side of the track. The bottom left photo provides a glimpse of the crowd gathered for a race and the cars lined up for the start. The pace car is in front with ‘the King’ Richard Petty and his famous pale blue #43 car in the pole position (http://www.historicspeedwaygroup.org/richard-petty.html).