Moonshine cave? Under North Wilkesboro Speedway? Legendary NASCAR venue draws intrigue.

Alex Zietlow, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Was North Wilkesboro Speedway home base for some moonshine runners after all?

Speedway Motorsports Inc. officials have unearthed the possibility.

During last week’s grandstand cleaning and inspection process of North Wilkesboro Speedway — the long-abandoned racetrack in the foothills of North Carolina that was resurrected for last year’s NASCAR All-Star Race — SMI operations staff discovered cracks in the original concrete, according to a press release. Crews then began removing seats to evaluate the extent of the damage and came upon an open area of approximately 700-square-feet underneath the concrete — a cave, if you will.

No moonshine still has been found, officials say.

Yet, that is.

“When we began renovating and restoring North Wilkesboro Speedway in 2022, we’d often hear stories of how an old moonshine still was operated here on the property under the grandstands,” Steve Swift, senior vice president of operations and development at Speedway Motorsports, said via statement. “Well, we haven’t found a still (yet), but we’ve found a small cave and an interior wall that would have been the perfect location to not only make illegal liquor, but to hide from the law as well.

“We don’t know how people would have gotten in and out, but as we uncover more, there’s no telling what we might find.”


The news unequivocally adds to the lore that is Wilkesboro. For decades, starting the year NASCAR was established in 1947, the 0.625-mile track was a vital economic beam of Wilkes County, N.C. It also stood at the cultural center of stock car racing. To think of Wilkesboro was to think of small town Americana; old-time NASCAR; the Last American Hero of Junior Johnson, the moonshine-runner-turned-legendary-racer whose legacy is still captured on the patina of Wilkesboro’s walls.

The speedway served an important role on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule for a long time. Then, in 1996, in pursuit of larger venues in larger markets across the U.S., NASCAR took its Cup date from the speedway. Wilkesboro fell into disrepair. Vines sprouted from the cracks. When it rained, the infield would flood; boats were more likely to be raced than cars.

However, after a series of events influenced by the cultural power of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a windfall of federal pandemic relief money earmarked by the state government to fix-up the speedway, SMI renovated the racetrack last year in time for the NASCAR All-Star Race in May.

And the event, by all accounts, was a hit.

Now, SMI operations staff is back at work to renovate what is necessary before the upcoming May 14-19 festivities that is NASCAR All-Star Race week. And then came Tuesday, when they announced they stumbled upon the cave. According to a release, approximately 600 seats have been removed from sections N and O, and SMI staff is “evaluating next steps for foundation repair and concrete replacement.”

“Now we have a race before the race,” Swift stated. Swift could’ve said — and probably did say — the same thing last year, when they were racing to pull the track into the present without erasing what made its past so special.

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