Occonneechee Speedway, NASCAR in Orange County

On September 18, 1947, Bill France Sr. and four other racing entrepreneurs incorporated the Hillsboro Speedway in Orange County with the aim of bringing auto racing to central North Carolina.

Racing, however, long had been a pastime in the area. The land on which the speedway was built was located on property previously owned by tobacco magnate Julian Shakespeare Carr, who constructed a horse racing track. The site of the track later became the site of the Occoneechee Speedway.

Occonneechee Speedway

It was in the late 1940s that Bill France Sr., an auto-racing organizer from Daytona Beach, saw the racetrack from the air as he was flying over Orange County. He gathered investors and secured the land. Less than a month later, France and a group of racing promoters formed the National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing, that is, NASCAR.

The original plan was to build a one-mile oval racetrack with 5,000 seats but, when finished, the Occoneechee Speedway had wooden grandstands that held 10,000 and sloped hillsides that could fit 25,000 more. The track opened in June 1948 with a 10-mile NASCAR race watched by about 20,000 fans. It closed in 1968, and the site is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other related resources:

  • The National Register Nomination Form for Occonneechee Speedway from the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office
  • Auto racing and NASCAR on NCpedia
  • The N.C. Sports Hall of Fame at the N.C. Museum of History, of which several NASCAR drivers are members

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Related Topics: