This is the Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsborough, North Carolina. It was one of the first two NASCAR tracks to open and was referred to by drivers as the 'super speedway of dirt'.
Drivers, including greats like Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, Fireball Roberts and Gene Hobby would hit 190 km/h down the front stretch before sliding their cars into the turn without touching the brakes. The last race ran on the track in 1968. Richard Petty won.
After that, the track sat practically untouched as the pines and sycamores grew in the infield and weeds poked through the concrete grandstands.
In 1997, Classical American Homes Preservation Trust purchased the land to preserve the view from the Ayr Mount historic house – an 1815 Federal-era plantation. The Trust knew the track was on the land and in 2001 applied to add the track to the National Register of Historic Places. The Trust opened walking trails in 2002 and in 2006 began working with volunteers to restore parts of the track including the flagstand and other buildings. The volunteers group is made up mostly of former race car drivers and those who remember watching races at the track. They host an annual car show to raise money for restoration and maintenance of the walking trails.
About 60 kilometres north west of Raleigh, Occoneechee is the only remaining dirt track from the inaugural 1949 season.
On a recent visit to Occoneeche we were able to obtain numerous old photos courtesy of the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust and take current photos in the exact same location. Move the slider to see what the track looked like in its golden age and today.
Occoneechee's biggest crash
Legendary NASCAR driver Gene Hobby rolled his car five or six times right in front of the grandstand. Luckily he was wearing a full seat belt and walked away uninjured. (Classical American Homes Preservation Trust) (Jordan Chittley/The Globe and Mail)
The front stretch with pit lane in the right and the grandstands on the left. The flag stand has been moved from its original location. (Classical American Homes Preservation Trust) (Jordan Chittley/The Globe and Mail)
Fans cheer on their favourite drivers as the cars enter turn 1. (Classical American Homes Preservation Trust) (Jordan Chittley/The Globe and Mail)
Close to the action
Crowds peek through the fence to watch a race. The fence and the small hill separating the fans from race cars still exists. (Classical American Homes Preservation Trust) (Jordan Chittley/The Globe and Mail)
Cars race down the front stretch
(Classical American Homes Preservation Trust) (Jordan Chittley/The Globe and Mail)
Drivers race side-by-side down the front stretch as crowds watch from the infield. The infield is now mostly trees and brush. (Classical American Homes Preservation Trust) (Jordan Chittley/The Globe and Mail)