SWANSBORO, N.C. (WNCT) – Carteret County is already a tourist destination thanks to some of the best beaches along the East Coast, but in a few months, it could be something else that’s helping rev up the economy.
About five miles away from the ocean sits one of the hidden gems of the crystal coast: the Carteret County Speedway.
The track is a beautiful facility that has come a long way over the years.
“Me and my father rode by this place in 1980, and it was nothing but a corn field,” said Bobby Watson, the track’s owner. “I said, ‘Daddy, I want to buy this place.’”
It started out as a go-kart track and then a dirt track. Eventually, Watson’s vision became even bigger.
“Bobby Watson had a dream 20 some years ago to make this place into what it is today,” said Bob Lowery, the speedway’s vice president. “And it’s took a lot of people along the way.”
In 2015, the four-tenths of a mile track was paved. And starting in spring, the speedway will be NASCAR-sanctioned.
That means each and every week, the future of NASCAR racing chase the checkered flag at Carteret County Speedway.
“You’ve got guys right now that’s in training for the big boys — for the big races in NASCAR,” said Lowery. “This is where they train at: the NASCAR-sanctioned tracks along the way. Darrell Waltrip’s son, their grandsons, Bill Elliott’s son; they all got their start right here on tracks just like this. This is short track racing at its finest right here.”
That’s exciting for racing fans in the East. Watson said 6,000 to 7,000 fans typically attend races, and they expect close to 10,000 for the first NASCAR race on Easter Sunday.
“It’s not only a good thing for us as a track and as a organization, but an awesome thing for our community here along the Crystal Coast,” said Judy Hailey, Carteret County Speedway administrator. “When we have races here it brings an influx of people that wouldn’t traditionally be in our area.”
“We’re bringing folks into the businesses of the county,” said Lowery. That’s what the Carteret County Speedway does. We put people in motels. We bring them to shop.
While only one driver ends up the winner’s circle, it’s Carteret County and the surrounding area that could be the biggest winner of all, and the time is almost here to drop the green flag on the speedway’s NASCAR era.
“They come in here and said, ‘Bobby, this is the nicest short track that we’ve got on our circuit, now go make us proud.’ And that’s what I’m going to do for them,” Watson said.
The Carteret County Speedway is now the third NASCAR-sanctioned track in eastern North Carolina, joining tracks in Martin and Wilson counties.