“That's the way it all began!”
That's what Ned Jarrett told me several years ago. He was talking about dirt track racing—the kind of racing that excited racing enthusiasts long before NASCAR, Bill France, Humpy Wheeler and Bruton Smith...the kind of racing where you can compete without being a multi-millionaire (or having the backing of one)...the kind of racing where drivers value the respect of their peers more than any monetary award...the kind of racing that kicks off this weekend (Saturday, March 30) at East Lincoln Motor Speedway.
For anyone who isn't familiar, way back in the 40s, long before Charlotte Motor Speedway was even imagined, there was racing—dirt track racing—in eastern Lincoln County. Some old-timers say that's what Charlotte Motor Speedway got its start.
In 1989, Ralph Nantz decided to bring dirt track racing back to east Lincoln. He built East Lincoln Speedway on family property and turned a clearing in the pines into a race track. The first season of operation was 1990. Ralph ran the operation for a few years, then leased it out. Eventually, he sold the track to Ray Evernham and Bob Mack in 2008. Ray and Bob operated ELMS until the end of the 2011 season. Then Ralph's daughter, Donna Nantz Frye and her husband Keith leased the track and have operated it since.
They have five weekly classes of racing: Stock, Super Stock, Renegade, Limited Sportsman and Micro Sprints. They also rotate four other divisions: Open Wheel Modified, Late Models, RaceSaver Sprint Cars and Legends Modified. They'll also be hosting the USAC Ford Focus midgets a few times this year.
Grandstand admission is $10 per person, ages 10 and under get in free. Pit admission is $20. The pits open at 4 p.m. and the grandstand gate opens at 5:00 p.m. Practice starts at 6 p.m., there's a drivers' meeting at 6:45 p.m., the national anthem at 7 p.m. and racing begins at 7:15 p.m.
2012 points champions were: Open Wheel Modified - Matt Emmerling, Limited Sportsman - Ronnie White, Micro Sprint - Nicholas Wilt, RaceSaver Sprint Car - Jake Mclain, Rookie 4 - Jon Reed, Super Stock 4 - Jennings Herman, Renegade - Chris Stowe, and Legends Modified - Tommy Corellis.
As Keith says, “there is nothing like seeing it first hand to see and understand what dirt track racing is all about.”
You can do that this weekend at East Lincoln Speedway. They're located at 1873 Mariposa Road.
From Lincolnton, take Highway 73 east to Old Plank Road (just east of East Lincoln Middle School and just before Tucker's Grove), turn right onto Old Plank Road and go 3.7 miles to Mariposa Road, turn right there and go about a half mile and the speedway will be on your left.