South Carolina’s historic racetrack may have run its last lap.
Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley has been the subject of much chatter in recent weeks both on social media and in private conversations within the racing community.
Some say with certainty that it was sold – it was even bought by the mall’s developer, Simon Properties. Others say they heard directly from the owner, Greenville auto dealer Kevin Whitaker, that it had not been sold and was in fact looking for someone to sign a three-year contract to operate it.
The only thing known for sure is that no events Listed on the track’s website for the upcoming season starting in March.
The track phone number is answered by registering hours for the Upstate Holiday Light Show, a drive-through event on the grounds of the Upper State Fair adjacent to the track. Ended December 31st.
Whitaker, NASCAR spokespeople and Simon did not respond to messages. The previous owner, Gary Blackwell, declined to comment, saying he understood the statement would be issued on December 22. But he didn’t.
It all leaves generations of drivers and their fans cringing, some lamenting what they see as the downfall of the track, others remembering the drivers who became NASCAR legends and still others wistfully saying that the old racetrack has plenty of life left in it with the right management.
Greenville Pickens Speedway opened in 1940 as a half-mile dirt track. It closed the following year during World War II and reopened in 1946, Independence Day, offering fans two horse races and a car race promoted by Bill France Sr.better known as Big Bill, who two years later founded NASCAR.
The Blackwell family purchased the track in 1955, the same year that NASCAR began sanctioning racing there. The track has hosted many Winston Cup races over the years. Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and David Pearson have raced there and won.
In 1958, the track management began painting the winners’ names on the wall, where they remain today.
The Grand National Series, NASCAR’s flagship event, has also staged races. The track was paved in 1970.
In June 2003, Blackwells sold the highway and adjacent 150 acres to Whitaker. He has long been associated with the track as a sponsor.
Tell Spartanburg Herald Journal At the time he bought it because “I didn’t want the track to disappear”.
Whittaker has leased the track to promoters and, drivers and fans say, it’s not the same place it was when thousands of fans crowded the stands — variously called 22,000 to 35,000-seat seats — and grumbled about concessionary, fried bologna sandwiches on hamburger buns. (Cheese can be added as well as the mustard of choice).
British racing writer Matt Robinson from carthrottle.com He described it as “a little tired but totally charming” when he visited in 2018.
Others were even harsher, saying, as did April Reeves in Greenville Pickens Speedway Facebook fan page Fix-it list is long: better driver pay, team incentives, driver team events, staff races, fan days, better marketing. Additions of derby, car shows, pre- and post-race events will be welcomed.
“Find someone who has a real passion for this track and not just money,” she said, “and he’ll be in the right place.”
It didn’t help COVID when the track was closed for half the season. Last year, the franchise stand was not opened.
Tasha Porter-Comer, the first woman to win the Late Model race—the main event—at Greenville-Pickens, said in an interview that she didn’t think renovating the track would cost that much money—paint, rewiring, new lights.
Her family has been associated with the highway for 40 years. Her brother races with other family members. Call it a path like no other. It’s flat, for one thing, which you think is harder and more interesting to drive, and it requires a certain technique.
I have invested in saving it. I’ve reached out to people who might be interested in renting it out; Pushing businessmen to think about leasing before thinking about buying. Give it time to restore it to its former glory.
Much interest, but no one signed.
Comer says Upstate and Racing will lose out on a part of what makes the region and the sport special if the races don’t come back. It is the second oldest short course in the country and the place where the race was first televised nationally, starting to finish. It was broadcast in 1971 on ABC’s Wide World of Sports with Jim McKay Do lap coverage.
She also has a personal reason for not wanting it to end. Last year, she collected her car in one of the last races of the season and was hospitalized for four days. After she recovered, Hedgecock bought a 2023, her first new race car, and prepared for the season.
“I don’t want to leave this path for the last time to be in an ambulance,” she said.