Before a crowd of several hundreds of people gathered Thursday evening at Carrier Park, Asheville City Councilman Jan Davis presided over the dedication of a memorial to the Asheville Motor Speedway and the history of stock car racing in Buncombe County. The monument is a a 6’ by 8’ black and white wall resembling a checkered flag that contains historic pictures spanning nearly 50 years. Joining the impressively large crowd were Buncombe County Commissioners Carol Peterson, K. Ray Bailey and Holly Jones as well as Asheville City Council members Esther Manheimer, Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith. On hand too was former Asheville City Councilman Joe Dunn, who was instrumental in getting the memorial built.
To listen to Councilman Davis’s remarks, scroll down to the bottom of this post.
Several former race car drivers and others spoke to the gathering, and many people were brought to laughter and to tears by the various memories. The track was built in 1960 and was in operation until 1999.
For some background on the track and the monument that now stands in Carrier Park, read former Xpress reporter Brian Postelle’s story from May 2007 and this story from September 2003 by former Xpress reporter Brian Sarzynski.
A plaque on the ground in front of the memorial reads:
This Memorial is Dedicated to the
Racing Community of Western North Carolina
From 1960 until 1999, this site was home to one of the most legendary tracks in the history of stock car racing. The 1/3 mile track was known originally as the New Asheville Speedway and later as the Asheville Motor Speedway — but to the drivers, pit crews, track employees and loyal fans that gathered here on Friday evenings, it will always be remembered simply as “The River.”
You are presently standing north of the former finish line — a place where dreams were made and sometimes dashed for both drivers and fans. The real winners, however, were the generations of folks who found an extended family here down on the river. Racing wasn’t just part of the community — but a community itself.
In 1999 the track was sold and the land donated to the City of Asheville for use as a park.
Today, the asphalt oval remains, incorporated into the park as a bicycle track. Bicyclists pass the scuffs and dents on the outside wall left by four-wheel machines. And perhaps without knowing it, they are sharing the lanes with the ghosts of powerful race cars, driven by men who became legends and others who just tried.
For those who know and believe, this is hallowed ground.
Mary Greenwood, widow of the late Bob Greenwood, enjoys a happy memory Thursday evening at the dedication. The Greenwoods were the original owners of the property and they paved the first racetrack back in 1960.
Asheville City Councilman Jan Davis presided over the memorial’s dedication.
Photos by Michael Muller
Audio of Councilman Davis’s remarks (mp3 file, hit play):