Sinkhole unearths surprise underneath grandstands at historic NASCAR racetrack: ‘Moonshine cave’

News & Politics

NASCAR traces its roots to the days of moonshine runners, who used souped-up cars to escape authorities on rural roads in the southern United States.

Last week, that storied history inserted itself into the 21st century.

Speedway Motorsports announced on Tuesday that officials at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway in the foothills of North Carolina recently discovered what they believe could be a “moonshine cave” unearthed by a sinkhole underneath the racetrack’s grandstands.

Ahead of NASCAR’s All-Star race at the track in May, track employees were cleaning and inspecting the grandstands when they noticed cracks in the original concrete in one section of the grandstands.

Upon further inspection, officials discovered a sinkhole under the concrete, approximately 700 square feet in size.

The discovery revived rumors about the speedway once being the site of a “secret moonshine still,” said Steve Swift, an executive of Speedway Motorsports, the company that owns North Wilksboro Speedway.

“When we began renovating and restoring North Wilkesboro Speedway in 2022, we’d often hear stories of how an old moonshine still was operated here on the property under the grandstands,” Swift said.

“Well, we haven’t found find a still yet, but we’ve found a small cave and an interior wall that would have been the perfect location to not only make illegal liquor but to hide from the law as well. We don’t know how people would have gotten in and out, but as we uncover more, there’s no telling what we might find,” he explained.

Driver Kyle Larson, winner of the 2023 NASCAR Cup All-Star race, lifting the All-Star Moonshine Still trophy. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

North Wilkesboro Speedway first opened in 1947 and became one of NASCAR’s original tracks in 1949.

The speedway remained a staple of NASCAR’s premier schedule until the track closed after the 1996 season, at a time when NASCAR was exploding in popularity and expanding to larger TV markets.

But the track regained life in 2021 when Gov. Roy Cooper (D) injected $40 million into three historic NASCAR racetracks in the state: Rockingham Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, and North Wilkesboro Speedway.

NASCAR’s premier series returned to the track in 2023 when it hosted the All-Star race, won by star driver Kyle Larson.

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