Drivers Start Your Engines… in Rowan County
Full disclosure I am not originally from Rowan County, but I moved to this area in the late 1980s and consider it home. Soon after moving to this area, I realized that I had to familiarize myself with NASCAR because of the locale of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was the top crowd pleaser and I initially found it easier to just follow the orange race car around the track. The “orange” car was the “Tide” car and Darryl Waltrip was the driver, but I had no knowledge of that at the time. Along came Jeff Gordon in his rookie year and I decided it would be a lot easier to follow a new driver than to research the history of other race car drivers. Therefore, I became a #24 fan. Turns out he did well in the racing world and now he is the Vice Chairman at Hendrick Motorsports. So, what does all of this have to do with Rowan County? Well, let me tell you what I discovered locally!
Millbridge Speedway is located at 6670 Mooresville Rd, Salisbury, North Carolina. I called and spoke to owners, Jeremy and Ashley Burnette to get some information about the speedway. They invited me to come out on a Tuesday night and join them in the tower for races going on that night. I headed out towards the speedway and started seeing a lot of cars parked on the side of the road. As I got closer to the entrance, I realized that this was a big deal! The parking lot inside the speedway was packed. I drove up to the ticket booth and was allowed to park my car.
I immediately realized I was overdressed. This great attraction is a “dirt” track and that is what you should expect! It is a 1/8-mile oval-sized track. When you walk into the speedway you are in the pit area. For example, I was dodging young racers when I came in as they were driving their B-Box cars back to the pit. I followed a young lady that had a small baby in a carrier strapped on to her. As she walked in front of me, people were congratulating her on the baby. She and I walked up to the tower together. I rang the bell which had a note stating, “If we are green flag be patient”. We were green flag on the track, but I could see someone approaching from within. Ashely came to the door, and she had a conversation with the young lady about the previous race where her son had been a driver in one of the cars. After some conversation, the lady left and seemed satisfied with the answers she received. Mostly, their conversation was foreign to me. I then introduced myself to Ashley and was invited into the tower. I asked about the lady that had just left and it was none other than the lovely Samantha Busch, wife of Kyle Busch, carrying their brand-new baby girl, Lennix. Their son, Brexton who was driving there that night, later went on to win at the end of the night and celebrated his 7th Birthday there as well.
Running into a NASCAR driver at Millbridge is no surprise because many of them have children that race there. The night I was there Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, and Kelley Earnhardt all had children there racing in their age groups. This week with the NASCAR race in Charlotte you should be able to see race car drivers easily because you are literally in the pit area when you visit Millbridge Speedway. A notable driver who once raced at Millbridge Speedway is Tyler Riddick that now races the #8 car for Childress Racing.
The night I was there, 81 drivers were racing under the age of 13 years with the youngest driver being 5 years old. A fun fact is that each racing class includes girls racing. I watched the Wood Brothers daughter racing, and she won her race in her hot pink car. The top speed for these cars is 45 mph.
Jeremy and Ashley Burnette
Millbridge Speedway has been in Rowan County for over 30 years. Jeremy and Ashley purchased the speedway in 2011. While I was in the tower it was quickly evident that Ashley is the “track mama” for all the drivers on the track. Each young driver is wired with a mic. Ashley communicates to them during the races letting them know where they need to be if there is a restart, and trust me there are plenty of restarts. I must give them a break about that considering when I was their age I don’t know if I could have kept one of these vehicles on the track! Just a few of the things I overheard from Ashley were “Quit Pushing!” “Calm Down Guys!” “Clean Driving Guys!” The teamwork I observed was amazing because this is an ever-changing event. While I was watching from the tower, I could see that I could be someone that would enjoy coming out and watching. The races are quick, and the drivers are up and coming in the sport of racing.
Also, in the tower are the announcers, Steve Post, who is very involved in NASCAR, and Brent, who both help to keep the crowd entertained and informed during each race.
Day & Times
The Millbridge Speedway has races on Tuesday nights with kid drivers, Wednesday nights are adult drivers, and Saturday nights are both kids and adults racing. The track opens at 5:30 p.m. There is a concession stand under the tower where you can grab some food and a cold drink. If you are interested in attending one night, you can expect to pay $15 for kids and $25 for adults. Parking is limited so be patient when you arrive.
North Carolina Quarter Midget Association/NCQMA
If you are looking for more racing in Rowan County, then look no further than the NCQMA located at 1130 Speedway Boulevard, Salisbury just off I-85 at exit 72. This non-profit was built in Salisbury in March of 2004. We can thank NASCAR Driver Bobby Labonte for seeing the opportunity to build here. The track provides racing experiences for kids 5-16 years of age. Their goal is to teach kids how to have fun, safe racing and set good examples for them as well.
I was happy to speak with Colt James, President of the NCQMA. He described that this is a non-profit racing club that races on Saturdays with qualifying starting at 10:30 a.m. and Tuesday nights at 6:30 p.m. He explained, “in the three years that I have been president here, Jeff Gordon’s son, Leo has raced here, Kyle Busch’s son, Brexton, and Matt Crafton’s daughter, Elladee. The cars they race are scaled-down midget open-wheel race cars.
Colt moved to our area of North Carolina from Austin, Texas 20 years ago and now resides in Newton, North Carolina. He got involved with racing as a driver himself and now his son, Case James, is driving a midget car at the track as well as other locations such as Syracuse, New York this weekend. He said “we got a car, and the family atmosphere in racing is like nothing I have seen in my life… it’s an amazing atmosphere! This track here is truly a hidden gem!”
Drive and Arrive
The NCQMA has a great deal if you think your child may be interested in driving a midget race car. It’s called “Drive and Arrive” which on the schedule is called “Demo Day”. The next date this event will take place is Saturday, August 27. Any boy or girl can come out that day at 9 a.m. and pay only $50 to get the equipment, learn all about the cars, and how to drive them.
A couple of notable drivers to come from this paved track that is 1/20th of a mile, are Ryan Blaney who drives for Penske, and Harrison Burton who drives for the Wood Brothers. Colt said people come from as far away as Texas and Minnesota to race at the track “because they know North Carolina is serious about racing.” He has some people come every weekend from Raleigh and Atlanta.
I plan to go to this race track myself sometime soon. I can feel how enthusiastic Colt is and I’m here for it!
If in the Charlotte Area
If you are in the Charlotte area anytime, it would be worth a drive to come and see the race car drivers of our future. They are training them right here in Rowan County.
Another attraction that is only 13 miles from the Millbridge Speedway is the GoPro Motorplex located at 130 Motorplex Drive, Mooresville, North Carolina. You can rent a go-kart here at this outdoor track that was built in October 2012 modeled after the famous Parma, Italy kart track. Ages 16 and up can enjoy this track whether for a fun family outing or a company team-building event.
As you have read, there is a lot of racing running through the veins in our county. Sometime this summer, come out to join in the fun and allow yourself to be a kid again. You never know when you are going to be seeing the next big NASCAR Super Star!!!
Millbridge Speedway/ 704-701-1665/ www.millbridgespeedway.com
North Carolina Quarter Midget Association/704-677-6515/ www.ncqma.com
GoPro Motorplex/704-696-2926/ www.gopromotorplex.com