NASCAR’s second oldest operational track may be turning back the clock 48 years. Greenville-Pickens Speedway (SC), currently a ½-mile asphalt oval, could be returning to its dirt racing roots for the first time since 1970.
Greenville-Pickens Speedway posted on its Facebook page over the weekend, asking race fans and drivers how they would feel about the switch back to a dirt surface. The inquiry has received considerable attention from users, more than 1,000 reactions at the time this story was written.
“We put it out there just to see what type of feedback we would get from the community,” Track promoter Anthony Anders told Speed51.com. “It seems about 60 to 65 percent want dirt, if you look through what people have said.”
Straightforward comments on the post are ranging from vehement “noes” to enthusiastic “absolutley’s”, while some people are using it as an opportunity to voice their concerns or offer alternative ideas for the historical speedway.
Many replies are focused on the heritage of Greenville-Pickens, some worrying that the history of the place will be ripped up along with the asphalt. Others think that with the demolition, history would be resurfacing.
“Some of the names on the wall got painted there when it was dirt,” Anders said. “It was during the track’s early years, back when racing really had just started. Dirt was where it was at back in the late 40’s, 50’s and up into the 60’s.”
Greenville-Pickens hosted its first race as a dirt track back in the 1940’s and fostered the careers of NASCAR legends like David Pearson and Richard Petty, all while it was still South Carolina soil.
Even the first NASCAR-sanctioned race at the facility took place in the 1950’s, nearly two decades before the surface would be paved.
Though the Facebook post has received a handful of facetious remarks, Greenville-Picken’s future identity is a serious discussion between Anders and track owner Kevin Whitaker, who have watched fan and car counts dwindle over the years.
“Greenville-Pickens has been struggling for a while,” Anders said. “It’s to the point where if I’m going to promote on, there’s got to be some change. We just feel like it’s a lot cheaper to run dirt, especially in the lower divisions, while asphalt is getting harder to afford. There seems to be more interest in dirt, over the years too.
“You look at the local dirt tracks in our area, and they’re getting really good car counts,” Anders continued. “Gaffney is doing well. You go there to watch a Saturday feature race, they’ve got cars. You go over to Travelers Rest on Friday night, they’ve got cars. You come to Greenville-Pickens Speedway and some weekends we’re not getting 25 cars in all divisions. That’s pretty bad. It tells you something has got to change.”
Anders announced earlier in the year, prior to the Facebook post, that he would not be returning to Greenville-Pickens as a promoter for the 2019 season, though he told Speed51.com the decision is not set in stone.
Whether or not pulling a page from the past will keep Greenville-Pickens from becoming a lost speedway remains to be seen, but some sort of change is an inevitability for South Carolina’s grassroots racing gem.
-Story by: Melissa Strahley, Speed51.com Gulf Coast Editor
-Photo Credit: Greenville-Pickens Speedway