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FUN AT EAST LINCOLN SPEEDWAY

STANLEY, N.C. (Monday, March 17)–East Lincoln Speedway is a lot of things. It’s pure Carolina red clay. It’s three-eighths of a mile around. It’s in piedmont North Carolina. It’s nearly two decades old. As much as it is anything else, East Lincoln Speedway is what short track stock car racing on a Saturday night is supposed to be all about.

East Lincoln Speedway is all about fun. It sites like some old lady, sometimes cranky and sometimes smiling a curious mixture of both just east of Stanley, N.C. The immediate area does not offer much else in the way of family fun. So every Saturday night, hundreds of locals from offices, factories, mills and garages pack their wives and kids into the family automobile and rumble off toward East Lincoln Speedway.

It beats staying home. Come to think of it, East Lincoln Speedway beats a lot of things. Look at it like this: a lot of racing purists in piedmont North Carolina, an area hardly lacking for purists, peer down their noses at places like East Lincoln Speedway, a place that sometimes seems to thrive on rock’em and sock’em stuff instead of pure grace and beauty. The bottom line is that on Saturday nights East Lincoln Speedway jumps while a lot of race tracks seem to snooze.

People fill the grandstands and their cars fill the parking lot. The name of East Lincoln Speedway’s game is family entertainment. Maybe the people just keep showing up because anything they can see at home on television, they can also see in a louder, flashier and more concentrated form at East Lincoln Speedway. There are dramas, sitcoms, reruns and even a min-series or two. At East Lincoln Speedway everybody gets a chance to be a star.

The Saturday night East Lincoln Speedway tradition seems to get handed down through generations like some old heirloom. People grow then, race, retire, and then see their children take up the battle.

"I guess East Lincoln Speedway just gets in your blood," Robert Matthews, 69, of nearby Belmont told track manager James Honeycutt late last season while waiting to make a purchase at the concession stand. Matthews swore hee hadn’t missed a Saturday night show at East Lincoln Speedway in 16 years.

"This is my 13-year old grandkid, Brad, and he hasn’t missed one since he was five years old," added Matthews as he pointed to his grandson.

You’ll probably never hear Mike Jenkins on Motor Racing Network, never see him on a Sprint Cup telecast from Daytona, but every Saturday night there’s Jenkins behind the microphone in the announcer’s booth where he’s been for more years than he cares to remember.

The neatest thing about Jenkins is that he loves his work. He’ll prowl the pits and grandstand during early evening, chatting it up with racers, fans and their families. He sprinkles the call of a feature event with little-known tidbits about the drivers, the cars, the crews, the sponsors, telling the fans things that they’d never otherwise find out.

Because just about everybody racing at East Lincoln Speedway seems to have grown up at the venue, it’s something of a rarity when folks come, in from other race tracks and run up front with any kind of regularity. They can hang around, in fact for several seasons before even really seeming to fit in.

Some people swear that East Lincoln Speedway’s Grand American Stock Car (formerly called Renegade) division is the best support class in the southeast. Others proclaim that description to be to much of an understatement. Street Stocks with a few minor engine and chassis modifications are the cars that compete. Perhaps the highest praise a crowd can give a "B" class is to stick around for its feature event if it’s the last race on the program, and when Mickey Anderson (Statesville)–he’s been the East Lincoln Speedway Grand American Stock Car hotdog for the last couple of years–and his peers are running everyone pays attention.

A lot of people look at East Lincoln Speedway’s weekly turnout and scratch their heads. So much of East Lincoln Speedway goes against what are supposed to be the trends of racing in the last flashy burst of the 1990's and the opening of the new century. It’s basic, it lacks frills, And yet it draws, and draws big time. In fact it out draws many minor league baseball teams in the two Carolinas on a per event basis.

It’s not easy to figure out East Lincoln Speedway and its crowd. Maybe it’s best not to try. See, the second smartest group of racing people in piedmont North Carolina doesn’t know how East Lincoln Speedway can be such a success.

But the smartest group doesn’t care. They just keep showing up every Saturday night.

A weekly Saturday night menu at East Lincoln Speedway offers over 200 laps of action for Late Model Modified-Sportsman, Open Wheel Modified, Micro-Sprint, Stock Four, Rookie Four, Stars of Tomorrow and Grand American Stock Car divisions.

The 2008 season opener at East Lincoln Speedway is set for Saturday, April 5th. Gates will be opened at 5 p.m. with racing at 7 p.m. The facility is located at 1873 Mariposa Road five miles east of Stanley.

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