Where Is Smoky Mountain Speedway? [Ultimate Guide!]

Many moons ago, in the year 2000, NASCAR held its first-ever race in a state outside of North Carolina. The sport’s premier touring series took the green flag at Riverside International Speedway in downtown Los Angeles, California. One hundred and five years after its inception, NASCAR had finally decided to venture south of the Mason-Dixon line and felt confident enough in its popularity to hold an entire race weekend, complete with a premier, the Daytona 500, and the support-race, the Vegas 500. Though not officially part of the “Road to the Great American Race,” the Riverside event served as an inspiration for what was to come. Within a decade, NASCAR had expanded its fan base to include California residents and its annual visits had become commonplace. Now, after another four years, the series returns to Riverside International Speedway on March 25th, 2020, for the 104th running of the classic Californian race. This time, the checkered flag may not bring much cheer, as NASCAR has truly taken the sweet taste of California racing mainstream.

The Making Of A Classic

At 7:15 a.m. on March 25th, cars line up in the pre-race grid for the start of the 104th annual Riverside International Speedway in Riverside, California. After a few minutes of waiting, NASCAR officials finally wave the green flag to begin the three-hour-long parade around the oval. In the meantime, fans have begun to flock to the track, decked out in their best NASCAR gear, eagerly anticipating the start of the race. Many have camped out overnight to secure their spot in the grandstands. In the stands, families and groups of friends come together, taking solace in the simple, yet elegant beauty of American motorsport.

The roar from the packed grandstands is deafening as the yellow flag waves for a single car to make a pit stop. A few minutes later, the pace car leads the field past the stands for the final time. A cold wind rushes in as the cars snake their way down the front straightaway, eager to begin the race that has become a bit of a tradition for them. As the green flag drops, drivers hit the gas, launching themselves down the homestretch. Suddenly, the world is a blur of red, white, and blue, as the proud American landscape is transformed into a sea of tail-lights.

The Biggest Surprise

The biggest surprise for many this year may be that it’s taken this long for NASCAR to return to Southern California. For years, the sport had remained committed to its traditional eastern and midwestern roots, venturing south and west only when absolutely necessary. The Riverside event was a major turning point for NASCAR, signaling the beginning of the end to its sojourns in the Golden State. Since then, Los Angeles County, where Riverside resides, has served as the epicenter of NASCAR fandom, with many drivers collecting multiple tattoos in the process. Thanks to television stations like NBC and the multiplex movie theaters, residents have had the opportunity to follow the sport closely, even when it wasn’t on their television sets. Thanks to the Hollywood film industry, residents are more than familiar with the glories and intricacies of stock car racing. For years, California has been a bit of a ‘black sheep’ when it comes to NASCAR fandom. The Golden State served as a refuge for fans who couldn’t make it to the eastern and midwestern states during the week of a NASCAR race. After the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2015, NASCAR added a weekend in June to its schedule, paving the way for a more convenient travel schedule for fans from the state. Today, with a collective push from residents and the business community, particularly in the Inland Empire, it’s fair to say that Southern California is completely integrated into the NASCAR community.

The Losses

Unfortunately, over the past decade, NASCAR has had to navigate its way through some pretty tough times. Inequality, divisiveness, and racism have worked their way into American society, infecting even the most well-intentioned sports franchises. It’s hard to believe that such a great sport could be tarnished by the society in which we live. Fortunately, as the economy started to improve, the demand for speed increased, spurring a rise in stock car racing, particularly in the NASCAR world. Thanks to the combined forces of social media and grassroots volunteerism, drivers and crew chiefs have an unparalleled ability to communicate directly with their customer bases. Furthermore, the fans have always been there for the drivers, supporting them through thick and thin, sharing their stories, and keeping them optimistic about the future. For better or worse, NASCAR is a part of American culture, like it or not. And more often than not, it’s for the better.

A Few More Things…

While we’re on the subject of racing, let’s take a moment to appreciate the skill and artistry of those who build and maintain the vehicles that drive on the race track. As someone who has worked in the automotive industry for over two decades, I can attest that drivers’ skill isn’t nearly as important as the mechanical aptitude of the people who build their cars. Racers can be as dangerous as they are beautiful, capable of weaving in and out of traffic, negotiating hairpin turns, and banging into walls at high speeds. It takes highly skilled mechanics to build a car that can perform at the highest level, which just so happens to be the United States Army’s tank. And as much as we love fast cars, they’re heavy and consume a lot of fuel, which makes it easier for the environment to clean up after them. In a perfect world, we would all eat organic food, drive electric cars, and compost. But until then, speed comes in many forms, even if it’s not always desirable.

Thoughts turn to the future as we look back on this year’s race. Over 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson envisioned a country built on the principles of equality, opportunity, and freedom. Though we have come a long way, further work needs to be done. The battle for equality and justice for all continues to be a challenging proposition for many. Racism, classism, and sexism are undoubtedly present in all corners of society. Just when we think things can’t get any worse, they usually find a way.

What will the future of Smoky Mountain Speedway and the world of stock car racing hold? Only time will tell. For now, we’ll enjoy the fruits of this year’s labor, acknowledging the people who made it possible. Thanks for reading! We hope this article has helped you in your quest for knowledge. Just remember: if you try hard enough, you’ll eventually figure it out.

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