Cedar Lake Speedway is a half-mile dirt oval in the middle of nowhere. The only thing remarkable about it is that it exists at all. To put it in perspective, the track only holds a handful of cars, and it hasn’t been maintained for years. Nevertheless, this dusty strip of dirt is the culmination of decades of tireless efforts from one man who simply wanted to share his love of motorsports with the world.
It All Started With A Love For Speed
If you trace the roots of Cedar Lake Speedway back to its conception, you’ll end up at the garage of Robert Yates. Born and raised in Alabama, Yates first fell in love with speedways when he went to see the Talladeas at Talladega Superspeedway in 1969. “That’s when it all started,” Yates told ABC. “I was hooked.” After witnessing this unparalleled spectacle of speed and horsepower, he knew he had to build his own speedway some day.
Yates bought the property that would become Cedar Lake in 1974. He built a makeshift racetrack and named it after his favorite driver, Bill Elliot. As the only other person around with an interest in cars, the garage was essentially built overnight. It didn’t take long for Yates to realize his dream of providing families with an off-track activity and a place for kids to go hang out and play sports. That same year, he applied for a slot track license with the NASCAR Whelen All-Sports Association and a car park license with the Charlotte Motor Speedway. These were the permits he needed to officially open the track. With the help of a local high school football coach and some volunteers, he started making the circuit in earnest, shilling cars, burgers, and fireworks.
From the start, Yates had envisioned a 4ths of July celebration on his track. He wanted to pay homage to America’s favorite holiday with events like flagging contests and parachute jumps. In 1979, his dream came true when the first ever NASCAR race was held at Cedar Lake. It was an incredible moment for this rural North Carolina community. Many residents had never seen a car race, much less a NASCAR race, so they packed the grandstands to witness history in the making. It was a triumph for Yates, who had spent years building a reputation as a car nut and motorsport enthusiast.
The following year, NASCAR returned to Cedar Lake with the Brickyard 400. Once again, residents and visitors alike lined the track’s banking in search of a good view. It was a memorable moment for everyone connected to the track, whether you were there to cheer on your favorite driver or just wanted to catch a glimpse of the carnage. This was also the year that the All-Star Race was introduced, a twilight version of the Daytona 500 that serves as a midpoint event between the season-opener and the Championship Clash at the end of the year. (Not to be confused with the All-Star Race, which is the unofficial name for the race that decides the champion of the American Football League.)
A Family-Friendly Entertainment Complex
If you’re considering building a recreation center, the last thing you need is liability concerns. That’s why Yates built the track in such a way that it was surrounded by a chain-link fence with an electrified gate. He didn’t want any accidents because someone had a heart attack or got sick from overeating grease-burgers.
These days, Cedar Lake Speedway is a hub of activity. Every year on May 10, residents and visitors alike get together to celebrate the Fourth of July in style. There are typically two large bonfires on the track’s infield and a selection of food trucks serve up everything from fish and chicken to steaks and salads. It’s a great way for families to socialize and enjoy the outdoors. Most important, it’s a place for children to play and adults to congregate, ensuring that this small town has something for everyone.
More recently, the track has started holding weekly Friday night races. These are popular with the locals, who look forward to them every week. On the track’s outskirts, cars and bikes of all makes and models congregate before a weekly motorsport event. It’s a place where people can come together and enjoy some high-octane entertainment in the great outdoors. Despite its remote location, there’s never a shortage of enthusiasts wanting to come watch and participate. That’s what makes this place so unique.