Idle Southampton Motor Speedway may be sold

Published 10:32 am Thursday, March 31, 2016

Photo by Andrew Lind – Tidewater News

Photo by Andrew Lind – Tidewater News

The Tidewater News

CAPRON, VA – Stock car racing is all Carrie Denney knows. From age 5, she has spent every Saturday night from summer through fall at Langley Speedway in Hampton, basking in the thunderous roar of the engines as they sped around the track.

Now 42 years old, Denney is leading the charge to reopen Southampton Motor Speedway and return the track to its glory days of large crowds and furious racing.

“It breaks my heart to see it sit here,” she said. “I never left here not having a good night of racing. The stands were always packed and every billboard was loaded with sponsors. We need to get it back to the way it was before. There are a lot of tracks that are on the market like this. If we can save her, then that’s what we should do. We need more short tracks like this on the circuit.”

Located one mile west of Capron on Route 58, Southampton Motor Speedway was opened in 1991 by John Fox, Jimmy Lee, Bob Felts, David White and Hunter Darden. The 4/10-of-a-mile oval track was home to some of the best dirt track racers in the state and beloved by locals. There was also a strong allegiance of race cars and fans making the short drive to Capron from northeastern North Carolina, to include those from Conway, Woodland, Roanoke Rapids, and Gates County.

When it was sold in 2006, Fox said that new owner David Atkinson decided to replace the dirt with asphalt in hopes that it would attract racers from across the country.

“It was very popular until we sold it and he changed it to asphalt,” Fox said. “There were about 30 local cars that would run every weekend when it was dirt that couldn’t run on asphalt. More cars and better cars came to the track [after the asphalt was installed], and they came from all over — as far as Maryland. But, they didn’t bring any of their fans. Just the driver and his crew, and local people weren’t interested in watching people race that they didn’t know.”

Denney and an unnamed investor, who she said will be named after the sale is complete, plan to keep the track as is.

Atkinson, meanwhile, has confirmed a deal is in the works, but was unwilling to provide further comment.

“There’s a lot of renovations that need to be done,” she said. “We’re starting from the ground up, basically. We’re going to redo the walls and bring in new grandstands and sky boxes. It will stay asphalt, and we’re going to target Friday night racing so that it will not affect any of our sister tracks and their competitions.”

Langley Speedway operates on Saturday nights.

The long-term vision that Denney and the unnamed investor share includes using Southampton Motor Speedway as a concert venue, as well as adding a smaller dirt track and quarter-mile drag strip on the property.

ARCA and NASCAR Touring Series races are also on their radar.

“There’s always challenges [when purchasing a track], and I’m trying to be wise to that,” Denney said. “When you’re dealing with the troubles that it had previously, which ultimately led to the demise of it. But, if you put the right people and sponsors back into place, I think we can clearly bring it back.

(The Tidewater News of Franklin, VA is a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.)