America’s Favorite Bullring. It’s more than a moniker for Wake County Speedway, it’s now a way of life for new owner Mike Stodder.
The quarter-mile short track is home to some of the closest action in North Carolina every Friday night. But when previous owner Adam Resnick decided to move on from the track, the Triangle nearly lost a gem that has become known as one of the best short tracks in the state.
That’s when Stodder stepped up. A former driver and car owner at the track from 1989 to 1994, Stodder knew something had to be done.
“I knew the previous owner and never want to see the track shut down,” Stodder said. “It can be stressful, but it’s rewarding when you see the fans’ excitement. … I would hate for that to be gone. Hopefully I can help build something the community can be proud of.”
Raleigh has certainly embraced the 53-year-old track since Stodder took over. Nearly every race has seen the grandstands filled, including the first opening night under new ownership. In fact, Stodder says he is contemplating a reward for fans carpooling due to the parking lots being filled on Friday nights.
Unlike most tracks around the state, WC Speedway benefits from being close to a massive city with a booming population. Only Caraway Speedway, which battles with Charlotte Motor Speedway, can boast what Wake County has so close to the track.
“We have a huge advantage that we have with over 1 million people living in the Triangle,” Stodder said. “Other short tracks don’t have that in rural areas. That gives us a lot of possibilities and usually leads to great attendance.”
Owning a track doesn’t come without issues, though.
Stodder has maintained fan interest so much that the parking lots aren’t big enough to fill the demand. But keeping that enthusiasm is tough with limited cars on the track. That has been the biggest issue recently as car owners are staying home.
The hope for Stodder is that teams will step up to improve the quality of racing.
“Everything has gone great so far and we’ve had good crowds,” Stodder said. “The only thing we’ve struggled with is what all tracks are going through—car counts. There’s just not as many people racing these days. We need more cars to keep fans coming back.”
The track was even filled on a night where rain was in the forecast and car counts were threatened. Over 60 cars still showed up for multiple races, including late models and UCAR (U Can Afford Racing) events to close out the evening.
That type of commitment doesn’t go unnoticed as drivers from all over the state showed up. Clay Jones, who won a championship last season at Wake County Speedway, came out and pulled off a late pass for a win in the late models race.
“They held out and stuck with it for not just the drivers, but the fans too,” Jones said of the crew. “Everybody at this facility loves racing just as much as anybody and they want to put on a show for the fans. They do a great job regardless of the circumstances.”
Jones didn’t become a champion at the track with luck alone. He also knows the ins and outs of the unique quarter-mile track and used that to his advantage with a late pass to win in his first time back at the track this season in August.
“The biggest reason I keep coming out here is because it’s so unique,” Jones said. “That bumper-to-bumper action is impossible to replicate at other tracks. You go to these bigger tracks and it’s just follow the leader.
“People come for a show and they get just that in Wake County. It’s non-stop excitement all the time.”
The racing resumes on Friday night at Wake County Speedway with another intense schedule starting at 7 p.m. with the gates opening at 6 p.m. After all, it’s nearly impossible to get any closer to the action than fans at America’s Favorite Bullring.