By Rhonda Beck. Photo courtesy Jessica Sigmon Stowe.
As cooler days hopefully find their way into the Carolinas, East Lincoln Speedway is ready to host their 3rd annual Race City Steel Fall Brawl this weekend, October 4-6, 2019.
Owner Tim Sigmon has been busy preparing for the event and invites fans of all ages to come enjoy some exciting racing and the family atmosphere that East Lincoln Speedway has to offer. The track was featured on NBC’s NASCAR Home Tracks and Lenny Batycki of PRN’s at the Track has come out to spread the word about its role in grassroots racing.
Sigmon bought the track two years ago from former owners Ray Evernham and Bob Mack. His experience in the sport has helped him make the transition from racer to owner.
“Because I’ve raced my whole life, I’ve seen how people act and the different things that happen at tracks. So I was prepared for a lot of the back scene stuff you don’t see and you don’t prepare for until you get there and have to figure it out,” said Sigmon.
Sigmon has been to many racetracks over his lifetime and feels that each place usually has one good thing that they do better than anyone else. He’s just trying to take all those things and put them into one place.
“Our biggest thing is to get the races over with. We can have 80 to 100 cars and we’re done by 10 or 10:30 p.m. We’ve run all of our races. It’s just time management, to keep things moving. When one class is done, the other class is rolling out onto the track. That’s been one of our biggest compliments from fans. They can be home by 11:00 and get up and go to church the next day if they want to.”
People can come out to the track, located at 1873 Mariposa Road in Stanley, NC, for one of the days or all three this weekend.
“We’ll have practice on Friday night. We’ll run all the qualifying races and the Blueridge Outlaws on Saturday night. All our regular classes will race on Sunday—we’ll have the heat races over with on Saturday. People can bring their campers out and stay the night. They can party as long as they behave themselves. It’s going to be a good event again. We’ve got a lot of sponsors for this race.”
Sigmon first came up with the idea for the Fall Brawl before he owned the track.
“I promoted that race. We came up with it for Bob (Mack) when he still owned the track. It was a success. And that was really the start of me buying this racetrack.”
Sigmon also remembers when the original owner Ralph Nantz first built the track.
“When I heard he was building the track I was in my early 20s and I’d just ride over there and watch him in the evening or help him a little bit and talk to him.”
Sigmon initially thought the track was too small.
“We were used to running at Metrolina (Speedway) and you can put two of them in Metrolina. I thought, ‘This will never work; this is a go-kart track.’ They expanded it out a little bigger and it’s been one of the best racetracks that anybody’s ever had. They had a vision that was way ahead of everybody. At the big tracks it takes so much money to race on them because it takes so much horsepower–bigger motor cars. But at this track, it’s good for low-buck people to race. That’s what we cater to–mom and pop in their backyards working on their racecars, washing their cars, and kids playing in the mud. That’s what I’m after. Where they can make memories at—with mom and dad and where they raced.”
“We have a lady’s class, although we have a girl that races with the men. And there’s a kid’s class from 9-15. That’s the Next Generation class. It’s a mixture of everything. This year we started an East Lincoln Speedway Kid’s Club and we’ve got over 200 members–kids that we give t-shirts to. On any given night we can have 150 kids screaming for candy.”
The track has golf carts that can give people rides from the parking lot and back to their cars at the end of the night if needed.
“A lot of people can’t walk all the way up there. So we cater to the people who have a hard time with that.”
Sigmon stressed that he wants the track to be family-friendly and he won’t put up with bad behavior.
“I want people to be able to bring their kids here and not have to worry about fighting. Everybody standing up and cheering when they fight? That’s not the way to race. I’m not going to allow it here. We have the prayer before the race and the national anthem. My son’s actually going to be preaching the service on the Sunday of the Fall Brawl from 12:30 to 1:30. He’s our track chaplain. Then they’ll start practicing at 2 p.m.”
Sigmon appreciates all who make the track run.
“My family–they all kick in. They’re there every week–my dad, my mom, and my girlfriend, Sheila. Other guys like James Honeycutt have been there for years. We’ve got Dwayne Smith who works there during the week helping out with watering the track and taking care of it. There’s a lot to do. We have a company that comes in and cuts the grass for us for advertisement.”
Sigmon knows budgeting and saving money for improvements is important for the future success of the track.
“You’ve gotta save every penny because payments come in the wintertime whether you’re racing or not. We’ve actually come up with a deal to purchase the land to the side of the racetrack and make more pit parking; we’re gonna open up the pit parking and we’re gonna move the fence down and that’s going to be more grandstand parking.”
Sigmon said they’ve run out of space at times for people to park.
“So we’re going to expand a little bit at a time as we can afford it and let things fall into place like they’re supposed to. We don’t want to build too fast. We plan to have everything remodeled in about five years. My daughter, Jessica Sigmon Stowe, who is the promoter; she’ll probably be taking over the whole thing eventually and I can sit back and watch.”
Sigmon also doesn’t plan to do any of his own active racing after this year.
“I’ve run my last two races this year. I ran two different divisions. We’ll call it my retirement race. I won one of them and finished second in the other one. I can still do it, but I don’t want to anymore. I’ve raced 38 years and won 138 races. And probably run in over 1000 races. I’m 52 now and it starts to hurt. The track is really rough when you get in a wreck. I hurt half-way through the week. The old age is catching up a little bit.”
As Sigmon reflects back on his career, he shares a story from his family’s beginnings in the sport, one that he said the late great Charlotte Observer motorsports reporter Tom Higgins wrote about.
“That was in 1976. My sister had died that winter and actually we had been going to races our whole lives but we didn’t know anything about racecars. My uncle had a racecar so my dad went and bought us one. My brother Kenny was 14 at that time and I was 10. So he started racing and in his second year, when he was 15 years old, Tom (Higgins) did a story on him. We still have the article. My brother has it somewhere in his scrapbook. He took a picture of Kenny sitting on the front fender.”
The race was at Metrolina Speedway where they had rules about young people racing at the time.
“When we started it was unheard of for anybody under 16 years old to race. If they were 16, they had to have parents’ permission and when he started, he was 14. Then when I started three years later, I was 13. So actually, I was the youngest driver to race in North or South Carolina for a long time. There was no kids class and you had to get out there with the men and race. And they sure worked us up too when we started.”
One veteran racer Sigmon remembers well is Buddy Smith.
“When I was a kid he used to come around and mess with me all the time. And then when I started racing at Metrolina, they always ran the late models before the hobbys. So that race would be over and they’d be on the frontstretch. They used to stop them and do interviews with the top three drivers. We’d be pulling out onto the track and he’d come up behind me and run into me and mess with me when I was fixin’ to go out and race. We’ve been friends over the years. Me and Buddy always had a lot of good times. I’ve learned things from a lot of good drivers. Mike Duvall—I was friends with him too.”
This weekend, Sigmon said it will be a super time for fans to see a variety of racers at East Lincoln Speedway with victories up for grabs in all classes.
“We’ve worked on the rules a lot since we got this track and the rules are so competitive and the cars are so close that you never know who is gonna win. Like the front wheel drive. I think we’ve had 15 different winners this year. And that’s just unheard of because most of the time you have one car that wins 10 or 12 races in the year. I think we’ve had five or six or seven different winners in Renegade and we’ve had about 10 different ones in Thunder Bomber. The 4-cylinder classes have the old-timers in them, like Jerry Oliver and Randy Powell, who win a lot. Most of the classes we’ve got, anyone can win. When you’ve got half the field that can win the race, that makes it exciting.”
Fans can go to the track’s website to check out all the details at www.eastlincolnracing.com.