North Wilkesboro sinkhole unearths possible moonshine cave

Officials at North Wilkesboro Speedway believe a cave used for illegal moonshine in the racetrack’s early days may have been unearthed this week due to a sinkhole under the frontstretch grandstands.

The grandstands were going through a cleaning and inspection process when cracks were found in the concrete of the Section N seats. When the seats, which are toward Turn 1, were removed an open area of approximately 700 square feet was discovered underneath. North Wilkesboro still has its original concrete seats from when the track opened in 1947.

“When we began renovating and restoring North Wilkesboro Speedway in 2022, we’d often hear stories of how an old moonshine still was operated here on the property under the grandstands,” said Steve Swift, senior vice president of operations and development at Speedway Motorsports. “Well, we haven’t found a still (yet) but we’ve found a small cave and an interior wall that would have been the perfect location to not only make illegal liquor, but to hide from the law as well.


“We don’t know how people would have gotten in or out, but as we uncover more, there’s no telling what we might find.”

Since the discovery, approximately 600 seats from Sections N and O have been removed. Officials now have to evaluate how to proceed with repairs before the Craftsman Truck Series and Cup Series All-Star Race return to North Wilkesboro Speedway in early May.

“Now we have a race before the race,” Swift said. “The area that’s been affected by the sinkhole is a frontstretch grandstand area with some of the best views of the track. We’ll have a lot of work to get done before NASCAR All-Star Race Week.”

North Wilkesboro Speedway is a beloved short track in Wilkes County, about 80 miles north of Charlotte. It was one of NASCAR’s original racetracks and hosted Cup Series until 1996 when it came off the schedule. It was revived in 2023.

Wilkes County, a mountain area, is one of the most well-known areas of moonshine running through the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. It produced many moonshiners turned race car drivers. One of its most famous was Robert Glenn Johnson Jr., otherwise known as Junior Johnson. When Johnson was caught at the family moonshine still and sent to prison in the 1950s, he’d already won 50 races.

Johnson was inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010, the same year the building opened. And one of its most famous attractions is a life-sized whiskey still built by Johnson.

Story originally appeared on Racer