On a hot summer afternoon, one fan in the stands at a racetrack near you stands out. It’s not because of appearance, though he often appears in vintage shirts and hats from racetracks all across the region. It’s because you have seen him before.
This fan is 61-year-old Ronnie Briles. Briles has been attending racetracks all across the region for 55 years. Briles is a cousin to former NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Stacy Compton. He does not just attend races Compton runs though. He attends races all over the place, from Lonesome Pine Raceway to Southern National Motorsports Park. If you name the place, he has been there. And wherever he is, it’s likely the best race to be at.
“Overall, I’ve been going since first grade,” Briles said. “That’s how long it’s been. 55 years. I could go somewhere else but I go where the best races are. Always have, always will. That’s what my daddy and uncle did.”
Briles attends on average over 70 races a year, a number impressive in its own right.
“Ever since everybody died, I ain’t kept up with it really,” Briles stated. “I’ll say about 75 or 80, that’s just a guess. Every month or week, the whole calendar year. That’s a good guess.”
Even more impressive, those 70 races are all in the same region, the region of the country where Late Model Stock Cars are most prominent. When asked how far west he’s been, he said he doesn’t travel outside the Mid-Atlantic region.
“I ain’t been to the west side,” Briles remarked. “Lonesome Pine and Friendship probably. Those two. I like going to Bristol and Darlington too.”
You would think, with all the races he gets to that he has crossed everything off his bucket list but he still has one. Briles says he hopes to one day see racing again at North Wilkesboro Speedway and Rockingham Speedway.
“You talking about local? My buddy wanted to go to the Charlotte. He wants to go to Bristol and Darlington and Sonoma in Cup. Whenever they get the Trucks back at Dover or Richmond, stuff like that. That’s what he wants me to do. We’re working on that. I do want to go back to Rockingham and North Wilkesboro. I’ll definitely go back to Rockingham. If Andy Hillenburg gets it running again, I will be back. I told him that.”
Briles said his favorite memories at the racetrack consist of watching races with his mother, father, and uncle. Now, he says it’s just him and his friends.
“That’s too hard a question to answer. I’ve had a lot of memories. I miss my daddy, uncle, and mother. I miss them. I miss going to races or staying home and watching races with them. I’m just going them is what I’m doing right now. I’m continuing to do that. I’m doing it also for my mother since she’s not here anymore. That’s what I’m doing, carrying on tradition. It’s got nothing to do with my cousin. That’s what Ronnie does. That’s all it is, for my friends. That’s all it is.”
Over the years, Briles was a fan of seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt. He’s seen many of the legends race though.
“Who was my favorite driver? Number three. Earnhardt, Sr. He was my favorite. I love all the others. Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarbrough.”
While much has been made over the years about how racing has changed, Briles says racing is racing and, in his eyes, nothing has really changed.
“I love all type of racing. Two of those things they have now. Racing’s racing. Like Darrell and Rusty say on television. I just go along with what they say and do. There isn’t anything different either way you look at it. It’s all good hard racing. Instead of old boy days, it’s new boy days. That’s all it is.”