After enduring a brief stint as a dirt track, Lonesome Pine Raceway, which went by the name Clay Valley Speedway in 2019, is set to host a handful of asphalt racing events beginning next month.
Bobby Hill, who operates Lonesome Pine, was initially optimistic that the track could make the transition from pavement to dirt racing, but a year of poor financial returns convinced him to bring the facility back to its asphalt roots.
“It was hard to get a good field of cars,” Hill said in an interview with the Kingsport Times-News. “We also had six rainouts, and it was just tough to get it going. Operating any king of race track can be expensive, but an asphalt track is a little more affordable.”
Opened in 1972, Lonesome Pine originally played host to the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman National Championship, where drivers like Jack Ingram, Jimmy Hensley and Morgan Shepherd frequently battled against each other around the .375 mile oval.
In the 1980s, several more auto racing divisions in the United States took notice of the high quality racing produced at Lonesome Pine and began to hold events at the track, which included the ARCA Menards Series, ASA National Tour and the Goody’s Dash Series, among others.
Lonesome Pine continued to host local and national races up until the 2010s, but poor economic conditions, combined with dwindling fan and car counts, forced the track to cease operations weeks before the 2018 season was scheduled to begin.
Hill wanted to see racing continue at Lonesome Pine and elected to purchase the facility in Aug. 2018, with some of his first major changes being to cover up the pavement surface with red clay in an effort to attract dirt competitors from around the East Coast and renaming the facility to Clay Valley.
While Hill’s attempt to build a thriving dirt track ultimately fell through, he hopes to bring back some of the former Lonesome Pine regulars in August, but he understands that plenty of obstacles are currently in front of him with the United States trying to re-open in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We hope to be ready in time to start [by August],” Hill said. “We should have plenty of room for social distancing with 5,800 seats.”
A meeting is scheduled to take place with several asphalt drivers and team owners in front of the grandstands at Lonesome Pine on July 11 at 2:00 p.m.