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LPR sold, will reopen as a dirt track

Jeff Birchfield • Aug 20, 2018 at 8:20 PM

COEBURN — Lonesome Pine Raceway has been purchased by local businessman Bobby Hill, who has plans to reopen it as a dirt track in 2019.

Karen Tunnell, general manager of Kingsport Speedway and the former GM at Lonesome Pine, will return to the track in some capacity, she said in Monday phone interview.

“Bobby has been successful as a businessman, and he has a deep love for and history in racing,” Tunnell said. “He will do a good job with the track.”

The track was scheduled to get its first loads of red clay early this week, but changes in the delivery schedule mean the dirt isn't coming until next Monday. To highlight the change, a photo of a dump truck with dirt was posted on Facebook with the words “Coming Soon.”

The track had operated as an asphalt track since opening in 1972. Former NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Isaac won the first major race at the speedway that year, driving the famed No. 71 K&K Dodge in a Grand National East race. NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison, Buck Baker and Richard Childress were among the other entries in that race.

The track also hosted a national Late Model Sportsman event won by Harry Gant in 1977 and ASA races in the 1980s with Alan Kulwicki and Dick Trickle as winners.

Track champions have included local legend Brad Teague of Johnson City, current Xfinity Series driver Chad Finchum of Knoxville, Bluff City driver Wayne Hale — who won back-to-back track title in 2015-16 — and Abingdon’s Kres VanDyke, the 2017 track champion.

Car counts had waned in recent years with the featured Late Model Stock division only drawing between eight and 12 cars for its Saturday races.

Tunnell said the area has longed for racing since a letter posted by track operators Keith and Ervin Stiltner on Feb. 13 announced the three-eighths-mile oval would cease operations.

“Sometimes, you don’t know how much you miss it until it’s gone,” Tunnell said. “There is plenty of work to be done. But this area needed this and I expect there to be plenty of interest when the track opens back up.”

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