Southern National Raceway near Kenly sells for $650K at auction

From staff reportsOctober 7, 2011 

The top bidder for the Southern National Raceway Park outside Kenly says he hopes to have the track open for racing next spring.

Michael Diaz from Northern Virginia bid $650,000 for the raceway at an auction this afternoon. The offer still must be accepted by The Heritage Bank, which foreclosed on the track this summer.

Diaz wants to hold races on weekends and let people pay to experience the feel of racing themselves on other days of the week. Diaz said a friend of his, Mike Southard, would run the operation.

At one time, Southern National hosted races nearly every Saturday night from March to November, but the economy took its toll on short-track racing as companies cut back on their sponsorships. By the time Southern National closed in 2009, it was down to just a few events for the season.

The raceway has changed hands several times since it opened in the early 1990s on former farm land. The 4/10-mile-long oval was designed by Francis Tuttle, who also designed Talladega and the Texas World Speedway. It can seat 4,500 people in two grandstands and 16 skyboxes.

Auctioneer Jimmy Johnson of Johnson Properties tried to sell the track once before. At that auction, in late 2009, then-owner Kirk Leone, a Raleigh-area homebuilder, declined the highest bid, around $1 million.

In June, The Heritage Bank took over the property from Leone. Wilson County tax records show the value of the track and 92 surrounding acres at $1.57 million.

Johnson tried to open the bidding at $2 million today, but had to back it down to $400,000 before the bidding started. About 50 people registered to place bids, but most simply watched.

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