The North Wilkesboro Speedway opened in 1947, nearly a year before NASCAR was founded. The short track near moonshine country was where the first NASCAR champion, Robert "Red" Byron, was crowned. Today, five years after being abandoned, the historic speedway is just a rotting pile of sticks, crooked chairs, and faded glory.

The celebrated abandoned spaces photographer Seph Lawless recently visited the North Wilkesboro Speedway on a trip across the country. Like the abandoned malls he'd visited in the past, Lawless found the race course to be symbolic for America's rapid decline and decay. The former dirt track held sanctioned events until 1996 but was left to rot after a campaign to save the speedway by the same name failed to attract investors.

"This arena was once filled with thousands of people now it sits eerily silent and completely abandoned," Lawless told Gizmodo. "It was apocalyptic."At least the apocalypse is a least a little bit beautiful—as the manmade structures yield, and nature takes back what was always hers. [Seph Lawless]

All photos by Seph Lawless

Check out more photography from Seph Lawless on his website. Also, follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Stay tuned for more from his ongoing project, Autopsy of America, in which Lawless will be documenting the most abandoned parts of all 50 states. You can buy a book of his North Wilkesboro Speedway photos here.

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