Text by Sol Weiner, photos by Sol Weiner and Anna Keneda
When I think of the Orange County Speedway—when I picture it in my mind—it sizzles like the grease on a flattop grill.
On alternating Saturday nights from March through October (with a few extras and exceptions), the Orange County Speedway in Rougemont hosts stock car races on what they call “America’s Fastest ⅜ Track.” Saturday nights feature five to eight races, ranging from Virginia Mini Cups to Late Model Stock, Mini Trucks to Mods, and Southern Ground Pounders to my personal favorite, the Pure Stocks. With so many races packed into just a couple of hours, heat rises from the track as the smell of motor oil pushes up against humid evening air. The smell seems to make its own sound, a low and constant hum.
If you think you can hear sizzles and pops on the track, it’s because you can. But it also may be because of the concession stands—two under the bleachers, one on the grass between turns 3 and 4, and one in the middle of the pit for drivers and their crews. Until just before close, the Orange County Speedway concession stands serve corn dogs, hot dogs, candy, crinkle-cut fries, Cokes or Pepsis (it seems to depend on the night) and yes, that most celebrated of Speedway traditions: the bologna burger.
At the Speedway, the bologna burger is second only to racing in how deeply and viscerally it is felt when consumed. Partially, that is because the bologna burger is very much a local tradition. In an Indy Week article from 2013, folklorist Emily Wallace uncovers the history of this Piedmont delicacy. It was first served at the South Boston Speedway in South Boston, Virginia, just a few miles north on 15-501. When the Orange County Speedway opened in the mid-1960s—a few years after South Boston Speedway opened its own doors—drivers and fans began asking the concession stand to “import” the bologna burger to parts south.
The result is a thick slice of heaven. A half-inch slab of bologna is fried just to the point before the edges would curl up, and the result is a “burger” that has all the char and grease from the grill but never dries out. Toppings are limited, but all compliment the sandwich in some way or another—after all, you really cannot mask the salt and velevety fat of such a thick cut of bologna, so you may as well roll with the punches. I have found that melted American cheese, grilled onions, and yellow mustard together each provides something that pops on its own but never conceals the bologna-ness.
It is worth noting that the concession stands’ other offerings are very solid. The corn dogs are hot and crisp on the outside, the fries are golden-brown, and, well, a bag of peanut M&M’s is a bag of peanut M&M’s. Small coolers are also allowed for fans to bring in six-packs of can beer, other beverages, and any extra toppings you may want for your bologna burger (I recommend pickles).
Particularly on a small track like this one—where a race can change in the blink of an eye—I was surprised to stop mid-race, glance away from the track, and find myself looking down at the bologna burger in my hands. The fact that anything could steal attention away from 90 decibels of engine noise and some of the best stock car racing around is testament to how dang good this thing is. The races, of course, are always unpredictable; there are crashes, passes, drafting, and dirty moves. Like an elder statesman, though, the bologna burger remains a constant. Thank God for the bologna burger.
Orange County Speedway
9740 NC Highway 57
Rougemont, NC, 27572