From Racing Villain to County Commissioner
by Bobby Markos
Between The Download, Lost Speedways and now being a commentator for NBC, Dale Jr. has encountered some of the most fascinating characters in the world of auto racing. Many of these figures have so many incredible stories that there is never enough time to capture all of them in just one single interaction. While filming the New Asheville Speedway episode of Lost Speedways, he came across one of those personalities in Asheville racing legend Robert Pressley. Apparently there was so much said behind the scenes that Dale wanted to put a pin in it for a future conversation. On this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download, Dale Jr. and co-host Mike Davis invite Robert on to pick up where they left off.
The conversation begins in the present, where current day life finds Robert Pressley as a County Commissioner in Buncombe County, North Carolina. Robert details his life after racing, where he spent time as a driving coach and track promoter at Kingsport Speedway before entering the world of politics. He gives a lot of insight into local politics and what his time in office has been like.
The trio spends time talking about filming the New Asheville Speedway episode of Lost Speedways and what the response has been like for Robert. He explains that he has seen an uptick in the amount of fan letters he receives, and also gives a behind the scenes look into some of the segments of the episode. He also talks about the track itself, telling Dale the best way to get around the place, as well as details on some empty promises made by the local government when the track was closed in 1999.
The exchange takes a deep dive into Robert’s racing career, from his early years in the late model division to his rise into the Busch Grand National series. They also speak of his friendship with former NBA player and NASCAR Cup team owner Brad Daugherty, which was forged during a race at New Asheville Speedway in the late 80s. After meeting in the pits one night, Robert invited Brad to go to a race with him the following day at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, not thinking the five-time NBA All Star would accept. The following day, Brad was right on time and the two have been close friends ever since.
There is no shortage of wild tales as Robert speaks of the great Ingram/Pressley rivalry, on-track feuds with his own father Bob, getting shot at after the races and pulling up to Greenville-Pickens with a loveseat in the back of his truck. Listeners can expect a detailed look at one of the most accomplished racers from the Asheville scene.
During the opening segment of the show, Dale talks about his trip to Las Vegas last weekend and some chaos in his household upon his return. While fielding questions from listeners during the Ask Jr. segment, Dale shares an amazing story about struggling during his first visit to Bristol and how Dale Sr. got on the headset and told him when to lift and accelerate. All of this and more on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download - available on this website and all major podcast platforms.
Additional reading about our guest:
Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, Robert Pressley is the son of former NASCAR Sportsman racer Bob Pressley. He began his racing career at New Asheville Speedway where he would go on to win five track championships, including a record four in a row. His presence in the late model division of the Southeast was felt, as he won over 150 feature races throughout the 80s.
In 1984, he turned his success on the short tracks into a one-off start in the Busch Grand National series at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he came home 26th after having minimal practice and seat time in the car. He wouldn’t attempt another start in the series until 1989, when he ran a part-time schedule in a self-fielded car that was a partnership with NBA All-Star player Brad Daugherty. He would find success in just his 12th start, winning a race at Orange County Speedway in North Carolina. The victory would open many doors for Pressley and he soon signed a deal with Alliance Trucking to field a full-time car starting the following year.
Pressley would go on to win 10 times in the Busch Grand National series with high season points finishes of 3rd and 5th in 1991 and 92. In 1994, he would make his NASCAR Cup debut for Leo Jackson Motorsports at the Daytona 500. The following year he would replace a newly retired Harry Gant in the famous Skoal Bandit 33 car. When Jackson retired from motorsports and sold the team to Andy Petree, whom Pressley had an old racing rivalry with from the late model days at Greenville Pickens, Pressley would soon move over to Jasper Motorsports. He would run his last full-Cup season in 2001 and then run the number 18 NASCAR Truck for Bobby Hamilton Racing in 2002, winning in his debut at Daytona. He would retire from full-time racing in 2005.
After racing, Pressley had a stint as the track promoter at Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee beginning in 2011. He also opened his own restaurant in Asheville called Celebrity’s Hot Dogs. In 2016, Pressley was elected as County Commissioner in Buncombe County, North Carolina by one of the biggest margins in the county’s local election history. Today he continues to serve office while operating his family restaurant and spending time with his grandchildren.