Ryan Newman. Photo courtesy of Zach Catanzareti.

People who follow politics know Bill Stanley as the Republican state senator from Franklin County. People who follow auto racing now know him as a team co-owner. He and former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler of Emporia have started the Sadler/Stanley Racing Team, which this year has been running a car driven by Jonathan Brown in the Southern Modified Auto Racing Teams (SMART) series — garnering two poles, three top five finishes and a victory in six races thus far.

Hermie Sadler. Photo by Markus Schmidt.

On August 2, the Sadler/Stanley team will help make some history, by fielding two cars in the reopening of the North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina.

The North Wilkesboro Speedway occupies a legendary spot in auto racing history. It was an original NASCAR track in 1949 and hosted 93 Winston Cup series races. The short oval track closed in 1996 as NASCAR moved on to bigger tracks in bigger places. In recent years, there’s been an effort to re-open the track, led most notably by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County.

Now racing is set to return to the storied track on August 2 and and two of the cars will be fielded by the Sadler/Stanley Racing Team. On Thursday, Sadler announced that NASCAR driver Ryan Newman will drive the team’s second car, the #39 on the opening night at Wilkesboro, and that their primary driver Jonathan Brown will be piloting the same car at the Wednesday August 3rd race. Each race will be a 55-lap contest, with the green flag dropping at 7 p.m. each night.

Newman, who has 18 NASCAR Cup Series Wins and 51 poles to his credit, has previously driven for Sadler/ Stanley Racing in the NASCAR® Whelen modified race in Richmond this past April getting a top-15 finish in the race.

In a statement, Stanley said: “It is just so important that we preserve the rich histories and economic benefits that these short tracks provide to our local communities, and that we bring the needed attention to grass-roots racing that is so very critical to the sport’s future.”

Racing isn’t the only way Sadler and Stanley are connected. Sadler has sued Virginia to challenge its ban on so-called “skill games,” Stanley is his attorney. (See background story by Cardinal’s Markus Schmidt).