North Wilkesboro Speedway Hosts 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race

RALLY, NC – NASCAR is returning to one of its original locations it left over a quarter century ago – the North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Governor Roy Cooper and Dale Earnhardt Jr. of North Carolina joined the chassis and track owner Thursday to announce that the track will host the All-Star race for next year’s NASCAR Cup Series – NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season.

“It would be something that people from all over the country would want to come and enjoy — NASCAR All-Star Week at North Wilkesboro Speedway — to enjoy the culture, the celebrations, and the history,” Marcus Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports, which owns the track, said at a press conference outside the museum. North Carolina History in Raleigh. “We are excited to revive him.”

The 0.625-mile Asphalt Oval, located approximately 70 miles northwest of Charlotte, hosted the year-ending race in 1949 for what became known as the Cup Series. It became an annual stop on schedule, hosting two races a year beginning in 1951, and was a throwback to the days when area sunset runners—NASCAR legend Jr. Johnson among them—drive fast cars to escape the authorities.

North Wilkesboro hosted more than 90 Cup races before closing in 1996, as a result of NASCAR’s explosive growth during that time and arguments that it wasn’t big or fancy enough as the sport entered new markets. Track racing went to New Hampshire and Texas.

The oval went into disrepair, and the non-NASCAR races on the legendary track faded in early 2010. But former drivers like Earnhardt Jr. , local boosters, and state officials won’t give up on the venue, which has a direct connection to NASCAR’s birth.

The latest effort to renovate the highway has taken off, buoyed by $18 million in US federal bailout funds that the North Carolina legislature set aside last year to improve infrastructure.

The legislature has approved in principle another $4 million next year for additional improvements to host the race next May 21 and “for future events over the next several years,” said Greg Walter, general manager at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Speedway Motorsports flagship. place.

The All-Star Race originally started in 1985 as The Winston and was usually held in May, a week before the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It has been held for the past two years at Texas Motor Speedway, and was recently won by Ryan Blaney.

While North Wilkesboro’s decision was months in the making, Steve O’Donnell, chief operating officer of Smith and NASCAR, said the concept had only been confirmed in recent weeks. That’s when the ballroom-standard crowds attended the Racetrack Revival series at the reopened track, led by Speedway Motorsports, Earnhardt and the widow of the late Penny Parsons. Ryan Newman won the first race, while Earnhardt finished third in the race last week.

“I felt something on the racetrack that I haven’t felt in a long time. And that was the real happiness and love you have just to be there, whether you’re a racer or a fan,” Earnhardt, TV analyst and NASCAR team owner. “You just got a special place in our history. I’m so excited to see what can happen next.”

O’Donnell later said it was too early to tell if a successful All-Star race could lead to annual race dates on the track, but “we wouldn’t go back to North Wilkesboro if we didn’t think it would be successful and a place we want to look forward to over a year”.

O’Donnell has acknowledged running more races outside of NASCAR’s strongholds in recent years to grow the sport weighing options. The 2023 season will also see a new NASCAR street race in Chicago.

“As we look at the development of the timeline going forward, it’s certainly a nod to the new markets we want to be in, but also to balance that with markets where people have been forever supporting us,” O’Donnell said. “You look at our 75th anniversary and the timeline we put together and it’s a perfect balance.”

Richard Petty won record races at 15 NASCAR races in North Wilkesboro, which is known for its downhill slopes on the front slopes and the back stretch uphill. Daryl Waltrip won 10 races, followed by Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Cal Yarborough with five races each.

Wearing a North Wilkesboro Speedway jacket, Cooper was Winston’s Grand Marshal in 2000, when the younger Earnhardt beat his father and Dale Garrett to the finish. The governor said the path he visited in May was “almost like a cathedral”.

“This is a great day for North Carolina,” he said. “Whether you’re interested in racing or not, it means economic recovery and more money in the pockets of North Carolina residents every day.” “We are the birthplace of NASCAR.”

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