By David Morgan, Associate Editor
The revival is complete.
North Wilkesboro Speedway, which has sat dormant for many years and only recently shown signs of life, will make its return to the NASCAR Cup Series schedule next year as host to the annual NASCAR All-Star Race on the weekend of May 19-21, 2023.
First joining the circuit in 1947, the 0.625-mile oval served as a mainstay on the schedule for nearly 50 years before being shutdown following the 1996 season, as its race dates were shipped off to Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway following the track’s sale to Speedway Motorsports, Inc.
In the years since NASCAR departed the track, the facility fell into severe disrepair, but in recent years, a grassroots effort led by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Marcus Smith, and others led to a clean-up effort to get the track scanned for iRacing, which in turn led to the recent Racetrack Revival late model races that drew massive crowds to the area.
The success of returning racing to the track led right into Thursday’s announcement of the All-Star Race bringing the All-Star Race and the Cup Series back to the once-defunct track.
“The NASCAR All-Star Race has always been the fans’ race, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the fans during NASCAR’s 75th anniversary than returning to North Wilkesboro Speedway,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith. “We couldn’t have made this happen without tremendous support from so many people including Gov. Cooper, our state legislature, NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and of course, the people of Wilkes County. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got the will to create something special alongside a community and hard-working staff that will get it done.”
Earnhardt, a 26-time winner in the Cup Series, including two Daytona 500 victories, as well as a two-time Xfinity Series champion and member in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, has long been a proponent of North Wilkesboro returning in some capacity and was also a part of Thursday’s announcement.
“Some of my best memories as a little boy were going to North Wilkesboro,” said Earnhardt. “And it got even better when I raced there as a teenager. I never thought I’d see that place full again, and then I got to race there this summer in a late model before a full house. There’s just something special about it. I know the track, the fans, and the community will put on a show when we’re back with the Cup cars for the All-Star race.”
“North Wilkesboro Speedway boasts a winners list that features the true giants of our sport, and next year, another great will be added as the NASCAR Cup Series stars once again race at this historic facility,” added Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief operating officer. “As part of our 75th anniversary season, we’re are excited to return to the roots of the sport for the NASCAR All-Star Race. This will be a can’t-miss event as we honor our past and look forward to the future.”
The NASCAR All-Star Race has been held at Texas Motor Speedway for the past two seasons, following a one-year stint at Bristol Motor Speedway. Prior to that, the All-Star Race had been held at Charlotte Motor Speedway for all but one year between 1985 and 2019, when it took a detour to Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986.