Work coming along to prepare North Wilkesboro Speedway to host NASCAR All-Star Race in May
Not everything old at the historic track will be made new again
NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. (WBTV) - In just a little over five months from today the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway is set to host the NASCAR All-Star Race. It’s a story of a revival for the iconic track that last hosted the Cup Series in 1996. A lot of work has gone into bringing the track back, and there’s a lot more to be done between now and May.
As part of NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season, the famed 0.625-mile short track will host NASCAR’s premier series for the first time since 1996.
Speedway Motorsports wants to hold on to that nostalgic feel that this 1940′s era racetrack still has…call it retro or shabby chic, either way, it’s a nod to a rich history.
“To most people, putting a fresh coat of paint is a lot easier than preserving an old sign that’s been there for 30 years,” said Steve Swift, Speedway Motorsports SVP of Operations & Development for Speedway Motorsports. “Trying to hold onto some of that patina, you know, holding onto the old feel of Wilkes County and the Wilkesboro Speedway, trying to make sure our contractors understand that hey, we don’t want to paint that again, it doesn’t need to be refreshed, we need to make sure we hold onto that look.”
“I actually came here with my wife Penny on our second date and watched one of the early races,” said Doug Rice.
Long before he was a NASCAR broadcaster with the Performance Racing Network, Rice was a fan, and he says a big part of the charm of this speedway is the emotion it still evokes.
“It’s going to be like going back in time, visiting an antique shop. You don’t want something repurposed. They’re going to try to keep as much of the original look and feel of North Wilkesboro as absolutely possible,” Rice added.
Of course many things have to change.
“NASCAR is way different in 2022, 2023 than it was in 1996,” Swift said.
As the track gets ready for a jam-packed week of racing May 16-21, media members were invited to the speedway Tuesday afternoon to get a look at the upgrades currently underway, including renovations to the speedway’s suite boxes, infield grading and preparations on the track to install safer barrier. North Wilkesboro Speedway will host CRA Super Late Models, CARS Pro and Late Model Stocks, NASCAR Craftsman Trucks and NASCAR Cup Series stock cars for race events in May.
“Normally on a building project, we either start and tear completely down and rebuild back, or we start from a fresh site and rebuild completely,” said Swift. “So this one’s been how do we hold on to preserve the history? How do we hold on to the facilities that are here, and then how do we recreate them in a new way that’s safe and more modern for the fans.”
“The biggest thing that we’ve started on is the infield to prepare for the competition piece for for the NASCAR races,” Swift added. “We’ve added concrete walls. We’ve started prepping those concrete walls for SAFER barrier. We removed the old wheelfence, and started fabrication for installation of the new wheel fence.
“On the infield itself, probably the biggest piece that’s visual right now is the drainage that we put in. We’ve added tons of storm drainage to take care of all the water issues that were in place and prepare for the future.”
Additional improvements scheduled ahead of next year’s All-Star Race weekend include renovating the scoring tower, re-installing a manual lap count and top-five scoreboard, installing Musco lights for the track and paving the infield garage areas.
The 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race week will include six days or nights of entertainment including:
- Tuesday, May 16: CRA Super Late Model Series
- Wednesday, May 17: CARS Pro and Late Model Stocks
- Friday, May 19: NASCAR Craftsman Truck and Cup Series practice; Concert (artist TBA)
- Saturday, May 20: NASCAR Cup Series qualifying and Craftsman Truck Series Race
- Sunday, May 21: NASCAR Open and NASCAR All-Star Race
Schedules are tentative and subject to change. Specific on track schedules and All-Star Race format will be released at a later date. For all the latest news, schedule updates and information, visit www.northwilkesborospeedway.com.
A few miles from the track in downtown North Wilkesboro, there’s a feeling that hasn’t been evident in a lot of years.
“Everybody talks about it, it’s all over social media,” said Jefferson Hill.
Hill owns Foothills Collectibles. He says the anticipation of the race, and other events, is great news for this community.
“It really hurt our pride for the track to be closed and just sitting there wasting away, and now that it’s coming back, the pride is back, the excitement is back, the thankfulness towards SMI is back, so everybody’s ready,” Hill said.
Speedway Motorsports contributed to this story.
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