NORTH WILKSBORO, NC — Fans lined the streets of Wilkesboro to watch NASCAR Cup Series cranes (which transport race cars from race shops to the tracks) and some replica race cars drive down Main Street Thursday.
Fans turned out in droves, just glad there were stars NASCAR has returned to its rural North Carolina community for the first time since 1996.
More fans lined the streets of North Wilkesboro — yes, it’s a separate town — to see the parade, too.
This was a parade with two main streets, and the parade took nearly an hour to complete. Variety drivers jerseys fans. Some old school. Some new schools. But all with what NASCAR needs so much: the passion and enthusiasm for its racing and its drivers (and those drivers weren’t even on the show).
Marcus Smith, chairman and CEO of North Wilkesboro Speedway’s parent Speedway Motorsports, chimed in not only with that community support but also the general sentiment for NASCAR’s return to the 0.625-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.
“I didn’t go to NASCAR week where everyone was in a good mood,” he said.
There could have been a lot to complain about at NASCAR All-Star Race. Old-school power-washed metal folding seats in the bleachers. The racing surface has not been repaved since 1981. Only two-lane roads in and out of the facility. Regarding the track itself, there is no underpass or crossover bridge that allows people to freely enter and exit the playing field.
But there have been few complaints, even from Trophy teams who often work under covered garages and instead have to work on their cars behind their trucks in the outdoor heat—just like any grassroots weekly racer.
The track seats about 25,000 people and probably had about 30,000 fans overall on a Sunday night. There weren’t as many corporate suites or as many areas to entertain the allowance as there are on many other trails. This wasn’t much of a market to expand but instead a trip into NASCAR’s past where he raced in small towns throughout the Southeast.
“Sometimes we get caught up in things that maybe aren’t as important and I’m not worried about coming to tracks like this,” said the driver and co-owner of the team. Brad Keselowski. “Yeah, there will be some sacrifices. I’m sure traffic will be an issue and I’m sure there will be issues, whether that track is coming up or whatever.
“These things will happen when you come to places like this, but I think it’s a welcome trade-off for having an old schedule at the same place every year. I think there’s a certain amount of patience I have that I think the industry has with those things when they’re on an infrequent basis.”
The traffic and surface were, for the most part, better than people had thought. It was no surprise that the Truck Race on Saturday or the All-Star event on Sunday had to be halted due to track disintegration.
you did not. There was quite a bit of repair between practice sessions and races but nothing during the events. The track was ready—they had an epoxy sand mix that was designed to bond in eight minutes so they could fill in a hole and resume racing quickly.
Quick Thoughts with Bob Pocras
Bob Pocras analyzes what should be next at North Wilkesboro Speedway after the All-Star Race success.
Whether a repaving should be done when NASCAR returns will likely be the center of debate.
“[We’ve] “I learned some new things on the surface and kind of manage it, keep it together and create a really diverse surface that I think challenges teams,” said Smith. It will be interesting to see what the weather will be like. And when it needs to be re-lined, we’ll re-save it. I guess I’d be inclined not to repaving until we absolutely have to.”
Denny Hamlin He called for the track, if he was repaving it, to use different mixtures in different lanes of the track. The problem with track repairs is that they can be very smooth, and drivers’ ability to pass is limited by the incredible grip the tires have on the new surface. Once the wheel hits, the tires are less grippy and small bumps often develop, adding to the character.
“Let’s do a super-smooth top groove, a little more low assembly, and wear your tires less even if you go in the bottom lane,” Hamlin said. “If we resave it, we’ll have to do a good race right away and you’ll have to change the asphalt to do that.”
So when will this fix come? Smith won’t be bound by what comes next after his staff scrambled for more than eight months to get the facility ready for the All-Star Race, thanks to $18 million in funding from North Carolina that included $14 million from the American Restitution Act.
A new state of the art lighting system, re-paving of the infield, SAFER barrier, and new fencing being installed were among the things needed for the track to hold the Cup event.
It looks like the drivers are ready to run a points race – which will likely be a 400-lap race instead of a 200-lap All-Star race – at the facility.
“Having it so close to home, having a short-term atmosphere was pretty cool – I enjoyed it,” he said. Bubba Wallace. “Racing in front of a packed crowd, whether it’s for you or against you, is still cool. They’re still making noise, so you feel that.
“Four hundred laps? Sign me up. That would be sick.”
If it’s 400 laps and maybe in the heat of the day, that could be another challenge for the surface. The biggest concern is damaging a piece of the roof of the car.
“I think they should come back here to race 400 laps for points,” said former Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. “They should probably have to patch it up after this week…they can think about taking a risk, but it will. It’s too risky to make that surface.” It lasts longer.
Our cars and our style of racing [in late models] It can handle a lot of imperfections. But the Cup fans will not put up with the problem of roofs. One car has any kind of problem with a rock going through the radiator, you can’t do that. “
About the only thing to complain about is that Kyle Larson Even the show stinks By controlling the race. Seeing people leave with about 10 laps to go because the result looked set was the only thing that kept the stands from being packed with fans to their feet until the end.
“This place looks like a racetrack to me,” said Larson. “I race in a lot of popular places [in sprint cars]more than any other driver in the field. Many of these drivers go to these luxury facilities every weekend. That’s all they do.
“I was in Wayne County, Ohio, on a Tuesday night, and it has a folk feel to it here, and I think that’s what makes this weekend feel so special.”
Highlights of the NASCAR All-Star Race
Returning to North Wilkesboro for the NASCAR All-Star Race was a weekend to remember as Kyle Larson dominated for the win.
And that gets Smith thinking about the upcoming race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. It wouldn’t take another 27 years for the Cup Series to return.
“When you see a successful week of events like we had here, it’s only natural to think, ‘Boy, maybe we can come back here,'” Smith said. “I definitely think that way, that it has a lot of potential.”
Thinking out loud
Another bit of history was made in North Wilkesboro where Cup teams raced in wet conditions. They did it in the heat races on Saturday, the day before the main events.
Although they could have dried out at the track at the end and possibly started 90 minutes later than scheduled, using the stretched tires was an option NASCAR had and figured it would be a good time to test – what better time to test than at an exhibition event?
Wet tires are here to stay?
Denny Hamlin was encouraged by what he saw on the wet weather tires this weekend at North Wilkesboro.
Yes, NASCAR could have waited and dried up the entire track. But by no longer waiting, they now have more acceptance for drivers to use the striped tires on short tracks in the points race. And only the teams that have that confidence that they can do it win NASCAR.
in the news
–Alex Bowman A return for this weekend’s race in Charlotte is entirely possible. The team is now including Bowman, who has missed the past four weeks with a broken back, week by week.
– Trackhouse Racing has named three-time Supercars Champion Shane van Gisbergen to drive its third Cup car, No. 91 as part of its Project91 program, at Chicago Street Course in July. The program is designed to bring drivers with an international presence to NASCAR to try to expand the sport internationally.
– NASCAR docked Tyler Reddick 10 points for no weight in the approved container in Darlington. The team will not appeal the penalty.
The All-Star Race has been held in five different locations: Atlanta (once), Charlotte (34), Bristol (one), Texas (two) and North Wilkesboro (one). Larson won at three of the venues – Charlotte, Texas, and North Wilkesboro.
They said so
“There’s a lot of fun in there. That was old-school ass leather for sure.” —Kyle Larson after his dominant win Sunday at the NASCAR All-Star Race
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