North Wilkesboro Speedway to Host 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race

Dirt track races at the facility scheduled for October have been cancelled, however sources say larger plans for the racetrack could be headed.

NORTH WILKESBORO, NC — The NASCAR All-Star Race could return to North Carolina.

On Wednesday, The Athletic and sources close to WCNC Charlotte said NASCAR plans to host the 2023 All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The news will be announced at a news conference at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh on Thursday. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Speedway Motorsports executives, NASCAR officials and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be in attendance.

North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted NASCAR Cup Series races from 1949 to 1996. NASCAR abandoned the track as part of a large-scale effort by the sports league to swap dates from smaller rural tracks like North Wilkesboro to larger areas and facilities. such as Texas Motor Speedway (Dallas-Fort Worth) and Chicagoland, among others.

Since its closure, fans have pleaded for high-level racing to return to the track that has hosted NASCAR racing since its inception in the late 1940s.

Efforts have been attempted for the past 26 years, but nothing materialized until Earnhardt and others started a joint effort in 2019 simply to scan the track for an iRacing race. After this, an even bigger effort grew to bring in-person racing to the track.

Speedway Motorsports and XR Events teamed up to plan races at North Wilkesboro with the first races taking place on August 2 and 3 using modified and stock cars. It is estimated that nine thousand people showed up for these races.

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The list of drivers who competed in those events included NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte, who regularly rides the SMART Modified Tour. Labonte was part of the final NASCAR race held at North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1996.

“It means a lot to run [at North Wilkesboro]Labonte said after competing Aug. 3. “We had a picture taken and I was the only one here who was here in ’96.”

On August 31, a sold-out crowd of around 15,000 arrived at the track to watch Earnhardt compete in a late model stock car race.

“It was like (the track) was talking to you. Like, hey, I have something left. I can be something. I can be an asset to the motorsports industry,” Earnhardt said after the race. “I think we’re seeing that come true today – that the track has a purpose.”

Dirt racing was scheduled to take place at the track in October but was canceled on Wednesday.

XR Events, the company that organizes races at North Wilkesboro Speedway, announced that the races will not take place. Organizers say the limited time between the final races on August 31 and the scheduled October dates was not enough to properly prepare the track.

“As we studied the asphalt-to-dirt conversion process, we realized that we simply cannot adequately prepare the track in such a limited amount of time to produce the racing product that the fans and competitors deserve,” Barry Braun , XR Events CEO, said.

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Plans originally were to use North Wilkesboro Speedway as a base revival track using lower series and possibly include a NASCAR Truck Series event. However, the decision to host the NASCAR All-Star Race at the track speeds up the effort.

The NASCAR All-Star Race was held at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) from 1987 to 2019 and was traditionally the week before the Coca-Cola 600 at CMS. The track also hosted the inaugural All-Star Race in 1985.

NASCAR moved the All-Star race from Charlotte to Bristol Motor Speedway in 2020 due to restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race was moved the following year to Texas Motor Speedway to replace the race date taken from that track that was given to the Circuit of the Americas.

Now the All-Star Race will return to North Carolina at a track that hasn’t hosted a NASCAR race since 1996.

Richard Petty is the all-time winningest driver at the track with 15 wins. Jeff Gordon won the last event on September 29, 1996.

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