The possibility of a NASCAR return to North Wilkesboro Speedway is a topic of discussion in a recent Dale Jr Download with Marcus Smith. North Wilkesboro’s last race was in 1996 but, the track is now abandoned since 2011. For fans, the possibility of the track’s return to NASCAR is exciting news.
The Possibility of a NASCAR return to North Wilkesboro Speedway is Exciting, but, No Guarantee
During the pandemic of the past year, Dale Jr. and iRacing brought North Wilkesboro Speedway to the forefront for a virtual race. And now, NASCAR is considering the idea of bringing North Wilkesboro back to their schedule.
Marcus Smith, the CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc said on Dale Jr’s podcast that, “North Wilkesboro has not been forgotten about,” and “that ideas are being pursued.”
“We haven’t given up on it”, and “This means we’re thinking. We are working on it. No promises.”
Smith is not guaranteeing a race for NASCAR, but they are exploring the idea. For older fans of NASCAR, the possibility is encouraging.
One of NASCAR’s Original Tracks
North Wilkesboro Speedway is a short track just five miles from the town of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. From the beginning of NASCAR, the popular track was one of the original ovals on the schedule from 1949 to 1996.
In the fall of 1996, Jeff Gordon is the last Cup Series winner at North Wilkesboro in an epic battle with his rival, Dale Earnhardt. Other North Wilkesboro winners are some of NASCAR’s biggest names including, Richard Petty (The King), Darrel Waltrip (DW), Dale Earnhardt (The Intimidator), Terry Labonte (The Iceman), Bobby Allison, and Rusty Wallace.
After 1996, the famed original oval sits abandoned and is succeeded by Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In 2010, the track reopened only to be abandoned again in 2011. Now, North Wilkesboro is overgrown and needs attention and, the racing surface is apparently recoverable for future use.
With NASCAR finally making new changes to their schedule, it is inspiring to see North Wilkesboro on the list for a possible return to the sport. Fans have been wanting more road course racing and with seven courses on the schedule in 2021. Apparently, NASCAR is listening.
More Short Tracks for the Future
Now NASCAR is hearing, fans want more short tracks. With Bristol on Dirt coming back in the Spring of 2022 and possibly more dirt races. NASCAR needs to add another paved short track on the schedule to replace the lost paved venue at Bristol.
Keep in mind, Nashville Fairgrounds may also be making a comeback in NASCAR. Plus, Auto Club Speedway in California is undergoing a reconfiguration into a shorter track. There is also Rockingham (The Rock) in North Carolina which is another short track formerly on the NASCAR schedule with two races a year. Rockingham has left the NASCAR schedule since 2004.
Other Exciting Possibilities to Think About
While NASCAR considers racing again at North Wilkesboro, there are so many other possibilities to think about. For instance, If the Cup Series does not race at North Wilkesboro, what about the Xfinity, Truck, and ARCA Series?
Other exciting ideas are ‘The Rock,’ Nazareth, Pikes Peak, and several other forgotten tracks previously on the NASCAR circuit.
Time will tell more of this story, and all of the possibilities are exciting to think about, especially for ‘old school’ NASCAR fans.