It was an exciting two day show that deserves to be remembered for a long time. A few days ago, however, Earnhardt participated in an event that brought back memories of days gone by. The North Wilkesboro Speedway, which had been abandoned for over a decade, has been brought back to life by showcasing late models.
NASCAR has some challenges these days when it comes to putting an exciting product on TV, and the North Carolina track may be poised to offer a solution, thanks in no small part to its recent Hall of Fame recruit.
NASCAR’s biggest need is another short track
NASCAR has departed from its latest policy by announcing the Cup Series schedule for the upcoming season before Labor Day. This likely stems from a desire to focus attention on qualifying that began last weekend in Darlington. However, it can also indicate squaring issues with paths.
The only change known for sure is that Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, lost its history in 2023 to an event in Chicago, where NASCAR will take its first shot at street racing. There are many trails across the country, but they all fall under the general heading of ovals or road courses, so Chicago is an effort to innovate.
Bristol Motor Speedway (0.533 miles), Martinsville Speedway (0.526), and Richmond Raceway (0.75) are the three shortest tracks always on the 36 race schedule. Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway are under the superspeedways title. In between are mile- and 2.5-mile ovals labeled “intermediate,” and trail courses make up the rest of the schedule.
NASCAR had problems with the racing quality on its short tracks in the first year of the next generation car, although the second round in Richmond seemed like a step toward solving the problem.
Fans and some of the race’s media have come in this year to demand that another short track be added to the annual schedule, possibly away from Atlanta, Las Vegas or Kansas (the location of Race of the Week). The lack of suitable places was a problem.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Helped Revitalize North Wilkesboro
The race’s return to North Wilkesboro Speedway last Wednesday got a little less attention than it deserves because NASCAR had just set the field for the Cup Series Cup, and the opening game in Darlington was days away.
However, the night was a smash hit in front of nearly 20,000 fans. Occupy Dale Earnhardt Jr. Third place in the 125-lap Late Models main event, rising JR Motorsports star Carson Kvapil scored the win.
Earnhardt loved seeing one of his cars win but was even happier that the night was a success. That’s because he played an important role in the revival of North Wilkesboro, which hosted the Cup Series races from 1949-96. Terry Labonte and Jeff Gordon won there in the last season. Prior to that, Richard Petty scored 15 victories there and Daryl Waltrip 10.
“When I was standing here before the race started, getting ready to get in the car, I almost wanted to cry,” Earnhardt said. the athlete. “I was so emotional that every seat was full, and I still couldn’t believe this happened. This place was forgotten, and anyone on this planet was willing to argue with you, ‘They won’t bring it back. It’s never coming back.'”
The North Wilkesboro and Nashville fairgrounds belong to NASCAR Radar
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hosted 16 episodes on 2020-21 of Lost highwaysAnd the The Peacock Network series highlights the history of abandoned racetracks across the country. North Wilkesboro hasn’t been one of the trailblazing trails, but it’s always been a place he’s considered special. Earnhardt began speaking several years ago with Marcus Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports, asking what it would take to get any kind of racing back on the 0.625-mile track. Wednesday was a successful test.
With a few additional upgrades, North Wilkesboro could be ready to host a race. Meanwhile, efforts are also underway to complete the renovation of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, another short track with a rich history, to make it fit for NASCAR.
Old fans who understand the role short tracks play in NASCAR’s growth into a major national sport will embrace seeing North Wilkesboro or Nashville take one appointment per year off an intermediate track that currently has two races.
Do you have a question or note about the race? John Moriello of Sportscasting does a mailbag column every Friday. Write to him at JohnM@Sportscasting.com.