North Wilkesboro Speedway will hold a NASCAR-sanctioned race for the first time in over 25 years when the All-Star Race comes to town next season.
Speedway Motorsports, including President and CEO Marcus Smith, made the move official Thursday morning at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. Smith, alongside NASCAR chief operating officer Steve O’Donnell, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, announced the $1 million race weekend would be May 19-21.
“The NASCAR All-Star Race has always been the fans’ race, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the fans during NASCAR’s 75th anniversary than returning to North Wilkesboro Speedway,” said Smith. “We couldn’t have made this happen without tremendous support from so many people, including Governor Cooper, our state legislature, NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and of course, the people of Wilkes County.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got the will to create something special alongside a community and hard-working staff that will get it done.”
NASCAR ran Cup Series races at North Wilkesboro from 1949 through 1996. It last ran a race at North Wilkesboro in September 1996, with Jeff Gordon going to victory lane.
North Wilkesboro will be the fourth host of the All-Star Race in the last five years. It was moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway after 2019 to Bristol Motor Speedway (2020) and has been held at Texas Motor Speedway for the last two years.
Charlotte is the longest host of the exhibition race. It was hosted at the NASCAR industry’s home track in 1985 before going to Atlanta Motor Speedway for a year, 1986, and then returning to Charlotte from 1987 through 2019.
“Motorsports are critical to North Carolina’s history, culture and economy and our investments have helped to get the engines running again in places that needed revival,” said Cooper. “North Wilkesboro Speedway is back and better than ever, and the All-Star Race will take it to new heights.”
You asked. We listened. #AllStarRace pic.twitter.com/6DdZ8iDy2S
— North Wilkesboro Speedway (@NWBSpeedway) September 8, 2022
In November 2021, $18 million was allocated from the federal American Rescue Plan for infrastructure improvements at North Carolina racetracks through the North Carolina state budget. North Wilkesboro was one of those facilities.
“North Wilkesboro Speedway boasts a winners list that features the true giants of our sport and next year, another great will be added as the NASCAR Cup Series stars once again race at this historic facility,” said O’Donnell. “As part of our 75th anniversary season, we’re all excited to return to the roots of the sports for the NASCAR All-Star Race. This will be a can’t-miss event as we honor our past and look forward to the future.”
The announcement comes a week after North Wilkesboro wrapped up its “Racetrack Revival” events with grassroots racing. It was also made one day after the Wednesday evening announcement by XR Events, the company that ran the “Racetrack Revival,” that the scheduled dirt races at North Wilkesboro were canceled.
The original plans were for the track to host asphalt races in August and then the surface to be torn up for dirt races in October before undergoing a repaving in 2023. A repave has now been pushed off.
“Some of my best memories as a little boy were going to North Wilkesboro,” said Earnhardt, who ran a late model at the track last week. “And it got even better when I raced there as a teenager. I never thought I’d see that place full again, and then I got to race there this summer in a late model before a full house. There’s just something special about it. I know the track, the fans, and the community will put on a show when we’re back with the Cup cars for the All-Star Race.”