Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith has announced a big goal for North Wilkesboro Speedway. He aims to hold a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the beloved track following extensive renovations.
Smith discussed the possibility during the Wilkes County Chamber of Commerce 75th Membership Celebration on January 20. He unveiled renderings of how North Wilkesboro Speedway will appear after the renovations are complete and then he called the return of NASCAR a “real possibility.” Though he did not state that this is a done deal.
“We specifically — and I’ll thank Marcus Lemonis, the CEO of Camping World for his voice of support — we specifically think it’s a real possibility to bring back NASCAR and the Camping World Truck Series to North Wilkesboro Speedway,” Smith said, per a release from Speedway Motorsports. “Those races are nationally televised events, and it’s a national NASCAR touring series. We have a number of those (races) in our portfolio, and I would love to see one of those here.”
A national NASCAR series has not competed at North Wilkesboro since the 1996 season when Terry Labonte and Jeff Gordon each captured a win. The short track hosted 93 Cup Series races from 1949-1996, four Xfinity Series races from 1983-1985, and two Truck Series races in 1995-1996. Such names as Richard Petty, Lee Petty, Fireball Roberts, Darrell Waltrip, Junior Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, and Cale Yarborough all reached Victory Lane at the short track.
Work Still Remains at the 75-Year-Old Track
While Smith’s comments created excitement in the racing community, there are still some hurdles to overcome before Ben Rhodes, Hailie Deegan, Tyler Ankrum, and other Truck Series drivers battle for the checkered flag.
Local volunteer groups have taken care of cleanup at the track, but there is extensive work remaining. Smith specifically noted water, sewer, electricity, roads, and connectivity as some of the main priorities. He compared the renovation process to restoring a car. It will look old, but the important parts will be new.
This process is possible due to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. He allocated $40 million of the American Rescue Plan to renovate three tracks in the state. Millions of dollars went to Charlotte Motor Speedway, Rockingham Speedway, and North Wilkesboro Speedway for infrastructure improvements. $18 million went to Wilkes County, the home of North Wilkesboro Speedway.
The Iconic Track Will Have Multiple Uses
While races will be the primary draw of the renovated North Wilkesboro Speedway, there will be other events that benefit residents of Wilkes County. Smith specifically mentioned that there will be concerts and other entertainment options that will bring in visitors from far away.
“Our hope is to celebrate the history and look forward to the future,” Smith said. “North Wilkesboro Speedway is an amazing, historic place for NASCAR. It’s almost like Fenway Park is to baseball. I think, with this money from the state and the American Rescue Plan, we can make some dreams a reality at North Wilkesboro Speedway.”
This setup featuring Truck Series races, concerts, and other special events remains in the future until the renovation is complete. However, Smith’s comments showed that Speedway Motorsports remains dedicated to revitalizing the short track that Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. once cleared so that iRacing could forever immortalize it in the racing simulator.
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