Race Weekend Central

Kyle Larson Rechristens North Wilkesboro For NASCAR

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. – “Burn it down! Burn it down!”

It started as a chant of one.

“We want a burnout!”

Then two.

“Burn it down! Burn it down!”

Before long, a solid chorus among the thousands of fans crowded into North Wilkesboro Speedway’s frontstretch grandstands were egging on the winner of the track’s first NASCAR national series points race in 27 years.

Minutes earlier, Kyle Larson beat Carson Hocevar on Saturday (May 20) to win the Tyson 250, the first NASCAR race at the .625-mile track since Jeff Gordon won the most recent Cup event on Sept. 29, 1996.

After nearly three decades, Wilkes County was hungry.

Larson fed them.

Climbing back into his No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet, Larson fired it up and gunned it toward turn 4.

According to two NASCAR media members present in the 1990s, it was likely the first NASCAR burnout ever performed at the track that first opened in 1947.

Later, Larson was somewhat sheepish about the quality of it, which paled in comparison to his full-track burnout after winning the Cup race at Martinsville Speedway earlier this year.

“Well, I just… I gave them something,” Larson said in the track’s media center. “I just didn’t want to tear up their truck, I didn’t know how much tread was left on the tires. I didn’t want to tear anything up. I don’t know when their next race is. I don’t know how the rules work with the engines and if they have to run that again.

“I was more having respect for the equipment that I was in. Because I mean, in the Cup Series you can blow your shit apart.”

The assembled media members erupted in laughter.

“Sorry if you guys were all disappointed,” Larson added.

The fans were an inescapable part of the race and Larson’s win.

The refurbished track’s seating for the weekend – permanent and temporary – was near capacity.

“I mean under yellows … you glance at the crowd every weekend, but I was looking around and stuff and there’s like fans flipping me off like halfway through the race and like I haven’t even done anything yet,” Larson said. “Then you got other fans that are like cheering you on and all that. So it’s really cool.”

The 2021 Cup champion then invoked the quarter-mile bullring located about 45 minutes to the east in Winston-Salem that’s nicknamed “The Madhouse.”

“I’m not comparing this to Bowman-Gray (Stadium), but like Bowman-Gray, you have crazy fans like that,” Larson said. “I think when they’re so close to the track, you feel it. I mean, I’m cruising around after the checkered and I can hear them over the engine. They were into it and I think they’re ready to go to see some Cup cars race.”

As any driver would have told you just two years ago, the California native who grew up dirt racing never expected a North Wilkesboro race, let alone a win, would have been in the cards for him.

Being the first NASCAR winner here in 27 years is “extremely special” for Larson.

“I didn’t ever think that I would step foot on this facility to even have the need to look at it,” Larson said. “I didn’t grow up pavement racing, so I wouldn’t watch races when I was 4 years old.

“So, I didn’t know how victory lane worked.”

See also
Kyle Larson Dominates, Wins North Wilkesboro Truck Race

Once his on-track celebration was complete, the Hendrick Motorsports driver took the short trek behind the pit wall.

There, his No. 7 Chevrolet was placed on a red elevator. It then rose 12 feet to the top of the media center’s roof, where the celebration continued.

“That’s honestly probably the coolest victory lane I’ve ever been in,” Larson remarked.

“All the legends basically raced here. So, to be on the winner’s list is special. Even though it’s in the Truck Series, it’s still really special.”

Follow @DanielMcFadin

2023 is Daniel McFadin’s 10th year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his third year writing his Dropping the Hammer column for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can be found at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and SpeedSport.com. 

The podcast version of “Dropping the Hammer” is presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

About the author

Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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