The revival of racing in Wilkes County this past weekend at the famed North Wilkesboro Speedway was a continuation of the throwback theme from the week prior at Darlington Raceway.
You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who wasn’t excited to see the house that Staley built (Enoch, not Layne) and Dale Earnhardt (Junior, not Senior) resuscitated along with Marcus Smith and Terri Parsons.
With all of the anticipation and excitement of the event, the actual racing product may have left a little bit to be desired for an All-Star event. Given the continued struggles of the Next Gen car on short tracks and the intermediate package being quite good now, should the All-Star Race stay put at North Wilkesboro for the foreseeable future?
This week, Frontstretch‘s Wyatt Watson and Joy Tomlinson take a deeper dive in 2-Headed Monster.
The All-Star Race Should Return to Its Rightful Location
The revival of North Wilkesboro Speedway was absolutely amazing, but it should not be the top choice for the All-Star Race.
After 27 years of living in the shadows of the North Carolina hills, Speedway Motorsports and NASCAR did what so many fans, young and old, have been begging them to do: return to the 5/8-mile short track. And what better way to do it than by taking the All-Star Race away from one of the tracks that killed North Wilkesboro in the first place, Texas Motor Speedway?
Even though the racing product this year wasn’t the best, having the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro gave an “everything comes full circle” feeling to the situation.
The symbolic and ironic move of the All-Star Race was a great play by both Speedway Motorsports and NASCAR. But with how the cars ran at North Wilkesboro last weekend, coupled with the ongoing uncertainty when it comes to the short track package, NASCAR should return to its roots in another way.
It should return the All-Star Race back to Charlotte Motor Speedway while making North Wilkesboro a traditional points race.
It’s obvious that in year two of the Next Gen platform, the car is not producing the once exhilarating and intense bumping-and-banging action that every iteration of stock car before was producing. Why take the All-Star Race to a short track when you can go to the home base and put on two exciting, spectacular shows in a row?
After the Coca-Cola 600 last year — and pondering how fun the All-Star Race can get with its formatting — I absolutely believe that bringing the All-Star Race back to Charlotte is the best move possible going forward.
I sat in the grandstands during last year’s Coke 600, and from firsthand experience, I can almost guarantee that the fans will see a literal mad dash for cash unlike the butt-kicking that was last weekend at North Wilkesboro. Until NASCAR makes significant changes to its short-track package, there’s no other place that would be better to host the All-Star Race than the track that has done it the majority of the 39-year history of the event.
Giving North Wilkesboro some credit, even with the package that the cars have today, North Wilkesboro would be my second pick due to the historic relevance of the track. Honestly, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if it did indeed keep the All-Star Race anyway.
There was a good glimmer of hope in the All-Star Open, when Ty Gibbs and Michael McDowell raced hard with each other for the transfer spot, which ended in McDowell with a wrecked car. It was exciting to see the ensuing feud that took place between the two drivers, which almost cost Gibbs a spot in the All-Star Race.
However, the intermediate package at Charlotte is too good to pass up right now.
My third pick if the All-Star Race wasn’t at North Wilkesboro next year would be the infamous Bowman Gray Stadium. The entry list already supports having 20-some-odd drivers duke it out on the stadium track, and it would also be a return to an old track that used to be on the Cup Series schedule.
Plus, it would still be considered close enough to the Charlotte area to consider it an off week for the Cup Series teams. Additionally, it would take less time for the leader to have to meticulously navigate through lapped traffic at the venue, and if tempers flare, get ready to potentially see some fists fly over some hurt feelings.
Until the short track package sees major, evolutionary changes, preferably involving a rise in horsepower and tire wear, the product on these amazing short tracks has continued to suffer. The need to go to an exciting venue that is home to 95% of the industry, as Charlotte is, will only continue to rise. – Wyatt Watson
Keep It in One Place for Awhile
Keep the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro.
This past weekend, we saw a nearly sellout crowd at a track that returned to the circuit for the first time in 27 years. The fans packed the stands not just for the All-Star Race, but for the Craftsman Truck Series event as well. While they may not have been treated to a stellar All-Star Race, they were likely able to take part in all of the festivities throughout the weekend.
North Wilkesboro is iconic and an important part of NASCAR’s history, and a return to NASCAR’s roots might just be what is needed to get people interested in the ASR once again.
One cool thing about this weekend was that it happened right after Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway, and some cars celebrated with throwbacks at North Wilkesboro as well. If this race can stay either right before or right after Darlington, they could make it a two-week celebration.
Plus, the location is ideal for many Cup teams; it’s close to their headquarters, so they wouldn’t have to drive far compared to where the All-Star Race was before the last few years (Texas Motor Speedway in 2021-2022, Bristol Motor Speedway in 2020).
Speaking of which, the event needs to stay at one location for a while. While I enjoyed the different tracks and formats the last few years, some of it got confusing and not as enjoyable. This weekend, there was a format that was easy to understand, and the racing product was apparently not that great. That’s not a knock on the track itself, as the short tracks have been pretty much ho-hum the last couple of years with the Next Gen car.
I personally don’t think it was due to a lack of passing, as Kyle Larson worked his way through the field to get to the lead. His car was just that good (as it has been much of the first half of the season).
But NASCAR and Goodyear are working on making the short track package better. NASCAR already introduced a different package for much of the smaller racetracks, so it cares about improving the product. Also, Goodyear is bringing a softer tire for the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to see how it will work with the Next Gen cars.
Let’s wait and see if the racing improves before we completely write off North Wilkesboro. – Joy Tomlinson
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Keep it at Wilkes for a while!
No way should there be another race car on that old worn out pavement. Short track racing requires maneuverability and control. Not slipping and sliding on ice. I wouldn’t spend my money.
Maneuverability and control, you mean like Larson had !!
Next take it to Rockingham, great mid size track with good racing
The “All-Star” event is a joke no matter where they decide to have it and has been for years.They change the venue and the rules each time and they fail to improve the product.
No it was boring the track is to small put in high banks then it will be exciting like old brystal
Gov. Cooper gives 40 million dollars to North Wilksboro, Rockingham and Charlotte Motor Speedway. That’s 31 million into Marcus Smith’s pocket and the remaining 9 milion goes to owner(s) of Rockingham.
The Great American Rescue Plan. Who exactly does this rescue?
I feel like Marcus Smith and Dale Jr. have scammed the taxpayers and NASCAR fans. Of course, Dale Jr. has distanced himself from any matters involving the money invested and the money spent. Jr. plays dumb and says Marcus Smith knows those details. Right.
Fix the cars first. Then you might see a great race for the lead. The track surface was a disaster so if the owner wants to put some money into it, then sure. If it’s between Charlotte and North Wilkesboro, then it’s got to go to Charlotte. I just hate the better teams get a fantastic practice session for the 600. It just makes the best teams even better.