Race Weekend Central

Short Track Question: Will Wake County Be on the CARS Tour Schedule in 2024?

We are just a few days removed from the CARS Tour’s stop at Wake County Speedway last Saturday night (Aug. 26), which saw Carson Kvapil come home victorious for the fifth time this season. However, much of the buzz has been around the track itself, as it is not confirmed whether or not the track will be back on the series schedule for the Late Model Stocks or Pro Late Models in 2024.

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Wake County Speedway sits on the southern end of Raleigh, N.C., the capital city of the Tar Heel State. The track is part of the long history of racing in the state, being built back in 1962 as a dirt track before being paved 24 years later. Now known as “America’s Favorite Bullring,” the track is the most well-renowned quarter-mile facility in the Southeast along with Bowman Gray Stadium, although unlike Wake County, Bowman Gray is known for reasons other than racing.

As for Wake County, the track just went through a fresh repave to start the 2023 season and the results so far are similar to those at Tri-County Speedway, which just went through a repave of its own. However, despite its history, its place as a NASCAR Weekly Series Home Track and its fresh asphalt, there are talks that Wake County might not return to the CARS Tour schedule next season. 

The feelings around the Wake County situation go both ways. There are a couple things working against Wake County when it comes to its CARS Tour 2024 status, starting with its relationship with the series.

Wake County has always been on an every-other-year basis with the series, meaning based on this system, the track would not be back on the series schedule until 2025. Up until last Saturday night, the Late Model Stock division hadn’t visited the Raleigh bullring since 2021, which ended up being the last time either division was seen at the racetrack until the Pro Late Models visited in July of this year. 

The reason for that has to do with North Wilkesboro Speedway. In 2022, the midseason revival of North Wilkesboro meant that the famed track was added as a midweek race for the Late Model Stock division in the middle of the season. It was around that same time that the Pro Late Models stand alone event at Wake County was postponed due to rain.

The series jumped on the opportunity to move that postponed event from Wake County to North Wilkesboro, adding to the hype around the long-awaited return to racing in Wilkes County. Ultimately, that event was a success, but it came at the price of Wake County.

One other issue plaguing Wake County is car counts. While most fans love the racing that the quarter mile puts on, car owners don’t always share that same love and that was shown in the car counts at the track this season. When the Pro Late Models came to town in July, only 11 cars showed up to start the race, the series’ smallest car count of the season.

The story was the same when the Late Model Stocks visited last Saturday, as 21 cars showed up to race, another season low. Despite these low car counts, there were lots of cars that were torn up at the end of both races, which is not something car owners look forward to paying for. While this isn’t the track’s fault at all, the fact is car owners aren’t always the biggest fans of the style of racing seen on quarter-mile tracks. 

Looking ahead to next season, it is clear that Wilkesboro isn’t going anywhere, but that didn’t seem to matter for Wake County as it hosted both series on separate occasions this season. The problem is, it is not expected that the track gets back to back years with a date.

With Pulaski County Motorsports Park, who dropped their CARS Tour date this season to bring in SRX, and Orange County Speedway, who have been absent from the series for two years now, both rumored to be looking at dates for 2024, it could be tough for Wake County to find its way back to the schedule next season. 

On the other side, as a driver or a race fan, how could you not love Wake County? The track is one of very few quarter miles left in the southern part of the country and it would be a shame if we ever lost that aspect of the series. In a way, quarter miles are to late model racing what half miles are to NASCAR.

Half miles provide a chance for drivers and fans alike to enjoy some side-by-side, bump-and-run style, close-quarters racing, whereas the bigger tracks in the series are not always that way. The smaller tracks leave less room for error and leave more of the performance in the drivers hands rather than the cars.

As a race fan, it’s nice to see that once in a while, especially when you look at the CARS Tour schedule. With only two other tracks on the series schedule this season being under .4 miles, those being Hickory and Langley, having the .25-mile track on the schedule adds a bit of variety as well. 

All that being said, I do think Wake County is good for the series and good for the sport in general. With the track being repaved this year, it is clear the owners and track promoters are looking ahead to the future of the facility and keeping it up to date, rather than letting it fall apart like some other places have (looking at you Hickory).

The new asphalt provided some great side-by-side action in both races despite the lower car counts, and while some cars were used up after the race, in a way that’s what you want to see from a bullring. Get the elbows out, use the bumper, that’s what makes quarter-mile racing great, and earns you a name like “America’s Favorite Bullring.” 

The track itself is in a good location to draw in race fans, as central North Carolina is loaded with racing history. Being just on the outskirts of Raleigh helps too, as the population of the area continues to grow more and more, and hopefully continues to draw big crowds to the facility. 

In the end, only time will tell as to whether or not we will see the Wake County bullring back on the schedule in 2024. I personally hope to see it return, and after last Saturday’s race I think it will, but if not in 2024, we should see the track back for 2025. Hopefully Wake County is here to put on a show for years to come and can find a permanent home on the CARS Tour Schedule.

About the author

Chase began working with Frontstretch in the spring of 2023 as a news writer, while also helping fill in for other columns as needed. Chase is now the main writer and reporter for Frontstretch.com's CARS Tour coverage, a role which began late in 2023.  Aside from racing, some of Chase's other hobbies include time in the outdoors hunting and fishing, and keeping up with all things Philadelphia sports related.

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Matty

To the Author: Langley is a .5 mile track.
And .4 mile tracks like Dominion and So. National are the gold standards as far as Southeastern/ Mid Atlantic are concerned. Ace and So. Boston are two more.

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