Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: North Wilkesboro Secrets; William Byron vs. Chase Elliott

Two things I never expected to intersect did so this week.

NASCAR and archaeology.

Now, this doesn’t involve dinosaur bones being found in a hole at a NASCAR track somewhere, though that would be cool.

But it does involve the bedrock of NASCAR’s origins in the wilds of North Carolina.

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A news flash came across the wires (email) Tuesday evening (March 26) courtesy of Speedway Motorsports, the owner of North Wilkesboro Speedway.

“Sinkhole Unearths Rumored Moonshine Cave.”

Usually, nothing good comes of any story that has “sinkhole” in the headline.

It usually involves life-threatening situations or priceless Corvettes being swallowed up.

Instead, we’re dealing with a secret moonshine cave.

And it only was discovered because of a maintenance inspection.

According to Speedway Motorsports, a grandstand cleaning and inspection operation last week resulted in the discovery of cracks in the original concrete in section N on the frontstretch grandstands of the short track.

When work crews began removing seats to inspect the severity of the damage and evaluate repair requirements, an open area of approximately 700 square feet was discovered underneath the aging concrete.

“When we began renovating and restoring North Wilkesboro Speedway in 2022, we’d often hear stories of how an old moonshine still was operated here on the property under the grandstands,” Steve Swift, senior vice president of operations and development at Speedway Motorsports, said in a press release. “Well, we haven’t found a still (yet), but we’ve found a small cave and an interior wall that would have been the perfect location to not only make illegal liquor, but to hide from the law as well.

“We don’t know how people would have gotten in and out, but as we uncover more, there’s no telling what we might find.”

Thankfully, this piece of Wilkesboro history wasn’t discovered by a horrible accident during a race weekend.

No one wants those headlines.

But one can’t help but imagine somebody brewing genuine North Carolina moonshine in that cave *during* an ancient NASCAR race weekend.

Swift said North Wilkesboro faces a “race before the race” when it comes to the run up to the All-Star Weekend of May 17-19.

Something needs to be done about the gaping hole in the grandstands before they’re swarmed by fans.

“The area that’s been affected by the sinkhole is a frontstretch grandstand area with some of the best views of the track,” Swift said. “We’ll have a lot of work to get done before NASCAR All-Star Race week.”  

So what do you do with the cave?

Take some pictures and fill it up?

Can we at least rename that area of grandstands the “Moonshine Cave” section?

Chase Elliott vs. William Byron

Whose going to be the first to reach 20 NASCAR Cup Series wins?

After Sunday’s (March 24) very dull race at Circuit of the Americas, that was really the biggest question mark I had.

Because with a dominating win on Sunday, William Byron earned his 12th career Cup series win in his 222nd career start.

(Let’s pause for a moment to note that it’s wild 26-year-old Byron is already in his seventh full-time Cup season. Where does the time go?)

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Why is win No. 12 noteworthy for Byron?

Because he’s now just six wins behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott.

In case you didn’t know, NASCAR’s most popular driver is in a bit of a slump.

His 18th and most recent NASCAR Cup win came way back on Oct. 2, 2022, at Talladega Superspeedway.

For Elliott, that’s a drought of 40 career starts.

That’s because Elliott missed seven races last year due to injury and a suspension.

Since that day at Talladega, the 2020 Cup champion has only seven top-five finishes.

Meanwhile, Byron has eight wins over the last two seasons, including twice in the first six races of 2024. Elliott has one top-10 finish through six races this year.

Now, Elliott could put a cork in this question by going out and winning Richmond Raceway this weekend.

However, No. 9 car has only led 18 laps this season — in the Daytona 500 and the tire-wear fest at Bristol Motor Speedway. Elliott’s also only led one lap at Richmond in his three starts there in the Next Gen era. On the flip side, Byron has led over 100 laps in the each of the past two spring races at the Virginia track.

So place your bets.

Who gets to 20 wins first?

Byron or Elliott?

This is Daniel McFadin’s 11th season covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his fourth year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021.

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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John

Byron will get there first, but that ridiculous big hat needs to be shredded.

DoninAjax

Maybe he will shred it after he wins a title… At least get another one.

DoninAjax

Seems like North Wilksboro is “still” creating problems for the renovation.

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