Race Weekend Central

Short Track Weekly: A Look Back at North Wilkesboro’s Revival and Resurgence

Since the Racetrack Revival event back in 2022, North Wilkesboro Speedway has become a staple on the CARS Tour schedule, blossoming into one of Late Model Stock Car racing’s crown jewel events.

The build up this year was just like recent years. A large list of cars on the entry list, once again kicking up NASCAR All-Star week. There was a special buzz in the air surrounding the facility. 

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.

Intermittent rain throughout the night led to the cancellation of qualifying after just a few Pro Late Models had made time, eventually leading to the postponement of the entire event. A new date for the event is to be determined, presumably sometime later this summer.

With the Pro Late Model show scrapped Tuesday and eventually both series’ called off Wednesday, it has been an unfortunate week of wet weather for the CARS Tour. This marks the second series race this season that has had to be postponed due to rain.

However, the day wasn’t a total loss. A midday press conferences allowed us to catch up with the likes of Brenden “Butterbean” Queen, Carson Kvapil and others about how far short track racing’s come at North Wilkesboro in just a short amount of time. 

Anyone who was in attendance of the Racetrack Revival event back in 2022 knows there was a special aura to that time. The feeling inside the facility as the cars were set to roll was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced at a racetrack to this day.

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But even in that moment, there were question marks about the future of racing in North Wilkesboro. There were broken, decaying press boxes. Plenty of restoration still needed. In that moment, plans to rip up the surface and run dirt that October 2022 left many pessimistic about the future beyond that point.

Then came the 125-lap feature event. As Kvapil took the checkered flag that evening, many began to feel that there was hope after all. 

For Queen, the relationship he has with North Wilkesboro is special. He ran in the top five before a mechanical failure in the 2022 event driving for his family team, which gave him the confidence to run the series full time in 2023. Queen then won the 2023 event in dominant fashion, claiming a race he called “the biggest win of my career”. This week he’s preparing to make his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut at the track on Saturday, May 18.

“That was kind of the night that really put me to where I felt like I could come run in the Tour more regularly than running at my home track,” Queen said. “That night, I don’t think you could ever recreate the Revival race, the energy was just unbelievable.

“Like, I know we were packed last year, we’re going to be packed tonight, hopefully the weather doesn’t interfere with that. But I was walking from the autograph session to the grid at the Revival race, and it was like NASCAR in the 1990’s, you had that feel back of this place was sold out, standing room only and it was race fans everywhere you looked.

“I think that showed me right there how important this racetrack was, I never got to see it run because I was born in 1997, so to be able to come back and say I made laps on the old pavement was special and now it’s a crown jewel, and to say we’ve won this race as a crown jewel is cool, and I’ve got the moonshine still forever.”

JR Motorsports teammates Kvapil and Sammy Smith shared much of the same sentiment as Queen, both having been a part of the Revival as well as All-Star week in 2023. Kvapil picked up the win in 2022 en route to his first series championship, while Smith competed in the Super Late Model race both years prior to 2024. 

“When we ran that first race in 2022, I was honestly shocked that it even happened,” Kvapil said. “I thought it was going to be one of those deals where we were going to go do it, and then a month before the race it was going to be a no. So just to be able to do that race was a pretty bit deal to me, obviously with the amount of spotlight that was on that race, all the fans that showed up and all that, I kind of knew that it was going to stay.

“It has, and the past two years, all three really, it’s been about the biggest race of the year for the Late Model Stock series. I’d probably compare it pretty far up there with Martinsville, Martinsville has just been around for a long time. It’s a big one for sure, I know everyone has their eyes on it at the beginning of the season.”

Smith took part in the ASA National Tour portion of the event in 2023 and was set to make his return to the CARS Tour for the first time since 2021 this week. That will now be TBD for Smith as we await the news of a new date for the race. 

“I was able to run the Super Late Model the first two years as well,” Smith said. “It was such a cool event the first year, kind of seeing where it was and what it is now, a big difference. Last year, you see the slow improvements and now it’s just an awesome event. Hopefully our race puts on a good event, as well as the Truck and Cup race this weekend.”

Another driver who has a special relationship with the track that dates back even further than the Revival race in 2022 is Dylon Wilson. A North Wilkesboro native, Wilson ran the Tour full-time in 2023 as a rookie, but scaled back his operations in 2024 for the time being due to the birth of his first child, Wilkes. As one can tell by the name of his son, Wilson has a special love for the place he calls home – including the racetrack itself. 

“I think in 2022, I was very thankful and super excited about that race but I was nervous that they were going to tear it up and turn it into a dirt track and it never get paved again,” Wilson said. “I’ll be honest that’s what I thought was going to happen. I was scared of that, didn’t know about the state funds at that time that were coming in to help pave and all that good stuff.

“So at that time, very nervous about it but obviously excited … It’s different from Cup racing obviously, but just being able to have that staple here and having two dates here every year, this is a big track for late models, a little bit bigger than what we’re used to. So it feels like a Daytona 500 when we’re here and that’s okay, it’s good to come to this place and I’m glad that it’s kind of becoming like a staple of late model racing.

“I know we’re only two starts in so far, so it may be a little early to say. But we’ve put on two really good races, the facilities are awesome here, and if anyone tells you they’d rather be somewhere else they’re probably lying, or they’re not nowhere from here, or anywhere close to here, that’s for sure. So it’s pretty damn cool.”

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Without that night back in 2022, who knows what could be different in the grassroots world right now. Kvapil and Queen may not have earned the opportunities they’ve earned without the spotlight that was created at the Revival, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick may not have bought into the CARS Tour. North Wilkesboro could be a dirt track right now. 

Those are things that we’ll thankfully never know the answer to. All thanks to a magical night in Wilkes County, N.C. back on August 31, 2022. For now, we’ll have to curb the excitement and wait to make more CARS Tour memories at North Wilkesboro, but they’ll come soon enough.

North Wilkesboro is here to stay. It’s poised to be a feature on the CARS Tour schedule for many years to come. 

About the author

Chase_folsom_ROVAL_2022

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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