Marcus Smith, President of SMI who owns many of the NASCAR tracks throughout the country, has just announced that the original NASCAR track, North Wilkesboro Speedway, will officially be reopened for grassroots racing this August on pavement.
Starting in October, they will go back to the original dirt with plans to eventually repave it in the next several years.
The track first opened in 1947 as a dirt track in rural Wilkes county at the inception of the sport, and was later paved in 1958 and ran some of the biggest races in NASCAR up until the last Winston Cup Series race in 1996.
For years, different people and groups have attempted to purchase the track and the rights in order to bring racing back. But, unfortunately, it’s all fallen through and left the speedway in pretty bad shape sitting on the side of highway 421 that runs through the mountains of western North Carolina… until now.
Recently, a new conversation started about it potentially reopening for races when Dale Earnhardt Jr. headed to the track in 2020 with a clean up crew to film for iRacing. The town subsequently started a campaign called We Want You Back to bring more attention to the forgotten track, because residents there wanted it opened again more than anybody else.
Last May, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper approved $10 million in fundingto go towards efforts to fix up the track, which really moved the efforts forward in terms of actual, palpable momentum:
North Wilkesboro Speedway is BACK! 🚨
The track announces they'll be hosting grassroots racing on the current asphalt in August, then on dirt in October.
I imagine the rural setting is part of the reason he believes that, and there’s probably some truth to it. The speedway is out in the middle of nowhere on a small, two-lane backroad, but, they held massive races there for years and from what I’ve heard, it was an incredible experience.
Marcus says, for the near future and the races they’ll hold this year, the traffic situation will remain as is:
“Every big event has a traffic jam so I don’t anticipate we won’t be without one when we go back to North Wilkesboro.
We are interested in improving the egress, ingress. That’s part of the first phase, but for August, it will be as it is.”
Dale Jr. has already weighed on the news, saying how excited he is to get back there this fall. And to answer his question in the tweet below, we’re 100% tailgating our asses off come fall:
Awesome news about North Wilkesboro coming back to life. It’ll be great to catch some of the action there this fall. Do we tailgate the infield like old times? I can’t wait to discuss it on Tuesday with @MikeDavis88 and the @DirtyMoMedia family. #DJD#AskJr
You can check out the very robust website with a list of upcoming races here.
Though it’s going to take a lot of work, time and money to restore the track to its former glory (and for them to receive all of the federal funding they’ve been granted), it’s super exciting to see such an important and iconic venue for racing being brought back to life…