Details on NASCAR’s return to Wilkesboro

Spence Smithback

In early September, NASCAR announced the sport’s All-Star Race would take place at North Wilkesboro Speedway in May 2023, marking the first Cup Series event at the facility since 1996. This week, the track released more information on what fans can expect when they visit the Wilkes County facility next spring.

While the All-Star Race itself will take place Sunday, May 21, that event will cap off a full week of activity at the speedway. Racing will begin Tuesday and Wednesday nights with various late model tours taking to the track. 

Participating series will include the ARCA/CRA Super Series super late models, the CARS Late Model Stock Tour and the CARS Pro Late Model Tour. The latter was scheduled to compete at the track’s initial revival in August, but the event was canceled due to a lack of tire availability caused by supply chain issues.

After a hauler parade Thursday, Friday’s action will include practice and qualifying for both the Cup Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, followed by the Truck Series race Saturday. Both Friday and Saturday night will feature a concert free to all ticket holders, headlined by artists yet to be announced.

Sunday’s All-Star Race will be made up of drivers who have won a Cup Series race since the start of the 2022 season, have won a previous All-Star Race, or have won a Cup Series championship in the past. The All-Star Open on Sunday afternoon will consist exclusively of drivers who are not yet eligible to compete in the All-Star Race, with the winner of the Open gaining a spot in the main race later in the day. Finally, a fan vote will be open next spring, with the most popular driver not yet qualified gaining a spot in the All-Star Race.

North Wilkesboro Speedway is already hard at work upgrading the facility in advance of the race. Roughly 5,000 temporary seats will be brought in for the event, bringing the seating capacity to around 25,000 on race day. 

Fans can also expect to see renovated restroom and concession buildings, hospitality areas in the infield and a new human-operated scoreboard, similar to those found at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Many of these upgrades will be funded by $18 million worth of funds from the American Rescue Plan allocated to the track by the North Carolina State Government.

One major issue surrounding the grassroots events in August was the traffic congestion surrounding the speedway, with many fans missing the race entirely due to the problems. The track has acknowledged those issues and has announced changes to limit congestion next spring. 

In May, fans can expect to park off-site in lots across Wilkes County, with shuttle buses providing transportation to and from the speedway. 

Due to the large amount of anticipation surrounding the event, tickets will undoubtedly be a hot commodity. Those wishing to attend the All-Star Race will need to purchase a weekend pass, valid Friday through Sunday, starting at $299. No single-day Sunday tickets are expected to be sold. Fans wanting to attend the late model events during the week can also purchase tickets to those races for $25 per day. 

Following early ticket sales opportunities for Speedway Children’s Charities donors, North Wilkesboro Speedway email list members, and randomly selected Wilkes County residents, ticket sales will open to the general public Nov. 2 at noon.

Those unable to secure tickets to the festivities in May will have another chance to see racing at North Wilkesboro in 2023 when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour pays the track a visit Sept. 30. More details and ticket information for that event will be released in the coming months. 

When announcing the updates, Speedway Motorsports President Marcus Smith was optimistic on the impact that the race could have not just on NASCAR, but on western North Carolina as a whole.

“It’s all about celebrating the Wilkes community,” Smith said. “There are a lot of people who haven’t been to a small town. If you go to Wilkes County and you want to see some culture, some history, you can go down and enjoy some small town life for a little bit in a really fun way.”