NASCAR Cup Series conducts tire test at North Wilkesboro Speedway


Courtesy of HHP Photography

Three cars drive the North Wilkesboro Speedway as construction takes place outside the track.

Chance Chamberlain, Associate Sports Editor

As construction continued in the grandstands, NASCAR roared back to the High Country Tuesday for a Goodyear tire test for the NASCAR All-Star Weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway. 

NASCAR Cup Series drivers Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick laid down rubber on the 75-year-old track. The three drivers drove with different tire compounds to test tire wear and grip around the 0.625-mile track. 

“We got to make several hundred laps in our race car, went through different tire options and learned a lot,” Buescher said. “It’s a track that’s rough around the edges. It’s got a ton of character.”

The age of the surface showed in testing as drivers noted how different the track and surface felt.

“When you’re on the race track, the surface, the elevation, it feels really old-school,” Reddick said. “It’s very much different from a lot of the race tracks that we have on the circuit, and I really enjoyed it.”

The May 21 All-Star Race will be the first Cup Series race held at the speedway since 1996, sitting dormant for the past 27 years. 

“This place is old; it’s got character,” Reddick said. “The last time they had a Cup race here, I was only 9 months old.”

North Wilkesboro Speedway saw its first race Aug. 31 when the CARS Tour series raced in front of a sold-out crowd. Shortly after, NASCAR announced North Wilkesboro would host the 2023 All-Star Race.

“This place was dormant forever and now it’s alive, and you can feel the energy and the momentum that’s building,” Dillon said.

The All-Star Race week will consist of six days of racing starting May 16. Short track series such as the ASA Starts National series and CARS Late Model stocks will lead up to the All-Star Race. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will return to North Wilkesboro with a May 20 race. 

The weekend’s grand finale is the All-Star Race, including a Dierks Bentley pre-race concert. Drivers will compete for $1 million as 2022 Cup Series race winners, previous Cup Series Champions and All-Star Race winners will race under the lights. 

It’s going to have that feel they had in the 1990s here, when they were packed out and fans were getting to enjoy a race near home,” Dillon said. “It’s rough out there. It’s gritty. It’s North Wilkesboro.”

Drivers remained optimistic about possibly returning to North Wilkesboro again after the All-Star Race to become a future staple of the NASCAR schedule. 

“It’s great for this first All-Star attempt at it, and we’ll see what it brings,” Dillon said. “Who knows what’s after that.”