What Is North Wilkesboro Speedway?
Throughout the history of NASCAR, there have been many famous and legendary racecourses carved into the very fabric of the sport. Titan tracks such as Daytona, Talladega, or Watkins Glen may easily come to mind, but there are some other classic racetracks that have been relegated to a footnote in history. Among those almost lost to time is the North Wilkesboro Speedway. Read on to learn all about the North Wilkesboro Speedway and its rich history in NASCAR.
- Location: Wilkes County, North Carolina
- First Race: multi-heat/modified race in 1947, first NASCAR race in 1949
- Distance: 0.625 miles
- Notable Races: Cup Series (prior to 1996), NASCAR All-Star Series
What Is North Wilkesboro Speedway?
North Wilkesboro Speedway is a short-length auto racing track located in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. The track is a mere 0.625 miles in length, which is very short compared to other NASCAR tracks. It was originally used in the mid-1940s as a stock car dirt racing track.
North Wilkesboro Speedway History
The history of North Wilkesboro speedway predates the formation of NASCAR. In fact, some of the earliest stars of the track were actually bootleggers and rum runners from surrounding counties. The area where the track is found, Wilkes County, North Carolina, has a long-running tradition of bootlegging and transporting moonshine illegally. Because of the high number of rum runners in the region, the interest in motorsports and achieving greater speeds lead to a need for the development of a racecourse specifically for automobiles. The track was constructed in 1946 to satisfy this demand.
A year after the formation of NASCAR in 1948, the North Wilkesboro track was incorporated into the NASCAR circuit. The track retained a spot in the Cup Series lineup for almost 50 years until 1996. North Wilkesboro Speedway, in its NASCAR days, was known for its much slower pace and greater amount of contact between vehicles in comparison to tracks such as Daytona International Speedway.
Because North Wilkesboro Speedway originally started as a dirt loop and has such a short overall length, the common speed around the track was set around 140 mph, much lower than the average NASCAR race. After the track left the NASCAR schedule in 1996, it only reopened once in 2010 for a small series of races and then immediately closed.
What Happened to North Wilkesboro Speedway?
North Wilkesboro Speedway fell victim to a phenomenon known as realignment in 1996 and was closed shortly after. In the early 1990s, NASCAR began constructing large speedways in new regions, with one of the most famous being the Texas Motor Speedway, leading to smaller, less profitable tracks (such as the North Wilkesboro Speedway) being dropped from the lineup of racetracks used by the Cup Series. The track went virtually unused following its final season in 1996, with an exception being a series of small heats held in 2010. Beyond those races, the track has been left unused and barely maintained.
Is the Track Coming Back?
After much pressure from fans and track supporters, the North Wilkesboro Speedway will be holding the NASCAR All-Star Race in 2023. The track is currently being restored with support from North Carolina legislators, and by legendary NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr. As NASCAR approaches the 75th anniversary of its formation, the track has been receiving more attention, and a growing number of NASCAR fans are eager to see this once legendary track returned to its former glory. As of 2023, the track has been deemed suitable for supporting motorsport events.
Where is North Wilkesboro Speedway?
North Wilkesboro Speedway is located in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. The track is found in Wilkes County, an area with a history of rum running and moonshine distillation. The pedigree of the bootleggers contributed to the popularity of the dirt track racing scene in the region and was a large factor in the initial formation of the speedway.