The cries have been vigorous, and happening for years…bring back North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Since the final NASCAR Cup Series event run at the North Carolina race track in the mid-90’s, the facility has sat dormant with weeds and disrepair outweighing the sounds of racecars powering off of turn four.
That was, until the beginning of August when former Cup Series driver Ryan Newman captured the first event win as part of North Wilkesboro’s “Racetrack Revival” program, initiated earlier this year.
That’s when the racing world was set on its ear as their dreams started to become reality. The historic track was going to see race cars again, and to say the fans have been supportive would be an understatement.
That was never more apparent than the CARS Tour event on Wednesday night. The track was a complete sell out, and brought several big names to say “I was there.”
Probably the biggest cheerleader for the track coming back alive was NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has been working to keep its history alive and even helped iRacing with the track scan for their video game platform.
However, he took it one step further and entered the CARS event and came in with a third-place finish. Better yet, one of Earnhardt’s young JR Motorsports drivers, Carson Kvapil, took home a stunning victory.
Even though he loves to race, the magnitude of the night was not lost on Earnhardt. Just being part of the race was amazing.
“When I was standing here, before the race started, getting ready to get in the car, I almost wanted to cry,” Earnhardt said. “It was so emotional because every seat was filled. I still can’t believe this happened.”
Earnhardt was amazed at where North Wilkesboro was and where it is today. He’s also excited for what could be coming along on the horizon.
“This place was forgotten about,” he said. “Anyone on this planet was ready to argue with you, ‘they aren’t bringing that place back, they’re never coming back. There was a lot of people that believed in this but not enough. However, the right amount of switches got flipped and enough fortunate things happened and here we are.”
The atmosphere was electric on Wednesday night, and for Earnhardt, it brought him back to days gone by.
“Looking around and seeing everyone that was here, anticipating what was about to happen with this race, you could feel it,” he said. “The energy was so amazing and it felt exactly like being here in 1990. It felt just like a Cup race was about to pop off with Ricky Rudd and Dad, (Geoff) Bodine, Darrell (Waltrip) and all those guys.”
The races aren’t done. Now, plans are to pull up the existing asphalt race surface and run several different events on the dirt during the month of October. Then, hopefully for 2023, a new asphalt track will be laid down.
When history comes alive, it’s pretty awesome, don’t you think?
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Congrats to all who made this happen!