NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — North Wilkesboro Speedway is closer than ever to holding another NASCAR race.
With the huge renovation project underway and ahead of schedule, FOX8 took a look at what it is taking to make the Speedway ready to host the All-Star race in May.
NASCAR fans are eagerly anticipating the return of racing to North Wilkesboro Speedway, which hasn’t held a NASCAR race since 1996.
The historic speedway, which first opened in 1947, has been undergoing renovations for the past few months since it was announced in September that the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race would be held at the track.
Renovations are ongoing at the track and officials with Speedway Motorsports say they are a little ahead of schedule to this point. Most of the renovations are focused on preserving and keeping the old-school look while adding all the modern amenities.
“There’s the right way, the wrong way, and then there’s the speedway; So we’re always in that Speedway gear”, said Steve Swift, the SVP of Operations for Speedway Motorsports, “So I think when the fans get here, they’re gonna get a throwback. True to what NASCAR used to be and what the facility used to be.”
Everywhere you look around this historic track there is some type of activity.
The updates to make this track race ready include a long list of items from safety to comfort to aesthetics.
A new retaining wall had to be built all the way around the track. The SAFER barrier is being installed on that.
Fence posts are installed along the front stretch and are ready to be installed all the way around to support the new retaining fence.
A new state-of-the-art lighting system by MUSCO is being installed this week.
The original suites along the front stretch are being repaired and restored with modern amenities but left with a classic look.
A fresh coat of red paint is starting to cover most of the old steel framework along the front stretch.
An all-new structure is being built to replace the old Lowe’s suites in turn four. The old building had a fire years ago and none of it could be saved.
In the infield, the old-school media center with its rooftop victory lane looks largely untouched so far but will be refurbished with the same idea of keeping its classic look but allowing for modern-day work.
Victory celebrations will all be on the rooftop victory lane with the winning cars being lifted to the roof on the traditional car lift used for many years at North Wilkesboro.
A few other small buildings in the infield are being refurbished while the rest of the infield was giving new drainage, and is being leveled and paved to maximize the amount of space in the infield for all of the trucks, trailers and equipment that come with a NASCAR event.
Under the track, before all of the pavement went down is a maze of fiber optic and communications cabling to facilitate the kind of work that is done across the internet in the modern world.
What will remain old is the racing surface. The existing pavement was done in 1981 and when the track held the modified and late-model racing events last fall, the plan was to tear up and repave the track after a short stint of dirt racing. But the track surface provided such great racing action that drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr and others asked NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports to forgo any plans to repave the track and to host the All-Star race on the old pavement.
There is still a lot of work to get done between now and may, but Speedway Motorsports officials really like where they are and are confident the all-star weekend will be perfect.
A very limited number of tickets remain available, but sales remain on pace for a complete sellout which will mean 30,000 fans attending the All-Star Race.
Baseball has Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, basketball has Madison Square Garden Football has Soldier Field, and NASCAR will now have North Wilkesboro as a historic venue.
Having the All-Star race back here at North Wilkesboro has the full support of NASCAR drivers and the Wilkes County community, which is a big reason why this weekend is happening in North Wilkesboro.