NASCAR’s All-Star Race coming to North Wilkesboro Speedway in 2023

The 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race will take place on May 21. It’s part of NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - With the announcement today that NASCAR’s All-Star Race would be run at the North Wilkesboro Speedway, it means the revival of the iconic track has now come full circle, or better yet, full .625 mile oval.

The track’s web page boasts “Wilkesboro had good times, but the best days are ahead.” That was confirmed on Thursday with an announcement by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Marcus Smith and other officials from Speedway Motorsports, the owners of North Wilkesboro Speedway, at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.

The 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race will take place on May 21. It’s part of NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season.

“Motorsports are critical to North Carolina’s history, culture and economy, and our investments have helped to get the engines running again in places that needed revival,” Cooper said in a statement. “North Wilkesboro Speedway is back and better than ever, and the All-Star Race will take it to new heights.”

North Wilkesboro opened as a dirt track in 1947 and hosted its first NASCAR race in October, 1949. The track was a regular part of the NASCAR schedule through the running of the Holly Farms 400 in 1996.

That same year there was a change in ownership as the track was sold to New Hampshire Speedway owner Bob Bahre and Bruton Smith. The track’s spring race date was given to Texas Motor Speedway and the fall race went to New Hampshire, and North Wilkesboro was closed.

Over the years there were attempts to bring racing back to the track, and the community mounted several efforts to garner support to bring the track back to life.

Hopes were raised in 2021 when the state’s proposed budget contained millions for infrastructure and other improvements at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Rockingham Speedway, and $18 million for the North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The pandemic relief fund included $13 million for a similar project for Charlotte Motor Speedway and $9 million for infrastructure needs for Rockingham Speedway.

That money was designated for things like asphalt repair, fixing the grandstands and bathrooms. Volunteers worked to clean up the property, and a group called Save The Speedway has been heading up efforts to bring racing back to the historic track. Signs proclaiming WE WANT YOU BACK, along with the speedway logo, were seen all over Wilkes County.

Another significant step occurred when former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., scanned the track for use in an iRacing Series. That caused interest to peak, and Marcus Smith of Speedway Motorsports agreed to reopen the track for competition.

“And that’s really the very reason why we’re all here today,” Earnhardt said last week. “That little moment where we came out here and cleaned that track up is what kind of kickstarted this whole idea of having racing at North Wilkesboro. When Marcus comes here and sees everything going on tomorrow night that’s going to get his brain and his wheels turning even more about what this place can be in 2023 and beyond.”

Earnhardt, Jr., raced to a full house at the track last week in a late model stock car event.

NASCAR’s All-Star Race has been around since the first running at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord in 1985. The race was a regular feature of the Coca-Cola 600 weekend at CMS where it was run every year from 1987 through 2019. The All-Star Race was held at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2020, and Texas Motor Speedway in 2021 and 2022.

David Whisenant

David Whisenant

David is a bureau reporter covering Salisbury, Concord, and Kannapolis and "wherever they send me." He grew up watching WBTV and it was the only TV station he ever wanted to work for.