North Wilkesboro: All-Star or All-Hype?
NASCAR made their return to North Wilkesboro speedway for the All-Star race this past weekend after a 27-year hiatus from the track. The nostalgia of returning to a classic NASCAR track made for a very interesting weekend. With the way that the race was promoted and how a lot of current and former drivers talked about the racing at this track, there was a lot of expectations for the on-track action. So, did it live up to the hype?
The weekend was hit and miss. Firstly, the turn out for the race was amazing! I couldn’t believe how many people showed up to that race. When having a race at a place like North Wilkesboro you have to heavily rely on the local population to buy a majority of your tickets and when I say local, I mean within an hour of the track. Now, this is the case for probably most of the NASCAR races, but this is the All-Star race. An event that should rival a race turnout like Talladega or the Coke 600. These are events that people will come from all over the country to see. This was not a problem though. The stands were completely packed for both races which was a very pleasant surprise.
My first complaint is that they only ran the trucks and the Cup Series cars. I saw Bob Pockrass, who every NASCAR fan should follow on social media by the way, had tweeted somebody about the reason was purely logistics based on space for the haulers. That was very disappointing to hear. The Xfinity cars would have had a great race based on what I saw the entire weekend. They probably would have put on the best race the entire weekend honestly.
The truck race was very good. The race had drama, excitement, and good racing throughout the field. There were even a few collisions for the wreck fans out there. Quite a few Cup Series drivers drove in the race for some seat time on the track. Kyle Larson won the race filling in for the injured Alex Bowman who was scheduled to drive the #7 Chevrolet. This race was an absolute win.
The Cup Series race was very lack luster. NASCAR did a great job hyping up the return to North Wilkesboro and the racing that happens at the track, but they hyped it up too much. With the worn-out surface there was only one real racing line. On every restart any driver that started on the outside was guaranteed to go back at least 3 spots. With only one line, passing was ridiculously hard. Drivers had to either wait multiple laps for the car in front to make a mistake or just bump them out of the way because there was not going to be any going around the outside.
The tire fall off was abysmal. If you didn’t make spots in the first 7-10 laps, you might as well gotten comfortable where you were. Thinking back on it, I don’t think anybody ever really made up any spots, but drivers more fell off spots if that makes sense. Kyle Larson dominated on his way to the race win and his team did a phenomenal job with his car. He was the only driver that was able to drive through the field and have any sort of speed anywhere but the bottom groove. North Wilkesboro fits perfectly to his driving style and he was able to show how talented and skilled he really is.
Now, from the racing we were seeing before the tires fell completely off, I do think that North Wilkesboro should make a comeback to the regular schedule. NASCAR needs more short tracks and with a few tweaks, they could bring this track back to its former glory.
The surface needs redone first off. I know a lot of people will say that’s one thing that gives the track something different, but its trash. If you only have one racing line you have to figure out a way to make more lines for closer racing. Even Darrell Waltrip said on his commentary that North Wilkesboro was notorious for single file racing.
NASCAR also still needs to fix the short track package. Drivers were sliding around this weekend losing grip, but that was just tire fall off because drivers weren’t super loose until 8 laps in or so. Dale Jr. said on his podcast a while ago that he believes a main problem is the shifting at short tracks and I can see his point. If these drivers are starting to get out of shape, they just shift a gear and drive right off.
I think that the cars need more horsepower, and that somewhat correlates with what Dale Jr. said. NASCAR keeps messing with the downforce of the cars at short tracks but only lets that run 670hp. The horsepower is so low in these cars that drivers don’t have enough power to make a pass or run anybody down. It forces drivers to dive bomb and slam into each other rather than put on a good race. I say put 850hp in the cars and design a 4-speed transmission specifically for short tracks.
NASCAR did also bring all of the living drivers part of the 75 Greatest Drivers to the track which was very cool. They even had different guests on commentary for each stage of the race. They did do a great job tying in the past to the present to the future at this event.
The weekend was lot of hype. It did give us great nostalgia and a good truck race. However, the main event was lack-luster and didn’t live up to an All-Star type of event. NASCAR did prove that North Wilkesboro is capable of being on the schedule again. If they fix the track and tweak the short track package to make the race more competitive, it could be one of the most entertaining races of the season. North Wilkesboro shouldn’t be hosting an All-Star type of event though anytime in the near future until those things are fixed.