When it was announced last year that North Wilkesboro would be coming back to host late model races in the fall of 2022, this peaked the interest of a lot of NASCAR fans, especially fans from the days of old.
I went to what was at the time supposed to be the last ever race on the original asphalt for two reasons: 1.) I wanted to see my boy, Dale Earnhardt Jr. race, and 2.) I wanted to see the old track in its throwback original form before they tore it up to host a month of dirt races in October before a much needed repave.
But, after a very successful month of racing in August, which included a standing-room only event on August 31st (which saw NASCAR’s favorite son bring his No. 3 Sun Drop car home in third place), Speedway Motorsports Incorporated announced that they had scrapped the planned October dirt races as well as postponed any future repave.
Shortly after, it was announced that rather than returning to the infamous Texas Motor Speedway for the 75th year of NASCAR, North Wilkesboro would be the host of the 2023 season’s All-Star weekend. And who better than to come up with a format at the throwback track than 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who will be competing once again in the weekend’s CARS Tour race alongside co-owner of the series, Kevin Harvick)?
So, without further ado, here is the break-down for the May All-Star weekend:
Return of the Pit Crew Challenge
On Friday, May 19th, qualifying will be held at North Wilkesboro Speedway to kick off the All-Star weekend festivities. Only, it won’t be just boring two-lap single car qualifying runs, it will be the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge which will determine the starting lineup for the All-Star Heats, which are scheduled to take place on Saturday.
The starting lineup will be based on pit stop time only; a four-time pitstop, fuel not included. The winning pit crew will not only win a cool trophy and be dubbed the World Champion of Pit Crews but will also earn their driver the pole position for Heat Race 1 on Saturday.
Who’s In, Who’s Out?
With Dale Earnhardt Jr. being a pretty big traditionalist, he also brought back the old school qualifying techniques for the All-Star Race as this 75th Anniversary Throwback Event. The drivers that are locked in are winners of points-paying races from the 2022 and 2023 seasons who compete full-time. These drivers are:
- Christopher Bell
- Ryan Blaney
- Alex Bowman
- Chase Briscoe
- Chris Buescher
- Kyle Busch
- William Byron
- Ross Chastain
- Austin Cendric
- Austin Dillon
- Chase Elliott
- Denny Hamlin
- Kevin Harvick
- Eric Jones
- Kyle Larson
- Joey Logano
- Tyler Reddick
- Daniel Suarez
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Bubba Wallace
Other drivers who qualify are past champions of the sport and/or of the All-Star Race. The top two finishers of the All-Star Open plus the fan vote winner also get in. These drivers include:
- Brad Keselowski (2012 NASCAR Cup Series Champion)
- Martin Truex Jr. (2017 NASCAR Cup Series Champion)
- All-Star Open Race Winner
- All-Star Open Race Runner-Up
- Driver with the most fan votes who isn’t already locked into the main event
Heats and All-Star Open
The starting lineup for Saturday’s Heat races will be determined by pit crew performance in Friday’s All-Star Pit Crew Challenge. Like the Duels at Daytona, Heat #1 will determine the inside row starting positions while the second Heat will determine the outside starters for the Main Event on Sunday. The heats are 60 laps each, with teams starting the race on sticker tires and having only one extra set in their pit box.
The All-Star Open, which is schedule to take place on Sunday afternoon, will again have its starting lineup determined by the fast pitstop times during the Pit Crew Challenge on Friday night. The race will be 100-laps with a competition break on or around Lap 40. Teams will again start on sticker tires with one extra set of stickers in their pit box. The top-2 finishers will advance to the Main Event Sunday evening.
Also advancing from the Open to the coveted All-Star Race will be the fan vote winner.
The Main Event: The 2023 All-Star Race At North Wilkesboro Speedway
The Main Event on Sunday evening will consist of 200 laps. The starting lineup will, as stated above, be based on finishing order of the Heats on Saturday night. The teams will start the race on sticker tires and will be provided with three additional sets of stickers in their pit box. A competition break will be held at or around Lap-100.
Following the break, the teams can only change to sticker tires once. All laps of the 2023 All-Star Race, including caution laps, count and overtime rules will still be in effect. As per usual, the winner of the 2023 All-Star Race will become One Million Dollars richer and will be locked into all future All-Star races if NASCAR chooses to keep this format.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Marcus Smith, and NASCAR seem committed in giving fans the ultimate throwback experience with this year’s All-Star Race with a much more straight forward, traditional format. What do you think of this format? Like it? Love it? Hate it? If you choose that last one, you have every right in the world to be wrong. Let us, at the Daily Downforce know your thoughts! How excited are you for NASCAR’s return to the OG North Wilkesboro Speedway?