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Everything You Need to Know about North Wilkesboro’s Repave

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Joshua Lipowski

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North Wilkesboro Speedway has completed its first repave in more than four decades, and our very own John Rizzo was on sight to learn everything there is to know about the new repave. Steve Swift of SMI was available to the media, so, what did he have to say about the repave?

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The Philosophy Behind the Repave

Swift was very clear that this was a repave, not a reconfiguration. The banking and the track length are all the same as they were on the old surface. As far as what went wrong with the old track, Swift mentioned how the patchwork actually proved to be a detriment to the racing product despite the general trend that old surfaces produce better racing.

The old track was a unique creature. The patch materials we had to use kind of changed the racing for the All-Star Race because of where we had to patch it and the product we had to use created such grip, that [the drivers] could not get off that area.

Steve Swift

With this being a straight repave instead of a reconfiguration, the hope is that the track will race similarly to how it used to before the patchwork was done. Before the patchwork was done, the groove was generally wide enough at North Wilkesboro to allow drivers to race side-by-side or even three-wide through the corners.

It’s going to be pretty exciting to see if it goes back to prior the patch, not necessarily the surface like it was [in 2023], but [before] the patch materials where they were chasing 2-wide 3-wide coming through there. We feel like that’s the case that it should be back to that because the track now has the same grip all the way across.

Steve Swift

While Swift is optimistic about this type of racing on the new surface at North Wilkesboro Speedway, Swift stopped short of outright guaranteeing it from day one. To him, it is up to Goodyear and the drivers to see if this type of racing actually happens. Swift also complimented Goodyear on the job they have done to improve the racing through better tires saying that did a “Great job”.

I hope it’s two-wide, bumping, pushing out of the way. I mean, that’s what we all can keep our fingers crossed for…The track is definitely built for that…It’s really in Goodyear and the driver’s hands to create that scenario outside of what the track does.

Steve Swift

Swift also mentioned that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the one driver who was consulted for this repave, and that “With Dale’s input, we were pretty well covered.” Swift also said that it was a “Known fact” heading into 2023 that the surface would have to be repaved at some point either after the All-Star Race or after the Modified race in October. According to Swift, the repave was scheduled to be done by the end of the day on Tuesday.

However, repaves are not always popular. How are SMI and North Wilkesboro Speedway working to make this repave different?

What Makes This Repave Different From Others?

With a brand-new racing surface, often it takes years for the surface to wear out to create the racing fans love to see. Swift said that it used to be about 5 to 6 years before a track could wear out.

However, they took some of the lessons learned at the recent reconfiguration of Atlanta Motor Speedway. Swift mentioned how they changed asphalt “Mix designs” to help the asphalt wear out quicker than it was before.

We were able to achieve at Atlanta 10% falloff in one year, and that was just by changing the actual mix design of the racing surface.

Steve Swift

Denny Hamlin was one of the most vocal proponents of repaving North Wilkesboro, and he cited the same issues that Swift did earlier with the patchwork creating one racing groove. However, Hamlin also mentioned Atlanta as an example of how not to repave a race track to keep the “character” of the track following the All-Star Race on Actions Detrimental.

[Marcus Smith] even said that if they do repave [North Wilkesboro] it’s going to instantly have character. Listen, don’t make it character like Atlanta where all you did is dig up pavement and repave it with the same old bumps. The bumps isn’t what fixes it. You gotta fix the actual asphalt.

Denny Hamlin

Now, this was before the summer race at Atlanta, which produced one of the best-received races of the year. However, it is worth noting that this philosophy has its’ naysayers.

What Does the Future Hold for North Wilkesboro Speedway?

The future of North Wilkesboro Speedway is an optimistic one. Many have been calling for a Cup Series points race to be added to the track’s schedule at some point in the future. Swift mentioned a lot still needs to happen for a points race to become a reality, but, he is optimistic that it can happen in the future.

Naturally, that’s more decisions than just us waving the green flag and hoping that it goes. Marcus [Smith] has to talk with NASCAR, and it has to go through that whole side. But, I feel like there is definitely a place for North Wilkesboro for a points race in the future.

Steve Swift

The repave of North Wilkesboro Speedway is set to be an interesting story to watch as time goes on. The revival of the track has been a welcome sight to many, and this repave could help keep it in the NASCAR ecosystem for years to come.

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Joshua Lipowski

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