With the NASCAR Cup Series heading back to the historic North Wilkesboro speedway for the first time since what was SUPPOSED to be their final race back in 1996, NASCAR looked to one of Wilkesboro’s biggest champions to decide a groundbreaking race format for the 2023 All-Star weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
With that came a good dose of old school mixed with a little bit of new. Back was the All-Star pit crew challenge only this time it decided the starting order for the twin heat races on Saturday night as well as the All-Star Open on Sunday afternoon prior to the main event that evening. The inside row competitors starred in Heat Race #1 while the outside row raced for glory in Heat Race #2.
Following the truck race earlier in the day, showers rolled into the North Wilkesboro area, dampening the track. Sweating, nearing the scheduled start time of Heat #1, NASCAR decided to make history at this OG historic facility and hold the first ever NASCAR Cup Series race to start on an oval running wet-weather tires.
You Need To Know:
- The entirety of Heat Race #1 would be held on wet-weather tires. Daniel Suarez would start on the point but with the extra grip the grooved wet tires provided, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Chase Elliott, was able to rocket out in front. He would lead several laps but would ultimately fall back into the clutches of the Trackhouse No. 99 who would go on to win the race. This win will gain Suarez the pole for tomorrow night’s All-Star Race. Elliott would fade after a half-way mark non-competitive pitstop to finish in the 7th position, meaning he will roll off 13th tomorrow night. Joey Logano (starting 3rd tomorrow), Chase Briscoe (5th), Christopher Bell (7th), and Denny Hamlin (9th) rounded out the top-5.
- With the cars from Heat #1 largely drying the racing surface, NASCAR would run the drivers of Heat #2 around the track in a handful of exploratory laps to gage the track conditions. This would lead to the conclusion that the track was dry enough to start the race on slicks. As the green flag flew for Heat #2, RFK Racing driver, Chris Buescher, set sail in his No. 17 Ford and never really looked back. The topic then switched to just how much slower the Heat 2 drivers were on slicks compared to their Heat #1 counterparts on the wet-weather tires due to the massive tire falloff. Just before the halfway mark, a light shower would move in and NASCAR would throw a caution, mandating that the teams change to wet-weather tires in non-competitive pits stops. Once lined up for a restart based on where they ran at the time of caution, the added grip of the new tires seemed to breathe life into Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 and Kyle Busch’s No. 8. They would finish 4th and 7th respectively after hanging around the back for much of the first half. Chris Buescher went on to win Heat #2. The top-five finishers are as follows: Chris Buescher (will start 2nd in tomorrow night’s All-Star Race), Austin Dillion (4th), William Byron (6th), Brad Keselowski (8th), and Bubba Wallace (10th).
- By and large, the fans seem to really be enjoying this old school/new school approach to the All-Star Race at one of NASCAR’s most historic track. Many of them and drivers alike enjoyed the grip provided by the wet-weather tires on North Wilkesboro’s warn out racing surface.
I would say that the NASCAR Cup Series first test with wet-weather tires in full-on competition was a complete success! As predicted, not a lot went on in the heat races due to drivers playing it safe. Still, we got to see the groundbreaking use of these tires on an oval which is historic in itself. Seems fitting that it was at North Wilkesboro. Following the twin heat races, Bob Pockrass of FOX Sports tweeted the full starting lineup for tomorrow night’s All-Star Race.
The Main Characters
After fighting off a potential rival in Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez proved that the long run speed of his Trackhouse Racing No. 99 was the superior ride on wet-weather tires. He took the lead from Elliott with command and will start on the pole for tomorrow night’s All-Star Race!
Meanwhile, Heat #2 was uncontested for Chris Buescher. He led all of the laps and won the race, claiming the outside pole for tomorrow night.
Another huge story throughout the heat races was the extra grip the wet weather tires provided. And though the wear didn’t show as much in terms of speeds on the track, they were not impervious to wear and tear.
Around The Garage
Joey Logano stated in a post-race interview with NASCAR on FOX Reporter, Jamie Little, that he would be fine with just running the wet-weather tires tomorrow night instead of just the slicks.
As reported by Bob Pockrass, Denny Hamlin was also encouraged by the way the wet-weather tires handled on the abrasive North Wilkesboro surface.
In The Stands
Jason Fields said that the racing the rain tires produced reminded him of 90s era NASCAR racing. Could that be a potential fix to the short track package? Hmm…Jason thinks its at least worth a look.
Yes, trouseredapes, that No. 99 car IS fast!
Sandra Johnson is just glad to hear good ole Larry Mac back up in the booth. Just wait, Sandra…DW is coming tomorrow!
On Your Screen
DDF friend and partner, Dale Tanhardt, is very happy about this progressive step NASCAR made tonight with its wet-condition racing tires.
From The Pressbox
As per Noah Lewis, Chase Elliott was also very happy with how the wet weather tires performed.
Bob Pockrass warned of more rain heading in their direction during the break between stages. Good thing it didn’t stop the action once it hit!
All right, Daily Downforce readers! What did y’all think about this historic step in wet-weather racing? Did you enjoy the twin heats? Where’s your favorite driver rolling off for the All-Star race? Let us know!