Tease after tease we have been lead to believe that the legendary North Wilkesboro speedway will return at some point, but those teases often end in disappointment. The latest one comes from Speedway Motorsports COO and owner of North Wilkesboro Speedway Marcus Smtih who appeared on the Dale Jr. Download this week and flat out said “we haven’t forgotten about it.” This got a large portion of the fanbase and Dale Jr. himself excited, but we know by now not to get too ahead of ourselves.
Well, fast forward a day, and Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis sent out a tweet asking for Marcus Smith to call him. This was then followed by a very obvious hint at what that conversation was about.
Can I first say that if you have any camping needs or outdoor needs, please go to a Camping World or Gander Mountain. I have no sponsorship with them, but I really appreciate everything Marcus Lemonis has done for this sport and seems intent on doing.
It’s easy to get excited because this is the closest I think we’ve ever been to a true NWS revival. I want to ask the question of how serious this revival is. I wanna preface this by saying I was only 2-years old when NASCAR stopped visiting the track, so I have no nostalgia for it, but I am a fan of historic tracks getting their shine back.
While I appreciate Marcus Smith acknowledging the track, let’s not forget that his father and Speedway Motorsports Inc. are the ones who took that race away from NWS and gave it to Texas. They only bought the Speedway to get it off the schedule for their bigger track they build in Fort Worth. They then decided to shut it down instead of paying for upgrades and have left it to rot since 2011. Speedway Motorsports Inc. is not a hero in this story, but I will acknowledge that Marcus Smith probably had little to nothing to do with these decisions.
Not to incriminate me, but my Fiance and I snuck into North Wilkesboro Speedway on our way home from a day trip from the Blue Ridge Parkway. This place is truly out in the middle of nowhere and while some major cities like Winston-Salem and Charlotte are an hour or two away, the track itself sits on a backroad where you drive down multiple streets to get to it.
The track is in horrible shape. We went shortly after Dale Jr. and his crew went and performed a small amount of maintenance on the track in order for iRacing to scan the track and it still looked rough. The grandstands look as if they are about to collapse, the track surface needs to be repaved, and the media center is highly outdated. Long story short, the entire track would need to be redone.
You would essentially be building a new track on top of the old one. As I said, if SMI would’ve made upgrades to the track instead of just letting it rot for 10 years, maybe the financial bludgeoning it will require to build an almost entirely new track wouldn’t be so harsh.
I say this because I do believe that Marcus Smith and Marcus Lemonis have a plan for this track, but I do not think NASCAR Cup Series racing is on their mind. Maybe and it’s a big maybe that the Truck Series could race here. I think the highest form of racing we’d be thinking about in the immediate future would be ARCA.
The reason why I do not believe we will ever have Cup racing return is that I don’t see how it make financial sense to spend millions on a track out in the middle of nowhere that I don’t think can reasonably accommodate a Cup Series crowd. It’s not about capacity, but from what I saw there is nowhere for fans to park, tailgate, or camp to the extent they do now.
I think that NASCAR has outgrown markets like this with Martinsville being the only comparable track on the schedule. Martinsville is not located in an area with little to no market around it and offers plenty of space for fans to park and walk to the track.
In conclusion, I think Smith and Lemonis do have plans to rebuild the track and have begun the early stages of planning. The millions that it would take to make this track Cup Series capable is unrealistic though, and while it will still be a hefty investment to rebuild the track, I think it’s more reasonable to believe they will build a track capable of hosting smaller races.
The chances of this being for an eventual Cup race are slim to none. This track will be rebuilt for its history and as a venue for late model and modified racing. Perhaps ARCA or Tony Stewart’s newly formed SRX Series could eventually hold the track as a regular feature which I personally would love to buy a ticket and go see.
The absolute best-case is going to be the Truck series though, and the fact that Lemonis is getting involved does lead me to think that could be the end goal. Lemonis has made it clear that the Truck Series is his baby and has invested so much money in the Series as well as the teams racing in it. So, maybe he is going to make an investment to eventually bring the Trucks back to North Wilkesboro, but that will be the best-case scenario.
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