‘We Haven’t Given Up on North Wilkesboro,’ Says Marcus Smith
North Wilkesboro Speedway is the legend that just won’t die.
Despite inactivity for a decade and no NASCAR events in a quarter of a century, a subset of the fandom has not given up hope that something can be done with the hallowed grounds of what used to be the oldest continually operating stop on the Cup Series schedule.
Of course, that title now exclusively belongs to Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, but also applied to Wilkes County, North Carolina until 1996. That’s when the track was sold to Speedway Motorsports Inc. and its dates given to Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, respectively.
That glimmer of hope was given an extra boost of enthusiasm last week when SMI president Marcus Smith appeared on the Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. Download and said the company has not given up on the property and has a few ideas for how to someday revive it.
But no promises were made, and none could be assumed.
“I just want to let you know we haven’t forgotten about North Wilkesboro,” Smith said. “We haven’t given up on it. I’m thinking, we’re working on it, no promises.”
He made no promises, but @MarcusSMI had a very important message regarding North Wilkesboro.
Google: https://t.co/TnKDFDVW0E pic.twitter.com/dnFGTvs1cd
Earnhardt invited Smith on his podcast and television show in the aftermath of the inaugural Bristol Dirt Race and to discuss their combined efforts to bring NASCAR back to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
The Cup Series legend went the entire show without mentioning North Wilkesboro and Smith brought it up himself.
“I can’t believe we haven’t brought up North Wilkesboro yet,” Smith said before offering the glimpse of hope.
The iconic short track which runs uphill on the backstretch and downhill on the frontstretch is representative of NASCAR’s formative years.
It opened on May 18, 1947 as a dirt track with 10,000 in attendance to watch Red Byron emerge victorious and hosted the season finale in 1949. It was paved over the next decade and became the mainstays of Grand National competition alongside Martinsville.
Mark Martin called it the perfect racetrack in a 2016 Autoweek spotlight.
Jeff Gordon won the final NASCAR Cup Series event on September 29, 1996 and the track sat dormant for over a decade until a series of revival event took place in 2010 and 2011 for various short track touring divisions including the Pro All Stars Series and Pro Cup.
The track has sat quiet ever since and has started to show the passage of time and its lack of usage.
The track reemerged in the national spotlight again in 2019 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. gathered a group of industry insiders to clean up the speedway in advance of iRacing scanning the racing surface, which the finished product then being included in the final race of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The continued interest in the track has not been lost in Smith.
“If we can think of a way to do something there, we’re going to,” Smith said. “I don’t want people to think I don’t care. We do care and I am thinking and working on ideas regularly.”
He immediately received support from a possible major benefactor in Marcus Lemonis — the CEO of Camping World and a general motorsports philanthropist.
Tell @MarcusSMI to call me
As promised… pic.twitter.com/ctRKuAjqRC
This is, after all, the guy that recently took it upon himself to sponsor nearly a fourth of an entire Truck Series field at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
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