Explore why North Wilkesboro is a gift from iRacing to NASCAR fans.
Reding time: 4 minutes
On May 3, iRacing briefly confirmed that the upcoming finale of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series will feature North Wilkesboro Speedway. For NASCAR fans this is a huge thing. North Wilkesboro is a track accompanied by nostalgic feelings and deep respect. We explain what exactly makes it so special.
A track of tradition
North Wilkesboro is set in North Carolina, near the city that lends the speedway its name. It opened its doors in 1947 as a dirt track. After the foundation of NASCAR in 1949 it became a part of the racing series. Two races were held at Wilkesboro during the inaugural season including the final one.
From that point onwards, the cult track was the stage for many historic NASCAR events between 1949 and 1996. It was bought and closed by Bruton Smith and Bob Bahre, who already owned several racetracks. Smith had to hire private security units for his protection back then, as lots of hostile fans made him responsible for the shutdown.
After hosting several stock car events following its reopening in 2010, the track shut doors again in 2011. Some fans still meet at the track on race weekends to remember the old times for reminiscence.
The legacy still lives on
What remains are the moments attached to the oval. Not only did North Wilkesboro become very popular over the years, but also very infamous. It earned reputation as a cursed track, since a lot of great drivers who usually did not fall behind, finished last on North Wilkesboro.
It is the only track where three generations of the famous Petty clan, starting with Lee Petty, concluded races in last place at least once. After winning the last race in 1996, Jeff Gordon iconicly remarked: “This is North Wilkesboro; I’m not supposed to win at North Wilkesboro.”
Besides that the circuit has been featured in a lot of NASCAR video games ever since. The Thomasville Speedway in Cars 3 was also inspired by North Wilkesboro. But the track has also entered pop culture. It was featured in a special episode of the BBC Series Top Gear, called “East Coast Road Trip”. Until today fans keep running initiatives to try and “buy the track free”, one of them being “Save the Speedway”.
Back to the future?
Now it comes back to the fans in digital form. Dale Earnhardt Jr., son of the legendary Dale “Ironhead” Earnhardt, streamed a first inspection on May 7. The race takes place on Saturday afternoon at 3 PM ET. Watch it online on eNASCAR.com/live or on the TV channel FOX.
Source: Twitter/Safe The Speedway