North Wilkesboro has “a lot of potential” after All-Star rebirth – Smith

·4 min read

North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted its first NASCAR Cup Series race in 27 years on Sunday night with the All-Star Race, closing the chapter on an unlikely rebirth of a beloved facility. And it also brings to a close a weekend of “incredible gratitude” for Marcus Smith.

“I am just amazed at how hard everybody here worked to make this happen,” Smith said of his feeling separate from his Speedway Motorsports role. “Jessica [Fickenscher] and Steve Swift have led this team of a couple hundred people that have come to work with a real mission mindset, not a typical clock-in, clock-out mindset and I think it shows up in what they’ve been able to achieve. They were able to start this project in January, and it’s May right now.”


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NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports announced the $1 million non-points All-Star Race would move to North Wilkesboro in early September. It’s been around-the-clock work since then to make the facility Cup Series ready.

“This place was covered in kudzu vines and poison oak and trees growing out of the grandstands less than 12 months ago,” Smith continued. “They completely built a brand-new facility out in Turn 4. Governor [Roy] Cooper, when I saw him on Wednesday, he said, ‘I gave it a 50-50 shot that you would actually get this done,’ and he said, ‘and I was being generous at the time.’

“It is truly amazing. So, my feelings have just been incredible gratitude. I’m so inspired by them.”

The event was well received. It was a packed grandstand for the All-Star Race, there were standing-room-only tickets in the infield, and the property surrounding the Speedway was filled with vehicles and campers. Souvenir haulers had impressively long lines and were selling out of merchandise.

Cup Series drivers embraced racing at a new venue, some saying the fact the track reopened made the weekend a success regardless of the on-track action. Kyle Larson dominated the All-Star Race by leading 145 of 200 laps.

With the amount of time and money invested in North Wilkesboro, the question becomes what its future holds. Smith didn’t commit to what comes next but spoke highly about its place on the NASCAR schedule in some capacity.

“That question’s on my mind as well,” said Smith. “I think when you see a successful week of events like we’ve had here, it’s natural to think, ‘Boy, maybe we can come back here.’ So, I’m definitely thinking that way. It’s got a lot of potential.

“I’ve never been to a NASCAR week where everybody was in such a good mood, and everything was just going so well. So, it’s definitely something that we’re thinking about.

“We just started working on next year’s schedule with NASCAR, so we’ll see. I think that – not specifically to next year – there definitely is a place in the NASCAR world for North Wilkesboro Speedway, and whether it’s a special event like All-Star, maybe one day it’s a points event, I don’t know.

“I think it’s a very important place for short-track racing, the late model races, the modifieds, you name it. It’s a special place. It’s like walking into a museum that is active and living and very special for the competitors and the fans.”

Smith also offered plenty of thank you remarks in his comments after Sunday night’s event.

“The community of western North Carolina, Wilkes County, Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro,” Smith listed. “The NASCAR community with the way everybody has pulled together. The amazing people that have been here working to revive this Speedway for the last seven months straight. Our contractors and just so many people who have worked tirelessly – particularly in the last seven months. But then so many who never gave up for years leading into this to get us to the point where we can make this happen.

“Jessica, our executive director of the All-Star Race and our chief experience officer was on point from the beginning to make things happen. She and Steve Swift worked together as a great duo to do some things that people thought couldn’t be done.

“It was a long road, but we got here and did some things that were really special.”

Story originally appeared on Racer