North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Wilkesboro, NC — May 20, 2023
NASCAR fans got a preview of what they might see tomorrow night in the All-Star race from North Wilkesboro Speedway. The return of the Cup Series cars to the historic venue was dampened by light rain on and off through the evening. However, the moisture did not deter the excitement in the grandstands.
It has been 26 years since NASCAR’s premier series ran a race at the 5/8 ths of a mile track in the hills of North Carolina. Strolling through the parking lot, license plates from everywhere east of the Mississippi gathered to watch what many had wished for, but few actually believed could happen.
Despite the weather, things went off without a hitch. Two 60-lap heat races determined the lineup for tomorrow night’s main event. The NASCAR Open will add two more drivers to the field, and fans will vote in another starter who will join the cars already qualified.
A band of light rain came through the area about an hour before race time. Jet dryers got the surface in condition to race with all the cars starting on treaded “wet tires.” At the drop of the green flag, Chase Elliott(9) led, with Daniel Suarez(99) tucked in right behind. The order in which drivers finish in this race will make up the inside starting row for the All-Star event.
Behind the two leaders, Joey Logano(22), Chase Briscoe(14), and Denny Hamlin(11) battled for third, with Logano eventually winning out. Ryan Blaney made his presence known, passing Hamlin and pushing Briscoe to the rear bumper of Logano. Out front, Elliott and Suarez pulled away, with Suarez eventually taking over the lead.
Logano appeared to be holding up Briscoe and Blaney. However, one of the first things drivers learned about the track was “it would be hard to pass.” NASCAR waved a competition caution on lap 32 to check tire wear on the seldom-used wet tread Goodyears.
No one opted to put slicks on, as the track was still damp in some spots.
Back to green flag racing. Suarez held onto the lead with Logano slipping past Elliott, who started on the outside. The second thing learned was “the inside line is the preferred way around the track.”
Elliott could not find space to get in line behind Logano. He watched as Briscoe, Blaney, Hamlin, and Christopher Bell(20) all passed below him. Suarez took the heat win and the pole for the All-Star Feature race.
Kevin Harvick ran with the #29 on the side of his car. The number he broke into the Cup Series when he replaced Dale Earnhardt Sr. at Richard Childress Racing after Dale lost his life at Daytona in 2001.
Michigan’s Erik Jones piloted the #43 car with the famous STP paint job that Richard Petty drove to many of his NASCAR Cup victories. Good looking car, but a bad result. Erik finished last in the Heat One field.
|10||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Get in line and drive seemed to be the theme of Heat Two. Chris Buescher(17) ran out front to the lead and never looked back. Austin Dillon(3), William Byron(24), Ross Chastain(1), and Kyle Larson(5) followed.
The top three pulled away, and it looked as if Chastain was holding up Larson as they dropped back. You had to wonder, with the recent history between the duo, would Kyle put a bumper to Ross? He never got a chance. As tires heated up, the field began to get strung out.
The caution flag waived on lap 23 as a light rain again began to fall. Teams were allowed to change from slicks to wet tires without losing their position on the track. On the restart, Chastain experienced the same fate as Elliott. Trapped on the outside, he dropped from second place to ninth before finding a place in line.
Buescher continued his dominance of the heat, running away from Byron, Dillon, Larson, and Bubba Wallace(23). Larson made a mistake and allowed Wallace to get under him, and he dropped from fourth place to seventh, trapped on the outside.
Two drivers made some forward movement late in the race. Austin Dillon took second, and Brad Keselowski worked his way to fourth. A good night for the Roush Keselowski team.
|6||19||Martin Truex Jr.|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Pit Stop Challenge
Ty Gibbs’ team won the pit stop challenge, putting him on the front row for the NASCAR Open, which runs before the All-Star event on Sunday night. The top two finishers in that event will join the main. Here is the lineup for the Open.
|Starting Spot||Car #||Driver|
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Race
Saturday afternoon, the trucks took to the track for their regular weekly points race. Kyle Larson(7) took the victory, easily dominating the Second and Third Stages of the event. He had to fend off Ty Majeski in overtime to complete the win. However, it wasn’t much of a challenge as Larson’s truck was the class of the field all day.
Results of the Tyson 250 from North Wilkesboro Speedway