● Following the Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, the NASCAR Cup Series will once again revisit the past with a trip to North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway for the 2023 All-Star Race. The .625-mile oval located in the hills of Wilkes County, North Carolina, had sat dormant for 25 years, save for a one-year respite in 2010 when local investors cleaned it up enough to host a handful of grassroots Late Model racing series before the track closed again in the spring of 2011. Once a staple of the NASCAR Cup Series when Winston cigarettes was its title sponsor, North Wilkesboro was cast aside, despite being a NASCAR original and hosting 93 Cup Series races since 1949, the last of which came on Sept. 29, 1996, when Jeff Gordon beat Dale Earnhardt by 1.73 seconds to win the Tyson Holly Farms 400. But thanks to an $18 million cash infusion from the state as part of the American Rescue Plan, as well as another seven-figure spend by track operator Speedway Motorsports, North Wilkesboro has been revived. It had a soft opening last August with Modified and Late Model racing before its grand reopening this week with five days of racing, from the CARS Late Model Stock Tour to the NASCAR Truck Series and, finally, the Cup Series via the non-points NASCAR All-Star Race at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday. The track Enoch Staley built in 1946 – first as a five-eighths mile dirt oval where whiskey runners displayed their skill behind the wheel, along with their mechanical acumen for building cars that were faster than those of the revenuers, and two years ahead of NASCAR’s first season and three years before the first Strictly Stock (now Cup Series) race was held – is back, and the resto-mod of racetracks is ready for NASCAR’s return.
● After years of complexity, the 2023 version of the All-Star Race has opted for simplicity. Two heat races on Saturday will set the starting lineup for Sunday’s main event – a 200 lapper with a competition break at or around Lap 100. All laps (caution and green flag) will count, and overtime rules are in effect to ensure a green-flag finish. Each team will start on sticker tires and have three additional sets to use. After the competition break, however, only one additional set of stickers can be used. The undercard All-Star Open, featuring drivers not previously eligible for the All-Star Race, will be 100 laps with a competition break at or around Lap 40. Three Open drivers will advance to the All-Star Race – the top two race finishers and the Fan Vote Winner. All-Star festivities begin Friday evening with a Pit Crew Challenge to determine the starting lineups for the heat races and Open. Each car’s qualifying time will be based solely on their pit stop time. Teams must complete a four-tire stop; timing lines will be established one box behind and one box ahead of the designated pit box. The 22 drivers already locked into the field will be split into two 60-lap heat races on Saturday night which will determine the starting lineup for Sunday’s All-Star Race. Results of the first heat will establish the inside row and results of the second heat will establish the outside row. The weekend will concludes Sunday night with the All-Star Open and All-Star Race. Technical rules for the cars will remain the same as other NASCAR Cup Series short track races. Those eligible for the All-Star Race include drivers who won a points event in either 2022 or 2023, drivers who won an All-Star Race and compete fulltime, and drivers who won a NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete fulltime.
● This will be Chase Briscoe’s second appearance in the NASCAR All-Star Race. He started 11th and finished 18th in last year’s race, which took place at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The year prior, he finished fourth in the All-Star Open and fell short of advancing into the main event.
● Before taking to the .625-mile North Wilkesboro oval in the No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing, Briscoe will compete in Wednesday night’s CARS Late Model Stock Tour event in a Chad Bryant-owned entry. Briscoe and Bryant previously worked together during the racer’s stint in the ARCA Menards Series, when he captured six wins enroute to the 2016 championship.
● With 13 points-paying events completed, Briscoe is 16th in the driver standings. The Cup Series’ next points race is the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on May 28.
Did you ever think that you’d have the opportunity to race at North Wilkesboro?
“No, and this has been something I’ve really been looking forward to. I’m still such a big fan of NASCAR and it’s been really cool to see a lot of the NASCAR 75 stuff, and now we’re going back to North Wilkesboro. That’s big for the sport. Guys like Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., have worked hard to get us back there and I’m excited to see the Truck Series and Cup cars out there, and to be a part of it. I know it’ll be an exciting race. The All-Star Race is one that a lot of guys want to win, already, and now it’s on a track that is so important to NASCAR’s history. It’s a good combination that should put on a good show.”
What do you expect to learn during the CARS Tour race that you can apply to the All-Star Race?
“To be truthful, I’m not really sure. I’ve never been in a pavement Late Model, so I don’t know how much of what I learn in that car will translate over, but I will be able to get a good understanding of the track and how it races. I know tire wear is going to be big, and it’ll be interesting to see if the track changes throughout a race or if it’s a quick fall-off that kind of stays the same after that. Really, I’m just excited to finally get to try out a pavement Late Model and race against guys that do this all the time. I think I can learn a lot from them when it comes to racing against drivers who are all at a higher level of talent and the best at what they do.”