Back To Its Roots: NASCAR celebrates 75th anniversary with All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro

Speedway Motorsports

To help celebrate the 75th anniversary of NASCAR, the sport is going back to its roots at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Deemed as the ‘Field of Dreams of Racing,’ this will be the first time the NASCAR Cup Series has returned to North Wilkesboro Speedway since 1996. It will also be first time, the NASCAR All-Star race and the All-Star Open will take place at 0.625-mile paved oval located just five miles outside North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. This Sunday, May 21, the All-Star Open is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. ET and the main event, the NASCAR All-Star Race, will follow at 8 p.m. ET – both will be broadcast on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio – with over $1 million dollars up for grabs. 

The NASCAR All-Star Race was introduced in 1985 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the first All-Star race was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip and crew chief Jeff Hammond. Waltrip led 27 laps in the 70-lap inaugural All-Star event en route to the win driving the No. 11 Junior Johnson & Associates Buick. It was Waltrip’s only career All-Star win. 

This weekend’s NASCAR All-Star Race will be the 39th running of the prized exhibition race and North Wilkesboro is the fifth different track to host the event; joining Charlotte Motor Speedway (34 All-Star races: 1985, 1987-2019), Atlanta Motor Speedway (1986), Bristol Motor Speedway (2020) and Texas Motor Speedway (2021-2022). 

The second NASCAR All-Star Race in 1986 was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the event was dominated by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who set the record for the most laps led in a NASCAR All-Star Race by a driver that won the event, leading 82 of the scheduled 83 laps (98.8%). Elliott started the event in the second starting position. Twice the NASCAR All-Star Race has been led by one driver flag-to-flag and both occurred at Charlotte; Dale Earnhardt led all 70 laps in 1990 and Davey Allison led all 70 laps (100%) in 1991. 

The next 33 All-Star events would be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway until the 2020 season due to the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic the race was rescheduled and moved to Bristol Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott grabbed his first NASCAR All-Star Race win at Bristol that season. The win made the Elliotts (Bill and Chase) the second father-son duo to win the NASCAR All-Star Race all-time, joining the Earnhardts (Dale and Dale Jr.). 

Then in 2021, the special non-points event was moved to Texas Motor Speedway for the first time. And for the second straight season, the NASCAR All-Star Race was won by a Hendrick Motorsports driver – Kyle Larson. Hendrick Motorsports leads the NASCAR Cup Series in NASCAR All-Star race victories with 10 wins among five drivers – Jimmie Johnson (four: 2003, 2006, 2012, 2013), Jeff Gordon (three: 1995, 1997, 2001), Terry Labonte (1999), Chase Elliott (2020) and Kyle Larson (2021). It also was the second consecutive season the NASCAR All-Star Race winner went on to win the NASCAR Cup Series Championship in the same season. The feat has occurred 12 times since the inception of the All-Star race in 1985 by seven different drivers – Darrell Waltrip (1985), Dale Earnhardt (1987, 1990, 1993), Rusty Wallace (1989), Jeff Gordon (1995, 1997, 2001), Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2013), Chase Elliott (2020) and Kyle Larson (2021). 

Last season’s NASCAR All-Star race at Texas Motor Speedway was won by Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney. Blaney dominated the event once getting out front leading 84 of the 140 scheduled laps (60%). It was his first victory in the special non-points event and the fourth for Team Penske – Blaney (2022), Joey Logano (2016), Kurt Busch (2010), Ryan Newman (2002).

In total, the 38 NASCAR All-Star Races have produced 26 different winners, led by the recently retired Jimmie Johnson with four All-Star wins (2003, 2006, 2012 and 2013). Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick (2007, 2018) and Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson (2019, 2021) lead all active drivers in NASCAR All-Star Race wins with two each. In total, eight former NASCAR All-Star Race winners are entered this weekend:  

RankActive All-Star WinnersWinsSeasons
1Kyle Larson22021, 2019
2Kevin Harvick22018, 2007
3Ryan Blaney12022
4Chase Elliott12020
5Kyle Busch12017
6Joey Logano12016
7Denny Hamlin12015
8Ryan Newman12002

The 38 NASCAR All-Star Races have also produced 18 different pole winners; four of the 18 are active this weekend:

RankActive All-Star Pole WinnersPolesSeasons
1Kyle Busch42022, 2012, 2011, 2008
2Kyle Larson12017
3Denny Hamlin12015
4Ryan Newman12005

The NASCAR All-Star Race has been won from the pole or first starting position six times by five different drivers, the first three came in consecutive years – Dale Earnhardt (1990), Davey Allison (1991, 1992), Kurt Busch (2010), Denny Hamlin (2015) and Kyle Larson (2021). 

The on-track activity for the NASCAR Cup Series at North Wilkesboro Speedway will begin on Friday, May 19 with practice for both the All-Star Open and the NASCAR All-Star Race from 4 p.m. – 4:50 p.m. ET directly followed by Qualifying – The Pit Crew Challenge – for the NASCAR All-Star Race & Open at 5:45 p.m. ET – both events will be televised on FS1. 

2023 All-Star Open and NASCAR All-Star Race Formats

This season’s NASCAR All-Star Weekend will have a simplified format – featuring two heat races to set the starting lineup, a 100-lap All-Star Open and a 200-lap main event – putting the spotlight of the weekend on the historic 0.625-mile track, North Wilkesboro Speedway, which will host its first NASCAR competition since 1996.

The NASCAR All-Star Race & Open Qualifying (Pit Crew Challenge) formats are as follows: 

  • The Pit Crew Challenge on Friday (May 19) will determine the starting lineups for the two Heat races and the Open. 
  • Pit Crew Challenge order is determined by current driver point standings in reverse (going from last to first). 
  • Each car’s qualifying time will be based solely on their pit stop time from the Pit Crew Challenge. 
  • Timing lines will be established one box behind and one box ahead of the designated pit box.
  • Teams must complete a four-tire stop during the Pit Crew Challenge. 

NASCAR All-Star Heat Race format is as follows:

  • The 21 drivers already locked into the NASCAR All-Star Race field will be split into two 60-lap (37.5 miles) Heat races on Saturday night (May 20) which will determine the starting lineup for the All-Star Race. 
  • All laps (caution and green flag) will count. 
  • Each Heat race will get one chance at overtime if needed. 
  • Results of Heat 1 will establish the inside row, results of Heat 2 will establish the outside row. 
  • The remaining teams not already locked into the NASCAR All-Star Race will compete in the All-Star Open.

NASCAR All-Star Open format is as follows:

  • The All-Star Open on Sunday (May 21) will feature drivers not previously eligible for the All-Star Race. 
  • The All-Star Open will be 100 laps (62.5 miles).
  • All laps (caution and green flag) will count. 
  • The Open will get one chance at overtime if needed.
  • 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.

The NASCAR All-Star Race format is as follows: 

  • Technical rules for the cars will remain the same as other NASCAR Cup Series short track races. 
  • The NASCAR All-Star Race will be 200 laps (125 miles).
  • A competition break at or around Lap 100 (halfway). 
  • All laps (caution and green flag) will count.
  • NASCAR Overtime rules are in effect (unlimited attempts). 
  • Each team will start on sticker tires for the All-Star Race and have three additional sets to use. 
  • After the competition break, only one additional set of stickers can be used.
  • All-Star Race winner earns over $1 million in prize money.

Who’s already locked into the Main Event – the 2023 NASCAR All-Stars

Heading into this weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway, 21 different drivers have earned their spot in the NASCAR All-Star Race on May 21 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

All-Star Eligibility for 2023: Those eligible for the NASCAR All-Star Race include drivers who won a points event in either 2022 or 2023, drivers who won a NASCAR All-Star Race and compete fulltime and drivers who won a NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete fulltime. 

EntryCarAll-Star DriversOrganizationCrew ChiefManufacturer
11Ross ChastainTrackhouse RacingPhil SurgenChevrolet
22Austin CindricTeam PenskeJeremy BullinsFord
33Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingKeith RoddenChevrolet
44Kevin HarvickStewart Haas RacingRodney ChildersFord
55Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsCliff DanielsChevrolet
66Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingMatt McCallFord
78Kyle BuschRichard Childress RacingRandall BurnettChevrolet
89Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsAlan GustafsonChevrolet
911Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingChris GabehartToyota
1012Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeJonathan HasslerFord
1114Chase BriscoeStewart Haas RacingJohn KlausmeierFord
1217Chris BuescherRFK RacingScott GravesFord
1319Martin Truex, JrJoe Gibbs RacingJames SmallToyota
1420Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingAdam StevensToyota
1522Joey LoganoTeam PenskePaul WolfeFord
1623Bubba Wallace23XI RacingBootie BarkerToyota
1724William ByronHendrick MotorsportsRyan FugleChevrolet
1843Erik JonesLEGACY MOTOR CLUBDavid ElenzChevrolet
1945Tyler Reddick23XI RacingBilly ScottToyota
2047Ricky StenhouseJTG Daugherty RacingMichael KelleyChevrolet
2199Daniel SuárezTrackhouse RacingTravis MackChevrolet

Of the 21 drivers already entered in the NASCAR All-Star race, seven have previously scored wins in the annual exhibition event, led by Kevin Harvick (2007, 2018) and Kyle Larson (2019, 2021) with two All-Star victories each. Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney is the most recent NASCAR All-Star race winner, bringing home the victory from Texas Motor Speedway last season. 

“I’ve only ever driven by North Wilkesboro and known it as a closed racetrack,” said Ross Chastain, one of the 21 drivers currently eligible for the NASCAR All-Star Race. “There has been a lot of hype over this race weekend and obviously Marcus Smith and a lot of others have put a lot of effort into making it happen. It will be fun to go up there and check it all out. I’m going to get my feet wet with the late model race and hopefully get more comfortable with the track, and then the truck race on Saturday afternoon before going for the million dollars on Sunday night.”

In total, 24 drivers will make a start in this season’s NASCAR All-Star Race – the 21 drivers that earned a spot in the event and three additional positions will be added to the NASCAR All-Star Race field following the All-Star Open – the All-Star Open Winner, the All-Star Open runner-up finisher and the Fan Vote Winner.

A glimpse into the NASCAR All-Star Open

The NASCAR All-Star Open was first introduced into the All-Star format on May 11, 1986, at Atlanta Motor Speedway; the non-points special event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Benny Parsons with crew chief Cliff Champion, but it did not grant the team entry to the All-Star Race; that started the following season. Parsons won the first All-Star Open driving a Jackson Brothers Racing’s Oldsmobile in 1986. This season, three drivers from the NASCAR All-Star Open will move on to compete in the NASCAR All-Star Race – The All-Star Open winner, the All-Star Open runner-up finisher, and the Fan Vote Winner. 

There have been 40 NASCAR All-Star Open events, one per year since 1986; except in 2000, 2001 and 2002, it was held as two events with both of the winners moving on to the All-Star Race. Starting in 2015, the All-Star Open was broken up into segments and then in 2017 it was divided into stages and each winner of the segments, or the stages earned a spot in the All-Star Race.

The All-Star Open has featured a field that has ranged from 36 drivers from 1994-1996 to 14 drivers in the inaugural event in 1986. Last season’s All-Star Open field at Texas had 16 participants and this weekend’s event at North Wilkesboro Speedway is also anticipating 16 participants. 

A total of 29 different drivers have won the NASCAR All-Star Open from 1986-2022, and six of the 29 former All-Star Open winners are active this weekend, but two of them already earned spots in the All-Star Race this season (Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr.). 

Active Open Winners (6)WinsSeasons
Daniel Suarez22022, 2017
Kyle Larson22019, 2016
AJ Allmendinger22018, 2008
Martin Truex Jr22010, 2007
Aric Almirola12021
Ryan Newman12002

Sterling Marlin leads the NASCAR Cup Series in NASCAR All-Star Open wins with four victories (1988, 1989, 1993 and 2004).

Eight of the 29 NASCAR All-Star Open winners have multiple wins – Sterling Marlin (four wins), AJ Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Jeremy Mayfield, Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip, Kyle Larson and Todd Bodine each have two Open victories. And three drivers have won consecutive NASCAR All-Star Open events – Sterling Marlin (1988-89), Michael Waltrip (1991-92) and Clint Bowyer (2014-15).

Ryan Newman (2002) and Kyle Larson (2019) are the only two drivers to win the NASCAR Open and the All-Star Race in the same weekend. 

Here are the 16 All-Star Open drivers vying for the three available positions in the NASCAR All-Star Race on Sunday. 

EntryCarOpen DriversOrganizationCrew ChiefManufacturer
17Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsRyan SparksChevrolet
210Aric AlmirolaStewart Haas RacingDrew BlickensderferFord
313Chandler Smith (i)Kaulig RacingEddie PardueChevrolet
415JJ YeleyRick Ware RacingBilly PlourdeFord
516AJ AllmendingerKaulig RacingMatt SwiderskiChevrolet
621Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingBrian WilsonFord
731Justin HaleyKaulig RacingTrent OwensChevrolet
834Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsTravis PetersonFord
938Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsRyan BergentyFord
1041Ryan PreeceStewart Haas RacingChad JohnstonFord
1142Noah GragsonLEGACY MOTOR CLUBLuke LambertChevrolet
1248Josh Berry (i)Hendrick MotorsportsBlake HarrisChevrolet
1351Ryan NewmanRick Ware RacingJerry KelleyFord
1454Ty GibbsJoe Gibbs RacingChris GayleToyota
1577Ty DillonSpire MotorsportsKevin BellicourtChevrolet
1678Josh Bilicki (i)Live Fast MotorsportsDavid IngramChevrolet’s All-Star Fan Vote is still underway

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race is this Sunday, May 21 and is approaching fast, but the Fan Vote is still going strong for the big event at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Voting will be open until 9 a.m. ET on Sunday May 21.

Fans can vote here for one eligible driver once a day per unique email address. 

The Fan vote began in 2004 with Ken Schrader earning the first accolades during an All-Star Weekend. In total, 16 different drivers have won the NASCAR Fan Vote during All-Star Weekend. 

In 2008, Kasey Kahne became the first driver to get into the NASCAR All-Star Race by the Fan Vote and go on to win the event. Kahne started 24th (last place) in the All-Star race and won. He led the final 17 laps to win. 

Danica Patrick became the first driver to win more than one Fan Vote into the NASCAR All-Star Race (2013, 2015). She also is the only female to win the Fan Vote into the All-Star race.

Chase Elliott became the first driver to win the Fan Vote in consecutive seasons (2016, 2017, 2018), and also the first driver to win it three times – Elliott leads the series in Fan Vote wins. 

Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano and Carl Edwards are the only five drivers who have won the NASCAR All-Star Race and the Fan Vote in their careers – Kahne won both in 2008, Earnhardt Jr. won the All-Star Race in 2000 and the Fan Vote in 2011. Logano won the Fan Vote in 2009 and the All-Star Race in 2016. Edwards won the Fan Vote in 2010 and the All-Star Race in 2011. Elliott won the Fan Vote from 2016-2018 and the All-Star Race in 2020.


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