Dale Earnhardt Jr. to run CARS Tour late model race at North Wilkesboro Speedway

Getty Images

During a live recording of the Dale Jr. Download podcast in Nashville, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced he will enter the CARS Tour late model stock car race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on August 31. The event will be among the first held at North Wilkesboro as part of the track’s revival, a process Earnhardt has played an integral part in.

The event will mark the NASCAR Hall of Famer’s first late model stock car race since 1997 — the year before he moved up to what is now the NASCAR Xfinity Series — and his first race at North Wilkesboro since 1995. Earnhardt recently tested a JR Motorsports late model at the speedway alongside JR Motorsports Xfinity Series driver Josh Berry and late model driver Carson Kvapil.

“I’ve been wanting to drive our cars for a really long time, but just haven’t had the guts to do it. When we talked about bringing North Wilkesboro back, if they were gonna have a late model stock race there, it was too much to pass up,” Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt served as an important advocate for North Wilkesboro in a series of events that ultimately led to the track being re-opened after sitting largely abandoned for the past quarter century. In 2019, Earnhardt helped lead an effort to clean the track so that it could be scanned and digitized for use on iRacing, and he would later speak to North Carolina state lawmakers to support a state budget that would allocate $18 million toward infrastructure improvements at both North Wilkesboro and Rockingham Speedway, another classic NASCAR racetrack that was dropped from the schedule due to the sport’s expansion into larger markets.

The allocation of state funds towards North Wilkesboro through the American Rescue Plan helped give North Wilkesboro new life. The track — located in the very western North Carolina moonshine country where stock car racing began — had been a NASCAR institution from 1949 onward, but it became antiquated by the mid-1990s when track owner Enoch Staley died. Following the purchase of the speedway by Speedway Motorsports Inc., the track was closed at the end of the 1996 season with its two dates moved to newer facilities.

In April, Speedway Motorsports Inc. announced that North Wilkesboro would be reopened with a focus on hosting grassroots touring series and potentially attracting a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in the future. Multiple asphalt racing classes will compete on the track in August, and dirt racing classes will race in October in between the track’s old asphalt being torn up and a new asphalt surface being laid down for 2023.

Earnhardt will continue his family’s racing legacy at North Wilkesboro, as his father experienced great success at the track. Dale Earnhardt earned five Cup Series wins in total at North Wilkesboro, a mark that ranks third in track history and tied with Cale Yarborough.

Source link