North Wilkesboro Speedway Photo: North Wilkesboro Speedway

NASCAR will make its long-awaited return to North Wilkesboro Speedway this May as the track will host the All-Star Race. It’ll be the first Cup race on the historic track since 1996.

This race is a big deal for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has been a supporter of bringing NASCAR back to North Wilkesboro. To the extent where Earnhardt once prepped the track for it to be laser scanned for iRacing.

On his Dale Jr. Download podcast, Earnhardt was asked about how he would format the All-Star Race. Earnhardt kept things basic in terms of the race, wanting to “get rid of all the gimmicks.” As the track hasn’t been raced by Cup cars for over 25 years, Earnhardt wants the track to be the “star” of the race, and just having cars on the track will be great.

“People have wanted racing at North Wilkesboro for decades, let’s give them racing,” Earnhardt said. “So make that first segment really long, relatively long, 100 laps that probably be the minimum. Let’s just turn the cars loose and everybody just sit there and enjoy watching those cars race around that track and just soaking it in…I would probably run three-stage race 100 laps, 75, 25. I’d be very limited on tires, but otherwise, I wouldn’t get too fancy. No invert, no draw, no funky stuff.”

All-Star qualifying was always one of the best parts of the weekend. Where a driver speeds around and then barrels down pit road at full speed. Since NASCAR is going to a short track, that loses its appeal a bit, but Earnhardt had an idea to bring back a great event to the weekend.

“Bring back the Pit Crew Challenge… Have a trophy that a crew wins that they take to their shop and it belongs to them until the Pit Crew Championship happens again the following year,” Earnhardt said. “And then whoever wins that takes that trophy from that team. So this would be like a college trophy that travels from team to team. Bring the pit crews in, set it all up where the drivers basically do just a pit stop. There’s no lap, there’s no hot lap, there’s no entry, there’s nothing that’s timed other than the stop itself. So the car rolls onto pit road, and it trips a line about one pit stall away. They do the pit stop, they pull away, and it trips the line about a stall away. So bam, bam,it’s about a 14-second experience.

“All of the times that the teams have for their pit stop is how that how you set the lineup for the feature. There’s no qualifying, you have some practice and whatnot, but otherwise, the way the pit crews pit the cars and the time that you’re given determines where you’re going to start for the race. And so what that will do is put a bunch of pressure on the teams to, because that will affect your day. If you have a bad pit stop, and you start toward the back, you got to work through that. If you have a great pit stop,, and you start toward the front your team has set you up to succeed.”

Earnhardt subconsciously backtracked on Pit Crew Challenge times determining the starting lineup because he instead pitched having two heat races the night before, where pit times determine those lineups. And then the results of those races determines the lineup for the main event.

“There’ll be two heat races,” Earnhardt said. “The pit stop times will set the lineup for those heat races, and they’ll be Duels just like Daytona, but you might have some really good cars that are going to be mid-pack or even worse because of some mistakes or whatever on their pit stop. I think doing it by the pit stops puts a lot of pressure on the crews. You want to put them in that situation. You want to put them in a pressured situation, and it also is going to pretty much guarantee you won’t have the fastest car starting on the pole. And that’ll make the heat races matter where we’re not going to have an elimination. So if there’s no elimination, the heat races don’t matter right? Well now they do, because you might have some guys that had some bad pit stops that got some work to do in those heat races. To try to give themselves a better starting spot for the main event.”

Either way, incorporating a pit crew competition element would be a great idea. They are a very important part of the team, and this gives them a chance to show off who’s the best of the best.

[Dale Jr. Download]

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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