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COLUMN: Forecasting potential future events for North Wilkesboro

COLUMN: Forecasting potential future events for North Wilkesboro

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Each week, more good news seems to pop up about the future of North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The track’s three most prominent proponents now include not just Speedway Motorsports President Marcus Smith and Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis, but also N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, who is aiming to give the track $10 million as part of his budget proposal for the American Rescue Plan, a source of COVID-19 relief dollars, pending legislative approval.

“The proposed allocations from the American Rescue Plan can have a significant impact on renovating parts of Charlotte Motor Speedway, as well as starting restoration efforts at North Wilkesboro,” Smith said in a statement. “Our team at Speedway Motorsports will get to work on the best ways these funds could be utilized, and we’ll watch closely as the proposals continue through the legislative session.”

Cooper says he expects North Wilkesboro to hold five new events over the next three years if the plan is approved. As that possibility draws ever more nigh, it’ll be interesting to prognosticate what those events could be, even if they’re not necessarily all motorsports related.

But for the sake of simplicity, let’s rank the five most likely races to be held at the old oval:

1. Superstar Racing Experience

This is by far the most likely, it seems. In a couple different Twitter interactions, the SRX account has responded to Lemonis expressing interest in holding a race at North Wilkesboro.

“Oh, we comin’,” SRX tweeted. “Opening night 2022?”

Though the series won’t hold its first event until this summer, it seems like a great fit for a revived NWS. Organized by retired NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and 1990s star crew chief Ray Evernham, it features veteran drivers from multiple motorsports backgrounds in specially built cars tackling some of the most popular short tracks around.

A Saturday show in Wilkes County might draw out even more big names to join a driver roster that already includes guys like Stewart, Bill Elliott, Bobby Labonte and more.

2. CARS Tour

Set to hold a 2021 race at The Rock Speedway in Rockingham, another potential $10 million beneficiary of Cooper’s plan, the CARS Tour would be another natural fit for North Wilkesboro.

The CARS schedule already includes stops at Hickory Motor Speedway, Tri-County Motor Speedway and Wake County Speedway, so why not add to that rich North Carolina flavor?

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I’m thinking one of CARS’ signature super late model/late model stock car doubleheaders — maybe 100 laps apiece — would be a perfect event for North Wilkesboro.

3. ARCA Menards Series East

At just eight races, this schedule could stand to be expanded, and North Wilkesboro would be a good addition, joining the likes of Bristol Motor Speedway and the Nashville Fairgrounds.

The East Series features a good mix of young talent and veteran independents, and it’d be fun to see all those guys battle it out on a tough old short track. A 200-lapper would do the trick.

4. ARCA Menards Series

Even better than the East Series would be the main ARCA tour, or perhaps one of the occasionally scheduled combination races between the two series.

ARCA actually raced at North Wilkesboro once upon a time back in 1980. Phil Parsons won that 100-lapper before going on to the second-best finish of his Cup career as the runner-up at NWS in the fall of 1988.

ARCA has a pretty good mix of tracks currently on its schedule, and North Wilkesboro would add another great element to that.

5. NASCAR Truck Series

For anybody involved in the resurrection of North Wilkesboro Speedway, this has to be the ultimate goal — a NASCAR national series return after 25-plus years away.

The trucks raced at NWS in the first two seasons of the series’ existence. A couple names you might recognize won those events, with Mike Bliss the 1995 winner and NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Mark Martin visiting victory lane in 1996 for his first trucks win.

This series is supposed to be about short tracks and development opportunities for drivers and teams. There aren’t too many places that would be better suited for that than NWS with a 250-lap truck race.

And then, who knows? Perhaps this leads to a return for Xfinity. Or even Cup in the future.

Honorable mention: SMART Tour modifieds, Pro All Stars Series super late models, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

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