Written by Sean McKean, Edited by Debargha Banerjee
Following a spectacular race at Darlington, the next race on the schedule is a step into the unknown for most drivers. For the first time since 1996, North Wilkesboro is back on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule in the form of the non-points-paying NASCAR All-Star Race. Here is all you need to know ahead of the 2023 edition of the race, including the format and the likely favorites.
The Return of a Classic
As previously mentioned, the fan-favorite track North Wilkesboro makes its long-awaited return to the NASCAR schedule. This track replaced Texas Motor Speedway for the All-Star race after a very unpopular 2022 running. Given the popularity of the track as well as replacing a very disliked track, many fans and drivers alike are hyped for its return.
Since the track was in disarray, repairs had to be made for the track to not only make it Cup Series ready but also make the track accessible. These speedy repairs have been met with praise by veteran drivers, such as Jeff Canipe.
“I thought it was done for,” said Canipe in an interview with NASCAR.com. “I’ve seen pictures of it before they started to renovate it, and I thought there’s no way that they’ll ever race at this place again. To be able to see them bring it back here and race the All-Star Race and hopefully continue, it’s amazing.”
On Saturday, there will be two heats of 11 and 10 cars respectively to determine the starting grid for the cars already locked into the big show. The starting grid of each heat will be determined by Friday’s pit stop challenge, which is a bracket-style event that utilizes the pit crew’s agility. The results of the first heat will set the inside row and the results of the second the outside row.
The sixteen drivers that aren’t locked into the race will have to race their way in through the fan-favorite All-Star Open on Sunday afternoon. Rather than three 20-lap dashes like last year, this year will hold a 100-lap race, where the top-two will make it to the big show. In addition to finishing top two in the opens, you can make it in by winning the All-Star fan
The big show will be on Sunday night. After a few years of overly-complicated formats, this year will just be a 200-lap race with a competition caution at lap 100.
Among the prospect of a renovated track and the lure of a $1,000,000 prize, many drivers will be attempting to win it all for their bragging rights.
Considering how dominant he was last weekend, Trackhouse driver Ross Chastain (#1) is looking for redemption after losing out on a win late in the race at Darlington. Chastain lost out on the win after a late race collision with Hendrick driver Kyle Larson (#5) who also seeks redemption from Darlington. Larson has shown speed on all tracks, ranging from wins at short tracks and intermediates. Given his pace at these kinds of tracks, Larson is certainly a favorite.
Another driver who came into contact with Chastain late in the race was Joe Gibbs driver Martin Truex Jr (#19). The New Jersey native has had a great run of form recently, most notably winning at Dover.
However, it would be odd to discredit Hendrick driver William Byron’s (#24) chances of victory. Currently with three wins on the year, the most of any driver, Byron has entered a level of his own not previously seen this year.
The last of these drivers may be a dark horse for the race, but nonetheless is still a contender: Alex Bowman’s replacement Josh Berry (#48). Though you may count him out on the basis of being a substitute, Berry has experience at North Wilkesboro, racing in the CARS revival.
Where to Watch?
Every piece of action can be watched on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports Go.