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Though there are tangible riches that are easy to conceptualize and alluring to seek out -- like, for instance, a million dollars -- there are also riches that are less obvious to some but are cherished by others. And while many may not confuse Wilkes County, N.C. for El Dorado, this place and its racetrack, North Wilkesboro Speedway, are as precious as gold.

For over a quarter century, North Wilkesboro's treasures were sealed away and seemingly lost to time, as NASCAR's growth once led to them leaving behind the Carolina foothills where stock car racing began seemingly never to return. But after years of effort and determination, happy days are here again in the place where moonshiners once roamed. And for the first time since 1996, North Wilkesboro Speedway will host a NASCAR Cup Series race as the new site of the sport's annual All-Star Race.

An entirely new generation of NASCAR stars will now get their opportunity to challenge this .625-mile oval that was once a fixture of NASCAR from 1949 onward. And for the first driver to win at the reborn North Wilkesboro Speedway, that distinction will be made even sweeter through a $1 million payday as an All-Star Race winner.

How to Watch the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro

Date: Sunday, May 21
Location: North Wilkesboro Speedway -- North Wilkesboro, N.C.
Time: 6 p.m. ET (All-Star Open), 8 p.m. ET (All-Star Race)
Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

Race Format

The NASCAR All-Star Race will be 200 laps, with a competition break at or around Lap 100. All laps, under green and under caution, will count, and NASCAR overtime rules will also be in effect if needed. Each team in the field will start the All-Star Race on a set of sticker tires and will have three additional sets of tires to use throughout the race. However, only one set of sticker tires are permitted to be used after the competition break.

The All-Star Race is open to all Cup Series drivers who have either won a race during the 2022 or 2023 seasons, are a past All-Star Race winner that competes full-time, or are a past Cup Series champion that competes full-time. The following drivers have qualified for the 2023 All-Star Race:

  • #1 - Ross Chastain
  • #2 - Austin Cindric
  • #3 - Austin Dillon
  • #4 - Kevin Harvick
  • #5 - Kyle Larson
  • #6 - Brad Keselowski
  • #8 - Kyle Busch
  • #9 - Chase Elliott
  • #11 - Denny Hamlin
  • #12 - Ryan Blaney
  • #14 - Chase Briscoe
  • #17 - Chris Buescher
  • #19 - Martin Truex Jr.
  • #20 - Christopher Bell
  • #22 - Joey Logano
  • #23 - Bubba Wallace
  • #24 - William Byron
  • #43 - Erik Jones
  • #45 - Tyler Reddick
  • #47 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  • #99 - Daniel Suarez

Alex Bowman had been eligible to compete in the All-Star Race by virtue of his 2022 win at Las Vegas, but he will miss the race due to a fractured vertebra suffered in a sprint car accident. His substitute driver, Josh Berry, will have to qualify for the All-Star Race through the All-Star Open that all drivers who have not previously qualified for the All-Star Race are eligible to compete in.

The All-Star Open will be 100 laps, with a competition break on or around Lap 40. As is the case in the All-Star Race, all laps in the Open count and each team will start the race on sticker tires with one additional set in their pit box.

Three drivers from the Open will advance to the All-Star Race: the top two finishers in the Open and the winner of the Fan Vote. The following 16 drivers are entered in the Open:

  • #7 - Corey LaJoie
  • #10 - Aric Almirola
  • #13 - Chandler Smith
  • #15 - J.J. Yeley
  • #16 - AJ Allmendinger
  • #21 - Harrison Burton
  • #31 - Justin Haley
  • #34 - Michael McDowell
  • #38 - Todd Gilliland
  • #41 - Ryan Preece
  • #42 - Noah Gragson (R)
  • #48 - Josh Berry
  • #51 - Ryan Newman
  • #54 - Ty Gibbs (R)
  • #77 - Ty Dillon
  • #78 - Josh Bilicki

Qualifying for both the All-Star Race and All-Star Open will be based on Friday night's Pit Crew Challenge, with each driver's qualifying time being based on the time it takes their pit crews to complete a four-tire stop. Timing lines will be established one box behind and one box ahead of the designated pit box.

The field of drivers qualified for the All-Star Race will then be split into two different 60-lap Heat races that will determine the starting lineup for the All-Star Race. Heat 1 will determine the order of the inside row, while Heat 2 will decide the order of the outside row.

Technical rules for the All-Star Race are the same as all other NASCAR Cup Series short track races. The winner of the All-Star Race will receive $1 million.

What to Watch

The reason that the All-Star Race rules place a premium on tires is because of the advanced age of North Wilkesboro's surface and the sheer level of abrasiveness it provides. Although the original plan was for the track to be repaved, the original surface proved to be in such good condition and so popular with competitors during last summer's Racetrack Revival that it was decided the current asphalt -- last paved many decades ago -- would remain as is.

During a Goodyear tire test in March, it was reported that the lack of grip from the start of a run onward was to a point that it was difficult for drivers to run flat out. Although lap times allegedly only fell off by about a second and a half, tire management and conservation over the course of a long run will be essential to each driver and team.

Still, fresh tires may not necessarily be enough to trump track position, which has proven to be critical in Next Gen short track races. Wednesday night's CARS Tour late model race offered some evidence to support this, as Ryan Millington and Jared Fryar were able to finish second and third, respectively, despite not coming to pit road for tires late in the race. Even so, neither were a match for race winner Brenden Queen on fresh rubber.

Pick to Win

(Odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

Chase Elliott (+1100): Believe it or not, there is one active Cup driver who has actually won at North Wilkesboro. The early 2010s saw a short-lived grassroots revival of North Wilkesboro, with a then 14-year-old Chase Elliott winning a PASS late model race on Labor Day weekend 2010. Elliott has achieved a great deal since, and a third-place finish at Darlington last week highlighted how he's gotten back in a rhythm post-injury.

A second All-Star Race win for Elliott would also make for a great narrative, as he can link the heritage of NASCAR to its present and future for a new generation of North Wilkesboro race fans. That said, Chase's father Bill Elliott never won at North Wilkesboro during his Hall of Fame career.