In advance of May's NASCAR All-Star Race weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway, NASCAR conducted a two-day tire test for both the NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at the legendary speedway on Monday and Tuesday
The test marked the first organized NASCAR action at North Wilkesboro since the fall of 1996, when the track held its final race before being closed down.
All three manufacturers were represented at the test, with Austin Dillon's Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, Chris Buescher's RFK Racing Ford and Tyler Reddick's 23XI Racing Toyota taking to the track. In the Truck Series, Carson Hocevar (Chevrolet), Zane Smith (Ford) and Corey Heim (Toyota) were the three participants in testing to prepare for May's Tyson 250.
The NASCAR Cup Series …— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 21, 2023
… back at @NWBSpeedway. pic.twitter.com/piTbQFyrDx
For a completely new generation of drivers, the appeal of North Wilkesboro -- situated in the heart of the North Carolina's moonshine country where NASCAR began and one of its earliest racetracks -- comes from more than just its historic qualities. One of the track's defining characteristics is its elevation changes, as the front stretch runs downhill while the back stretch goes uphill.
But what stuck out among driver comments was the quality of the track's asphalt despite its advanced age, and the extreme tire wear and lack of grip that comes with it. In a Twitter post, Hocevar wrote that he experienced three seconds of falloff from the start of a run on tires to the end.
Others shared that there was a lack of grip from the start of a run onwards to the point that it was difficult to run full throttle.
"You're having to pedal it pretty good. The first lap, you have to kind of be careful squeezing the gas down and as you run, you know, it's hard to get back to wide-open throttle," Tyler Reddick said in a report by NASCAR.com. "But you know, really, I think we were seeing a second-and-a-half fall off or so over even 50 laps, and that was kind of surprising. I figured we'd have more fall off.
This track is awesome. No grip, sliding all over, and elevation change from one end to the other that makes some road courses look flat 🤣 https://t.co/HK85r2SvqD— Chris Buescher (@Chris_Buescher) March 21, 2023
Monday's and Tuesday's test sessions took place amidst major renovations at the speedway, which have included infrastructure improvements around the track, a repaved infield and pit road and the installation of SAFER barriers -- painted in alternating red and white stripes in a nod to NASCAR's Winston Cup era.
The resurrection of North Wilkesboro for NASCAR's 75th Anniversary has made this year's All-Star Race one of the most anticipated on the sport's calendar, particularly given the improbable nature of its return. The track only reopened last summer, when an influx in money from the North Carolina state budget allowed for the speedway to finally be renovated and set the stage for a celebration of stock car racing's heritage.