NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. —  North Wilkesboro Speedway is gearing up to host NASCAR’s All-Star Race for the second year in a row. The race will bring in fans internationally and millions to the area.

What You Need To Know

  • NASCAR’s All-Star Race created 625 jobs for North Carolinians

  • It increased North Carolina’s statewide economy by $42.4 million

  • Fans came from international locations and all 50 states last year

  • Canadian Mike Westfall jumped at the chance to see the track in action, traveling around 600 miles

Mike Westfall is a huge racing fan, traveling to tracks every year to add to his list.

“We’ve done Daytona, Kentucky, Bristol, Talladega, Richmond, Michigan, Vegas and now here,” Westfall said.

The list of visited tracks and races runs as long as the miles put on tires of the race cars, with Westfall and his companions traveling around 600 miles from Windsor, Ontario, in Canada to the historic track in North Carolina.

“We never thought we were going to be able to get the chance to come here. And then so we were going to go to Watkins Glen this year. But once they scheduled this race, we decided we're going to do it while we can, just make sure we get here,” Westfall said.

Mike Westfall looks at his phone for the other tracks that he plans to visit. (Spectrum News 1)
Mike Westfall looks at his phone for the other tracks that he plans to visit. (Spectrum News 1)

Westfall said he has been a lifelong fan of racing, even participating in the simulation game iRacing, and making the change of plans to see the flag wave at North Wilkesboro is worth every penny. The racing fan said normally to park at the campsite runs around $200, much less than the cost in Wilkes County.

“This one was $800. So it was a little bit of a sticker shock when we first looked into it, but we decided, well, we had to do it, so let's just do it, eat it and get it done,” Westfall said.

According to a press release from Gov. Roy Cooper at the beginning of May, the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway increased the value of the statewide economy by $42.4 million.

“We're really excited to have racing back in North Wilkesboro. The track was closed for over 26 years from its last race. The opportunity that came about to bring the track back and kind of the people that were involved in the story is just really inspiring … My goal as a tourism director is to bring more tourists into the community and help sort of diversify our local economy by generating different activities and events and economic development,” said Thomas Salley, of the Wilkes County Tourism Development Authority.

Grants from North Carolina’s Motorsports Relief Fund helped fund renovations of the track that was created by moonshiners and other racers in the state.

With North Wilkesboro Speedway getting $18 million through funding allocated from the American Rescue Plan budget, Salley said the bulk of the funding is going toward getting sewer and water on site at the track.

“The possibilities are endless. We're excited to see how we can leverage our culture and our, you know, the sort of history that we have to introduce new generation of fans to racing and the local history,” Salley said.

Last year’s race created 625 jobs for North Carolinians and led to over $20 million in direct construction and infrastructure investment in Wilkes County.

“Last year we had around 85,000 people that attended All-Star Race activities on the weekend. And of course, the facility was at capacity every day it was open. So we were super excited to see and hear the noise, that's a familiar sight and sound to a lot of folks here that that just makes them feel really good,” Salley said.

The race brought in nearly $29 million in visitor spending.

In the press release from Cooper's office, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith said in 2023, North Wilkesboro Speedway welcomed fans from all 50 states, including seven foreign countries such as Australia.

Fans are flocking to the forgotten track with tales of moonshine, the golden age of racing and salvaged cars luring them back into history.

Mike Westfall plays cornhole with friends at the campground. (Spectrum News 1)
Mike Westfall plays cornhole with friends at the campground. (Spectrum News 1)

“I talk to people about moonshine and what it means and how the the sport of NASCAR evolved from moonshine making and running, you know, you just see people's eyes light up and there's something magical about the story. And I think the moonshine story in particular has this sort of Robin Hood element to it. This is a universal kind of human story that people, everybody can relate to. But today, modern moonshine is nothing like what it was years ago,” Salley said.

But whether fans are basking in the history of their favorite drivers who once zoomed around this short track or finding new loyal fan bases, the town is excited to be recognized in what once was one of the most booming economies in the state and produced many Fortune 500 companies.

“We hope that the speedway will be a catalyst to bringing business and industry into the community because they recognize that this area has such a rich history of entrepreneurism and just determination and creativity. All those characteristics that made Wilkes County … people had to make things and create because they couldn't get it from anywhere else because this area was so isolated from the rest of the area,” Salley said.

Salley says he is excited to see where the track goes and what it means for the town, residents and the state. But fans are just excited to feel the rumble of the cars whizzing back.

“I'm excited to smell the race fuel burning. I haven't smelled it in a while and do for some reason, and I just want to hear it and see it and enjoy it,” Westfall said.

Events are taking place throughout the week at North Wilkesboro Speedway and NASCAR’s All-Star Race will start at 8 p.m. Sunday.