NASCAR in Tough Spot Trying to Address Unexpected Element of Danger Facing Drivers During All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro
The return of the NASCAR Cup Series to North Wilkesboro Speedway is a fairytale ending to a story that’s been years in the making. Everyone is understandably excited about the 2023 All-Star Race on the 0.625-mile track.
However, there’s one specific member of the teams worried about an element of danger on Sunday that’s not present at other tracks and has communicated its concerns to NASCAR, and the sanctioning body is trying to address the situation.
NASCAR returns to North Wilkesboro Speedway
North Wilkesboro Speedway is located in the heart of NASCAR country because it was part of the sport’s originating pulse, hosting its inaugural race on the short track in 1949.
The Cup Series raced there until 1996, and then it was over. The community, which was synonymous with NASCAR, was devastated.
Fast forward more than 25 years later, and rumblings began in and around the area about reviving the track from the dead. Dale Earnhardt Jr. got involved. So did Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith.
And here we are. The NASCAR Truck Series races on Saturday, and the Cup guys follow up on Sunday, beating and banging around the short track for the All-Star Race.
Spotters concerned about visibility issues
Since the announcement, videos have shown steady progression on the track from its old, dilapidated, abandoned form to a new modernized version with updated technology and amenities. The overwhelming sentiment is that SMI did well maintaining the original track as much as possible while incorporating the newer accommodations.
But, as is to be expected in such a massive undertaking, the rebuild is not without its issues. And this week, several spotters pointed out one in particular. Most notably, Door Bumper Clear podcast co-host and spotter for Bubba Wallace, Freddie Kraft, was candid in sharing concerns that he and his fellow spotters have about one particular section of the track not being visible from the spotters’ stand because it will be blocked by all the vehicles on the infield.
“Now you see him… Abracadabra. Now you don’t,” Kraft tweeted this week with a video showing the view from the spotter’s stand and how a car disappears behind the vehicles parked in the infield for almost four seconds.
The obvious worry is spotters won’t be able to guide their drivers in that corner during the race, but more importantly, if there’s an incident and they need to avoid trouble.
NASCAR working to address issue
While it’s understandable that there would be unexpected hiccups in the renovation of the historic track and facility, this issue has been known for almost a month, according to Kraft.
“There was some concern as far as about a month ago when we talked about the placement of it,” the spotter told Racing America. “Last week they had an open house here and some of the spotters came to take pictures and I noticed from the pictures that it would be too low once the infield filled in. We reached out to NASCAR at that point, and they’ve been working with the racetrack since that point to find a different location — and it’s not easy.”
Bringing back a track from the dead naturally has its costs. The hope is on Sunday that the spotters, and more specifically, the drivers can avoid paying an additional price.
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