Is North Wilkesboro Speedway Open? [Expert Guide!]

After several weeks off due to the pandemic, the cars hit the track again as the Summer Series returns. Racing fans will soon be able to get their fix as most tracks are now open, including the legendary North Wilkesboro Speedway. Is the infamous half-mile still open for business? Let’s take a quick look.

What Is The History Of North Wilkesboro Speedway?

The history of North Wilkesboro Speedway is intertwined with the history of NASCAR. The track was initially conceived back in the 1940s and formally opened for racing in 1949. However, it wasn’t until the early 1950s that the track really came into its own. That’s when the late Walter Rathell began running the road course on a regular basis, eventually leading to it taking on an almost legendary status in the sport. In 1952, Rathell won the first of what would be many championships at the track, as well as the first ever NASCAR Grand National race. It was also around this time that many of the iconic tracks, including North Wilkesboro, began using a unique blend of asphalt known as triplex. Simply put, triplex is three different types of asphalt (believe it or not) that, when mixed, form a perfect racing surface. To this day, NASCAR uses a lot of triplex and variations of it at all of their tracks. As for the future of North Wilkesboro, plans call for the track to undergo some renovations to make it safer and more modernized. However, Rathell’s grandson, Brian, has stated that the track will remain open as long as it is affordable for local drivers to compete there. For those who grew up watching the legendary Walter Rathell dominate the stock car scene, it’s bittersweet to know that the track is now closed to the public. However, with several tracks opening up around the country, it’s clear that the need for speed still exists.

What Is The Layout Of North Wilkesboro Speedway?

The track is named after the legendary Walter Rathell, who was affectionately known as “Killer” Walter due to his uncanny ability to never lose a race. During his time as the track’s main driver, he was often featured on a Wheaties box, which is probably why we have boxes today as well (but that’s a different story). It is widely accepted that North Wilkesboro is one of the most difficult tracks to master, which is probably why it has remained a “private” track for so long. The design of the track itself is mostly rectangular, with a couple of twists and turns to make it more challenging. There are three straightaways, with the longest being a little more than a mile. The first turn is rather sharp and features two stacked lanes, making it one of the most dangerous and unpredictable turns on the entire circuit. The second turn is also pretty sharp, featuring another pair of lanes that join together, forming a long, thin turn that is very similar to a football dip. Finally, the last turn is an extremely tight right-hander that features a short chute and a slight uphill stretch to make it interesting for the driver. Overall, the track’s design is fairly typical for a road course, featuring a couple of hills and curves that make it a bit more interesting than your usual oval track. The part of the track that is closest to the grandstands is known as the clubhouse, while the part that is further away is called the terrace. The track has a total length of 14 miles, with a width of 8.5 feet, and a height of 70 feet.

How Is Car Culture At North Wilkesboro Speedway?

Back in the day, Walter Rathell used to bring his entire clan to the track. It was pretty common for fans to catch multiple generations of Rathells at the same time. Nowadays, things are a little different. While multiple generations are still seen at the track, only the most diehard of car enthusiasts really end up going there anymore. Even then, it’s mostly the older generations who are driving the race cars these days, with several younger ones participating in the occasional drag race or showing off their hot wheels. That’s not to say that younger people aren’t interested in cars at all. With several new car museums popping up around the country, it’s clear that people appreciate the beauties of automobile design more than ever before. For those who grew up with fast cars and racing, it’s nostalgic to go to a track and see the same old legends in the flesh, albeit in a different form than before. It might be better if the track closed its gates for a while so that the drivers and cars don’t get damaged in any way by spectators.

Is It Still The Same As It Was In The 1940s?

Most people associate the smell of hot rubber and gasoline as being synonymous with the excitement of car racing. However, back in the day, there was a whole lot more to it than that. In the ‘40s, tracks didn’t just have dirt and grass as their primary surface; they had packed sand and thick layers of asphalt, which made for some pretty exciting races. Back in those days, tracks like North Wilkesboro were usually open all year round, which meant that the temperatures were particularly harsh. For the drivers, this meant that either they had to learn to deal with the cold or they had to find ways to keep themselves warm. Many drivers chose to wear special suits with motors underneath to produce hot air, which made them extremely slippery and dangerous. To make matters worse, tracks were opened by different ownerships several times during the year, which often led to conflicts and accidents due to lack of communication and unfamiliarity with the track. It wasn’t all bad though. In an effort to speed up the races, tracks would sometimes build up speed limits, which was generally frowned upon today but was a real boon for the drivers who were able to take advantage of it. With several tracks now reopened, it’s clear that the need for speed still exists and that old habits die hard.

That’s it for this week’s issue. We hope you enjoyed it. As always, please feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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