North Wilkesboro Speedway renovations ahead of schedule Kyle Busch to run five Xfinity races for Kaulig Racing Friday 5: 23XI Racing takes different approach to building pit crews Kevin Harvick leaves mark as behind-the-scenes mentor for ‘my kids’ in NASCAR Dr. Diandra: Determining the 10 all-time best Cup drivers at Daytona

In 100 days, weather permitting, NASCAR Cup Series drivers will once again compete at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway, which returns to major league racing this year for the first time since 1996.

According to Steve Swift, senior vice president of operations and development at Speedway Motorsports, the work crews are ahead of schedule and expect repairs and additions to be completed by early May. An all-star race is scheduled for May 21 at North Wilkesboro.

Swift says the next big job on the track will be the installation of SAFER barriers, which are expected to come soon. The infield part of the track, which previously consisted of a mixture of asphalt, concrete and grass, will soon be asphalted.

“We’re waiting for a break in the weather for a few warm days to put asphalt on the infield,” Swift told NBC Sports. “We are 55-60% ready with everything.”

The racing surface will not be paved. After racing on the track last year on late models, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was a major proponent of reviving North Wilkesboro, recommended that the old surface be retained for at least the duration of the All-Star Race. Swift said some patches have been patched up, but the same surface that Jeff Gordon won the circuit’s last Cup race in 1996 will be the landscape for this year’s return to racing.

“NASCAR sent in their asphalt experts and we figured we could do an all-star race on the old surface,” Swift said. “We patched up a few spots, but the surface will remain the same as in 1996. It will be new cars on an old surface, and the fans will once again enjoy the fun of old-style racing on this surface.”

Speedway Motorsports decided from the outset to retain as much of the historical “feel” of the old track as possible. Signage from the 1990s has been retained, and a manually operated scoreboard will once again show the leaders of the race.

Swift was quick to add that the idea of ​​preserving the track’s historic nature does not include toilets. All of them will be equipped with modern equipment.

The infield will look different due to the new surface and the fact that the garage’s decrepit cover has been removed. The building containing the elevator that takes the winning car up Victory Lane remains, while another smaller building has been rebuilt.

“It was known as the old gas building or the gas office,” Swift said. “It doesn’t make sense today, but we’ve heard so many old stories about him. It was conceived as a small Union 76 office but became a small meeting place for what we might call tax-free deals. Many business deals were made there, whether it was moonshine or negotiations between riders and team owners.

“Enoch Staley (one of the original owners of the track) was going to tear it down years ago, but Dale Earnhardt Sr. said, “Absolutely not. We’re going to restore this thing. Dale sent his carpenters and they rebuilt it. It was in bad condition again, but we rebuilt it, and we have a cool little building there.”

In addition to installing SAFER fencing and laying paving slabs in the garden, plans for the next three months include installation of lighting, interior decoration in suites and other buildings, as well as finishing touches on signs and stands.

“As a fan, when you get there, you will feel like you’re back in 1980s Wilkesboro,” Swift said.

Kyle Bushthe best driver in Xfinity Series history will return to the series for five races with Kaulig Racing, the team announced on Friday.

Bush, who has 102 Xfinity wins to his credit, did not compete in Xfinity last year. His five races this season will be:

March 4th in Las Vegas.

March 11 in Phoenix

May 27 in Charlotte

August 19, Watkins Glen.

September 2 in Darlington

In these races, he will drive the No. 10 Kaulig Racing car. Sponsor information will come later.

“I look forward to having fun again in the Xfinity series,” Bush said in a team statement. “What Matt Caulig and Chris Rice have built in just a few short years at Kaulig Racing is impressive, and thanks to the team’s alliance with Richard Childress Racing (RCR) it was easy to make the decision to return to racing in a series we have been successful for many years. years”.

Earlier this week, Kyle Busch Motorsports announced the five Craftsman Truck Series races that Busch will host this season.

NASCAR rules limit drivers with more than three years of Cup experience to five truck and five Xfinity races per season. They are also not allowed to participate in the regular season and playoff finals in each series, as well as special events in each series (Triple Truck Challenge and Dash 4 Cash in Xfinity).

At 33, Josh Shipplett expected to work another five years as a pit road tire loader. But when 23XI Racing decided to have their own pit crews rather than hire them from Joe Gibbs Racing, it changed Shipplett’s plan.

He became the team’s pit coach and was tasked with developing the 23XI Racing pit crew program.

“Opportunities for coaches in this series aren’t available every day,” Shipplett told NBC Sports. “To be able to do it from the ground up and build something the way 23XI believed and what I believed in, I knew it would be difficult, but in my mind it would be much harder to go somewhere else and change. philosophy they already had.

“Being able to start over and being able to coach is something that probably shouldn’t have happened, so I had to jump on it.”

Performance 23XI Racing Bubba Wallace And Tyler Reddick and their pit crew will be one of the key storylines this season.

co-owner Danny Hamlin said the goal is for both cars to make the playoffs this season. The performance of the pit crew will be the key to this. The 23XI Racing pit crews had some problems last year. A more consistent unit could help Wallace and Reddick win more often.

Shipplett is used to winning. His first cup race as a tire carrier was in the 2011 Daytona 500 with Wood Brothers Racing who won that day with Trevor Bain. Shipplett was also the tire carrier when Hamlin won the 2019 and 20 Daytona 500. Last year, Shipplett served as a tire carrier for the No. 45 23XI Racing and was part of Kurt Busch’s winning Kansas team.

Josh Shipplett is starting his first season as a pit coach for 23XI Racing. (Photo by Dustin Long)

Hiring a crew member with no coaching experience to run the new program could be seen as a gamble, but 23XI Racing didn’t see it that way.

“I think it’s part of how we look at everything here,” Steve Lauletta, president of 23XI Racing, told NBC Sports. “We have an engineer who worked for the DTM (German grand tourer series). We have a Formula 1 mechanic. This is how Danny looks at it. That’s where his input is so helpful. He’s been doing this for quite some time and he has a vision of how he wants the management and the people here to work together as a team in 23XI.

“I think he has a good eye for talent. It doesn’t mean how many teams you’ve worked on, it means can you do what we want to do here? Can you look at it differently? Can you innovate how it’s done? What is your approach, not what is your experience.”

One of the major changes Hamlin wanted to make to the pit crew this season was to increase the number of experienced team members.

“We will continue to develop young talent in the future, but we don’t have time to develop them on the race track,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “We need results now and quickly…


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