We finally have a format for the highly anticipated NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
On Thursday, NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports made the formal format announcement for the Sunday, May 21st All-Star Race.
The first NASCAR Cup Series event at the iconic 0.625-mile short track since 1996 will include a special pit crew challenge on Friday evening, which will set the starting lineups for two 60-lap heat races for the 22 drivers already locked into the All-Star race field.
The Pit Crew Challenge will feature a four-tire pit stop with no fuel being added to the cars. The teams will be slotted based purely on the times of their four-tire pit stops.
The ensuing heat races on Saturday night will determine the starting positions for the top-22 drivers in Sunday's All-Star race.
Heat 1 will set the inside rows of the All-Star Race starting lineup, while Heat 2 will set the outside rows of the starting lineup.
There will also be a 100-lap All-Star Open Race, which will give drivers not in the event a chance to earn their way into the big show. The top-two drivers from the open will advance to the All-Star main event and one fan vote winner will also make their way into the big show.
On Sunday, the All-Star Race will have a 200-lap main event, which will be have a competition break around lap 100. Each team will start the All-Star Race with a set of sticker tires, and the teams will only have three additional sets of tires in their pit area for the race.
Teams will only be permitted to change tires once in the second half of the event, which will present a unique challenge with the extremely worn-out track surface at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith is excited because the format of the race feels like a true-gritty local short-track event.
"This format has an old-school, short-track feel to it---just like it should be for a return to North Wilkesboro,” said Smith. “Dale Jr. had some fantastic ideas and it was fun to work with him alongside NASCAR to pull this all together. I’m thankful for Dale’s passion for this entire project and I think we’ve landed on something that both the fans in the stands and those watching on television will absolutely love. We want everyone after the race to smile and say ‘Wow, that was fun!’”
For Earnhardt, he's proud that the format of the race will allow the track itself to be the star of the show.
“The star of this year’s All-Star Race is the track,” said Earnhardt, who will also race in the CARS Tour companion event during All-Star Race week. “The history, the nostalgia, the surface - just being back at North Wilkesboro. People have wanted traditional racing back at North Wilkesboro for decades, and that’s what’s most important - that’s what this format delivers. The Pit Crew Challenge puts a lot of pressure on the teams, and with a 100-lap Open and a 200-lap All-Star Race, I’m excited to sit back alongside the fans and watch the racing we’ve all wanted for a long time.”
The NASCAR Cup Series cars will remain with the same technical rules as other NASCAR Cup Series short track races in 2023, and drivers that are eligible for the event will be those that have won a points-paying event in 2022 or 2023, drivers who have won a previous NASCAR All-Star Race and compete full-time and drivers who have won a NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete full-time.
Drivers currently locked into the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race include Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suarez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace.
Photo Credit: Lumen Digital Agency, iRacing