North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper made a return visit to the revitalized North Wilkesboro Speedway on Wednesday, ahead of this weekend’s historic NASCAR All-Star Race.

The governor was joined by Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith in touring the iconic speedway, meeting with media and visiting former NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski’s pit prior to Wednesday’s tripleheader of ASA Stars National Tour, CARS Pro Late Model Tour and CARS Late Model Stock Tour action.

“There are just some places that are so ingrained in communities, in states, in people’s lives, that they take a special place among themselves,” Cooper said. “That’s what you get when you talk about North Wilkesboro Speedway. 

“When you think about tradition, all of the stories from this race track and you think about how this race track brings people back 50 years and longer, I’ve had people tell me, ‘I went to this track as a kid with my family,’ and they’d have tears going down their faces about what it means (to have North Wilkesboro Speedway back). I’m a sports governor. I love sports, I enjoy sports, but I also know that sports puts money back into the pockets of North Carolinians. We are really excited about this.”

Smith lauded the Wilkes County community, state and local officials for their impassioned efforts to return high-level motorsports and entertainment back to North Wilkesboro Speedway – which celebrates its 76th birthday on Thursday. The treasured venue is also the only professional sports facility to reopen and host professional sports after completely closing operations.

“This has never been done before,” Smith said. “It wasn’t long ago that people, including me, said, ‘North Wilkesboro is never going to come back.' It’s because of the people who never lost hope, who never gave up on North Wilkesboro, on Wilkes County and western North Carolina, and the countless hundreds who’ve helped us bring it back today. Without (Gov. Cooper’s) support, we would not be able to make this happen.”

After more than a decade without any racing, the famed 0.625-mile facility reopened last August to a series of grassroots racing events. Speedway Motorsports, NASCAR and Gov. Cooper announced last September on the steps of the N.C. Museum of History that North Wilkesboro would host the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race.

The All-Star Race on Sunday will serve as the centerpiece of a week-long bevy of entertainment that also includes Saturday’s NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Tyson 250 and All-Star Friday presented by Raymer Oil Company – featuring Midland and Chase Rice concerts, All-Star, Open and Truck Series practice sessions, and the long-awaited return of the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge presented by Mechanix Wear.

“When you think about North Carolina, you think about motorsports,” Cooper said. “It puts money into the pocket of North Carolinians, but it’s also a sport that’s ingrained in our culture. Communities like this, and race tracks like this across North Carolina, still matter. That’s why we put it in our budget proposal to help race tracks like this fantastic speedway in North Wilkesboro.

“The legislature started working and the community started working, because we knew this was a great idea. This is a place where races will be here, concerts will come, people and families will love this. I’m so excited about it. The fact that it’s been done, and we’re here and we’re racing, there’s nothing like it. I’m proud to be here.”