More than 50 zMAX CARS Tour drivers made laps on the repaved North Wilkesboro Speedway Wednesday, as they tested Hoosier tire compounds for use in the May 14-15 late model events at the historic track. Drivers praised the new asphalt, saying the track retains character while also providing a smoother, faster racing surface.

Brenden “Butterbean” Queen won the Window World 125 Late Model Stock Car race at North Wilkesboro last May in his No. 03 Lee Pulliam Performance Toyota. He’ll be making his NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series debut in a TRICON Garage machine at NWS in the Wright Brand 250 on May 18, in addition to running this year’s Window World 125 CARS Tour race on May 15.

“The track looks great, first off, the pavement looks great,” said Queen. “It’s smooth. You still have those little bit of bump characteristics, the uphill down the back and the downhill down the front, you can still kind of notice all that. It’s still Wilkesboro. Obviously, I love the old pavement because I’m a dirt racer too and I like low-grip racing, but I also like high-grip racing. It’s definitely going to be a different type of race than we had the last two times we were here. I think the track, it’s still got character, but it looks great. And for the track to thrive, we understand it had to have the pavement and it’s going to only boost the status of this place moving forward and keep it around for a long time to come.”

Brandon Jones, driver of the No. 9 NASCAR Xfinity Series Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, also plans to compete in the Window World 125 in the No. 9 entry for Hawk McCall Motorsports.

“This is quite the experience coming to North Wilkesboro for the first time,” said Jones. I’ve never even been to this race track before. I watched some old films and old clips, it would have been so cool, I think, to come back and run the old pavement before they repaved it. I’m excited to see all the change come to this race track and see everything that they’re doing to revive these old tracks.

“It’s certainly got a bunch of grip, but if you walk it and really start looking, there’s still a lot of characteristics to this place. There’s a big bump in Turns 1 and 2, almost entry to [Turn] 1 that a lot of guys are trying to drive around. You can tell a lot of guys are trying to miss that. Then there’s a big patch in [Turns] 3 and 4 where there’s almost a grippy area down there. There’s a lot of little nuances about this track, it’s not an ice-smooth, glassy repave and I kind of like that it’s like this still. It makes you have to drive around areas still and drive around those bumps. Typically, when they repave tracks it’s just got a bunch of grip, it’s fast and you just run the bottom. This one is very unique still.”

Carson Kvapil, two-time CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car champion and winner of the Window World 125 in 2022 in the No. 8 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, said the new surface is faster than the old pavement.

“I think today we had a pretty good test here,” said Kvapil. “It’s good for all the guys to get out here and make some laps at this place since they repaved it. I think we all have to learn a little bit about the tire and how it’s going to react during the race.

“I feel like the speed is definitely up from whenever they had the old pavement. I believe it’s about a second or so for us or maybe a little faster. It definitely changes things a little bit, you’re just going a little faster and have a little more grip. I think it’s going to make the racing pretty good and I think we’ll be able to run side-by-side all day.”

Sammy Smith, who has been tabbed to drive a late model stock car entry for JR Motorsports in the Window World 125, and also pilots the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, won the Super Late Model 75 in 2022.

“The new asphalt has a lot of grip and it’s going to make for some fun racing,” said Smith. “I’ve raced the past two years in late models on the old asphalt and this year by far, it has so much more grip and the fall off isn’t going to be much. It’s going to be hard to pass and qualifying is going to be important. It’ll be different for sure from what it used to be, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Dylon Wilson, driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet in the Late Model Stock Car division, has grown up around North Wilkesboro Speedway, and not only proposed to his wife, Allie, at the track, but also named his newborn son “Wilkes.”

“The racetrack surface being repaved is a huge thing for the future of this race track obviously, for years of racing here, is almost guaranteed now because of the work they’ve put into it,” said Wilson. “There’s a lot of character in this race track and there always has been. A lot of people were worried about how the racing product would be with the new asphalt on the race track and I get that. I’m definitely a purist when it comes to old asphalt, but after going and making 30 laps today that’s all it took to realize this place has a ton of character. Even though it’s a lot faster now, it shoots you out of the hole it feels like when you’re coming off Turn 4 and going downhill down into Turn 1, that same Wilkesboro feel that’s been here for the last two years. I still get goosebumps talking about it now. It’s a beautiful surface, I can’t wait to race on it.”

Kip Childress, executive director of the zMAX CARS Tour, was positive about the changes in the track and the performance of the tire compound.

“Everybody seemed really, really pleased with how their sessions went. I think they all learned a lot, which was kind of indicative with the times from when we started versus what they ended up with. I think the tire was really consistent, no issues with wear, which was one thing that Hoosier was really mindful of. To get that kind of feedback this early, I think our teams are really, really happy. I think the ones that weren’t able to come for whatever reason are probably kicking themselves right now.

“Because the track and the tire combination did have so much grip, they were able to pick the throttle up so much sooner in the corner. I think we saw that because of the line they’re running around here. I think they’re running considerably higher than when I saw some of the footage of the Cup teams and the Truck teams doing their tire test. We’re so much higher they are right now. To be able to come here and be on a surface that’s smooth as glass and have some grip on it, they were tickled.”

Completed last November, the resurfacing process included milling approximately two inches of the old track, repairing failing spots, sealing and adding a specially designed asphalt mixture in the same configuration as the original track, including the 13 degrees of banking in the corners. Similar to the process used for the most recent Atlanta Motor Speedway repave, Speedway Motorsports used a special mix that is expected to age faster than traditional asphalt, creating a more “worn-in” surface more quickly. Carl Rose & Sons Asphalt, the original paving contractor for North Wilkesboro Speedway, supplied nearly 2,000 tons of specialty asphalt for the project, while North Carolina-based Delta Contracting managed the milling process. Summers Taylor, a contractor from nearby Johnson City, Tennessee, used a process called echelon paving to lay a seamless surface across the roughly 50-foot-wide track.

On March 13, a trio of NASCAR Cup Series drivers participated in a Goodyear Tire Test at North Wilkesboro and also shared positive comments on the revitalized track.

JOEY LOGANO, NO. 22 TEAM PENSKE FORD: “They did a good job, there’s still some character, it’s still a unique shaped race track, which is all good. There’s a pretty big bump down in turn one, I think where the wall was out too long and they cut it, and it’s kind of an interesting area. There’s a huge bump leaving four, which really kind of upsets the cars. I don’t think that’s bad. I’m OK with that. That’s something that made this racetrack so cool in the past, was that it had a lot of character, it was bumpy, you were forced to move around on it because it was challenging. You can make the thing like glass, I don’t know if that really makes the racing better. I think the fact that it’s got a couple of bumps and some areas where your drivers can make mistakes and jump out of the groove and do different things is just going to promote passing so that’s a good thing.”

WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET: “I would say that if it was a mile-and-a-half track, I think it being a short track it would probably be a lot like Richmond was when they repaved it, so I don’t know, I vividly have seen some of those races and I feel like it was pretty treacherous, a lot of guys would get in crashes or there would be a lot of restart wrecks, so I think the racing could actually be pretty exciting with a repave on a short track, but yeah you won’t have the style of comers and goers I don’t think. The guys who are up toward the front will be racing hard and there’s probably just going to be more wrecks.”

“I’ll be here, I’m excited. I’m excited that we’re in the race. You never take that for granted, right? You have to win to be in this race. As a driver that’s one of the first things that comes to mind when you win the first race of the year, is ‘great, you know, I’m in the All-Star Race.’ It’s an honor to be in the race and is something you want to win. It’s a big, it’s not a crown jewel, but it’s a big race to have on your resume.”

TY GIBBS, NO. 54 JOE GIBBS RACING TOYOTA: “The track is definitely a lot different with the repave, but I feel like they did a really great job with the repave. I’ve been to a lot of repaves and this is probably one of the best ones I’ve been to. And the way that they did it, they did a really great job. Just normal stuff for when we first come in here with the new repaves. It’s kind of a one-lane groove until it gets worn in. Testing, it’s really hard to get a good race feel for it, but I know that it’s gonna be pretty cool and we’ll see what happens.”

“For sure, it definitely has taken some rubber. You can visually go out there and look at it, right? You can look at how different the line looks. It’s definitely a lot better, I don’t know a lot better, I’m fine with racing the old way or the new way. You just look at the track, and you can just look at it. It’s not all, it doesn’t look like a puzzle. There are some tracks on the schedule that they did repaves at, that it just looks like a mess out there. They did such a great job here. Kudos to them.”

NASCAR All-Star Race week will include five days or nights of entertainment at North Wilkesboro Speedway including:

  • Tuesday, May 14: zMAX CARS Tour Pro Late Models Reverend 100
  • Wednesday, May 15: zMAX CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car Window World 125
  • Friday, May 17: All-Star Friday presented by Raymer Oil NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck and Cup Series practice; the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge presented by Mechanix Wear; Neal McCoy concert
  • Saturday, May 18: NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series qualifying and Wright Brand 250; NASCAR Cup Series qualifying heat races
  • Sunday, May 19: Warren Zeiders pre-race concert; NASCAR All-Star Open and NASCAR All-Star Race