Legendary North Carolina short track is coming to the online racing sim sooner than you thought
iRacing is the only thing going on right now. And the online racing service is about to add one legendary track.
Before NASCAR hit the mainstream 1.5-mile tracks, they were door banging on the short tracks of the South.
North Wilkesboro Speedway is a 0.625-mile oval in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina with a population of just 4,276. But, over the years, millions of NASCAR fans migrated to the tiny town over nearly 50 years.
The track hosted it’s first NASCAR Cup Series race in 1949. Jeff Gordon won the final NASCAR race at the track in 1996.
The short track is a favorite of NASCAR fans. However, during the growth of NASCAR, the sport located new locations in city markets at a rapid rate. The North Carolina track’s two Winston Cup Series dates were moved to the new Texas Motor Speedway.
On May 9, 2011, the track was officially closed. At this point, it’s not likely the track will ever open again. But, it’s set to live on forever in a digital world.
To this day, Speedway Motorsports Inc still owns the speedway. However, it remains dormant.
Dale Earnhardt Jr urged iRacing to scan the track; They did
In December 2019, the track was in the midst of being reclaimed by mother Earth. Dale Earnhardt Jr encouraged SMI president Marcus Smith and iRacing EVP Steve Myers to do something about the dying track.
Together, Earnhardt, Smith, Myers and others took to the track. Tractors turned laps at the track as they cleaned off the racing surface in the bitter cold.
iRacing then unleashed the scanners. At the time, iRacing planned to just scan and collect the data of the track and save it for the future. Of course, the plan was to create a digital version of the track but no official plans to do so were announced.
Apparently, iRacing when to work shortly after collecting the data. The track now has a tentative release date of June 2020.
During the scan, the track was weathered. That’s unlike most of the tracks that iRacing has scanned in the past. That presented challenges to re-creating the surface as it was in 1996 for the digital world.
“There were certainly sections of the track that were much worse condition than could possibly be raced on,” Steve Myers told NBC Sports.
“Turns 3 and 4, the pavement was sliding. You could see it was buckling in on a section of the track … from sitting unused for so many years.”
“Going into Turn 1, the drainage coming out from underneath the grandstands kind of ran across the track and because it was downhill, it was funneling down the front straight pit wall and right along into Turn 1 and collecting in the apron at the exit of the pits. You could tell there (had been) a lot of water there because the pavement started peeling up along that wall.”
“So those things are kind of the obstacles that we have in the production process of trying to figure out how to smooth those things out and do the best we can.”
“The data, we looked through it already, we’re pretty far along on the development of the track. It actually looks pretty good.”
Beyond that, iRacing has other content in development. Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville has also been scanned by the online racing game. That track is also in development.