North Wilkesboro Track Analysis
NASCAR’s premiere series has raced at North Wilkesboro 93 times. However, they’ve not visited the North Carolina short track in 25 years either. The last race was held in 1996. None of the drivers in this field have ran a NASCAR Cup Series car around this .625-mile track.
So, there’s really no track analysis to use since it’s essentially an inaugural event for these drivers. No trends, nothing in the past will translate over to now.
However, the best place you can look to to compare past stats off of has to be Richmond. Both similar in length (.75 Richmond, .625-mile North Wilkesboro). Both are older surfaces and wear tires quickly.
This track surface this weekend is the same one that was used in 1996. With the few tests that have been done, it was unanimous that this race will be a tire strategy event and who can go the longest without losing much pace.
Which makes this like Richmond. The faster you go early, the slower you go in the end. The slower you go early and if you maintain that pace, as weird as this sounds, you’ll be much faster later.
Plus, with the format using strategy, tires are key.
The only scheduled caution is on Lap 100. All teams will start on new tires and have three sets to use for the race. However, after the competition break around Lap 100, only one set of new tires can be used.
Example, if you pit for new tires on Lap 100, you get one more set to use the final 100 laps. If there’s a caution on Lap 160, most are going to pit for new tires. However, if someone doesn’t and elects to stay on the older tires to risk another caution and one happens, then they’re in the catbirds seat by having that fresh set.
That’s how crucial tires are.
North Wilkesboro Trends:
· If this is like Richmond, it may not allow for smaller teams to prevail at. Just look at the recent winners in Richmond. Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing have won each of the last 10 there including 14 of the last 15 overall. Similar to the old North Wilkesboro. The list of winners is a who’s who of NASCAR lore. Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace and Davey Allison combined to win 18 of the final 22 races there. The only four they didn’t win were won by the Bodine brothers in Geoff and Brett.
· 2 of the last 3 series champions ended up winning the All-Star race the year they won the title. Chase Elliott won the 2020 All-Star race at Bristol and later won his first championship. A year later, Kyle Larson did the same thing, this time the race was held at Texas. In fact, that’s actually happened nine times overall. Darrell Waltrip (1985), Rusty Wallace (1989), Dale Earnhardt (1990, 1993), Jeff Gordon (1995, 1997) and Jimmie Johnson (2006) are the others.
North Wilkesboro Favorites:
Kyle Larson (+650)
He just won Richmond, but he also has been good on short tracks in general this year. Larson dominated Phoenix (4th) and also won at Martinsville too. Hendrick Motorsports is the best team at Wilkesboro and has won two of the last three All-Star races including both being the inaugural All-Star races at those tracks. Chase Elliott won in 2020 at Bristol and Larson in 2021 at Texas.
Kevin Harvick (+750)
Worth a look on him this week. He was runner-up last spring in Richmond and also won last summer too. He was fifth this year for his ninth Top-8 result in his last 10 Richmond tries. On top of that, he had the race won at Phoenix back in March for his 20th consecutive Top-10 finish there and that track is the most similar to Richmond.
Christopher Bell (+900)
At Richmond, Bell was fourth and third respectively in 2021, sixth in the spring race last year after leading 63 laps and runner-up in the summer race. He crashed in the final laps while running in the top four this spring. Bell also qualified in the top five at Phoenix and was sixth in the end too.
Martin Truex Jr. (+1000)
If not for the late race caution, he had Richmond won this past spring. It was going to be his ninth Top-5 finish in his last 10 Richmond tries including five Top-2’s in his last eight at that. Unfortunately, the caution and tire strategy worked against him. He won the Clash in a football stadium back in February, so why not an All-Star race in May?
William Byron (+1000)
He looked good in Phoenix (win), had a Top-2 car in Richmond and driving the car that won the last time out in North Wilkesboro (No. 24 Chevrolet).
Denny Hamlin (+1100)
Pit road kept Hamlin from being a factor in Richmond. Prior to that though, he was runner-up in both races in 2021 including leading 207 laps in the spring and 197 more circuits that Fall. Hamlin then won last year’s spring race there and was fourth in the summer to tally 11 Top-6 finishes in his last 14 Richmond starts.
Ross Chastain (+1200)
He was third in Richmond this past spring and isn’t scared to ruffle any feathers.
Joey Logano (+900)
He has struggled at Richmond (17th, 6th, 7th last three), plus just four times has a defending Cup Series champion won the All-Star race the next year (Dale Earnhardt 1987 and 1994, Matt Kenseth 2004, Jimmie Johnson 2013).
Chase Elliott (+1400)
He didn’t run Richmond this year due to his injury, but Elliott isn’t usually at his best on high tire wear tracks. Three of his last four Homestead finishes have been 14th or worse as he’s 0-for-7 there. Four of his last seven Richmond finishes have been 12th or worse as he’s 0-for-14 there. He had one Top-5 in seven Atlanta starts before their repave. While he was runner-up in Fontana, three of his previous four finishes there were 11th or worse as he’s 0-for-7 on that track. Darlington he’s 0-for-12 with four of his last six finishes being 20th or worse.
Kyle Busch (+1600)
He calls the short tracks RCR’s weakness this year, so I struggle to put much thought beyond that. Busch was eighth in Phoenix, 14th in Richmond and 21st in Martinsville.
Ryan Blaney (+1800)
Richmond is not one of his better tracks. He was 26th this year and has never had a Top-5 there in 14 tries. Plus, just twice has someone won back-to-back All-Star races (Davey Allison 1991-1992 and Jimmie Johnson 2012-2013).
Tyler Reddick (+2500)
He’s never been particularly great at Richmond, so I’m not sure why he’d all the sudden be good at North Wilkesboro.