Denny Hamlin’s Wild Idea Gets Dale Earnhardt Jr and Speedway Motors’ CEO’s Nod of Approval

Published 05/24/2023, 2:57 PM EDT

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The All-Star Race has opened up a box of questions for the North Wilkesboro Speedway. Fans had to wait over two decades to see some Cup Series cars in action at the historic venue. Despite that, the track has been on the receiving end of criticism ever since the event. While the project took a lot of work to take off, the 0.625-mile short track did not deliver as promised. Even though the fans were cheering on and the atmosphere overall was great to race, the congestion of vehicles in front lanes could have been better.

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After much scrutiny, the track was approved to be in a decent condition, allowing races to happen. But from the looks of it, there need to be some changes that should happen soon enough. Rumors of putting dirt onto the asphalt track have surfaced in recent events. And the heat faced after the All-Star event has only accelerated the process.

All the backlash has not affected the opinions of drivers and analysts. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin has defended the venue’s potential, while Dale Earnhardt Jr, who has been instrumental in bringing racing back to NWB, agrees.

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Denny Hamlin slams Dirt Race plans at North Wilkesboro, suggests a game-changing idea

The historic speedway has been a sensitive topic in NASCAR. With development plans in place since 2021, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper contributed 18 million dollars to the project in 2021-22. Despite that, the talks of dirt racing taking over the track have grown with time. But the introduction of dirt does not appease Denny Hamlin at all.

He has devised a plan to create the first surface highlighting the drivers’ preference for a track. It will also see many improvizations to the track being made as per the drivers’ input. Speaking to co-host Jared Allen on ‘Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin,’ he protests against any substitute for asphalt at NWB.

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“One thing I don’t want to see, and I heard these rumblings. Do not put dirt on that racetrack.” 

Talking about alternative options that could help NASCAR realize the potential of the track, Denny added, “What I’m saying is that this… we need to cut the legs off of this story right away.”

“Don’t. No. North Wilkesboro as a dirt race? The answer is no. Simply put, no, don’t do it.”

“You’re making a mistake by doing that. I’m telling you it will lose its short track. I mean… just repave the thing. Let’s fix the surface a little bit, work on the tires, we can make that like, one of the best short tracks that we have.”

Coming from someone as experienced as Hamlin, the words could not get any more valuable. The NWB Speedway could give us more memorable races and certainly deserves a chance at that.

Two-time Xfinity champion Dale Earnhardt Jr and Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith have been old advocates of the iconic track. They also backed up Hamlin’s idea as well.

Dale Earnhardt Jr and Marcus Smith affirm Hamlin’s opinion

Having seen his dad, Dale Earnhardt, race to victories at North Wilkesboro, Dale Jr knows the essence of the speedway in NASCAR. The idea of turning it into a world-class short track is an idea he can get behind. With the last re-pavement coming in 1981, opening up the track for racing can be classified as a milestone.

In a recent tweet, Junior has shown his appreciation for Denny Hamlin’s idea of improving the infrastructure and go with some input from the drivers.

The Speedway Motorsports President has also extended his support to the idea.

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Dismissing the rumors of adding dirt to the track, Smith further explains the initiative to increase the involvement of more drivers as well. His reply also answers the questions that were raised earlier when 4-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon‘s suggested changes were applied to the Bristol Motor Speedway.

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Repaving the track is in no way a bad idea. For a track with such rich history and immense crowd-pulling potential, ruining its long-running asphalt does not seem like a good plan. Hamlin’s proposed course of action is a fair shout to get things going at NWB. With the backing of Smith and Dale Jr, we could see the results of this soon enough.

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Written by:

Ansuman Abhisek

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Ansuman Abhisek is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As an engineering graduate, he has a strong affinity for cars, and it didn't take long for him to translate that into his love for the sport. He is a big fan of Kyle Busch and believes that the Richard Childress Driver still has his best years ahead of him.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh

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