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Drivers Encouraged by Tire Test at Repaved North Wilkesboro Speedway

North Wilkesboro Speedway tire test repave NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race

Photo Credit: North Wilkesboro Speedway/HHP Photo

Three drivers and teams took part in a Goodyear tire test at North Wilkesboro Speedway in an effort to dial in a tire compound combination for the upcoming NASCAR All-Star Race at the repaved 0.625-mile short track. William Byron and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team represented Chevrolet, while Joey Logano and the No. 22 Team Penske group were the Ford representatives, and Ty Gibbs and the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team were the Toyota representatives for the test.

Gibbs, who has been closing in on his first-career NASCAR Cup Series win as of late, says the track is, “a lot different,” than a year ago and he spoke highly of the job Speedway Motorsports did on the repave of the facility.

“You just look at the track, and you can just look at it. It’s not different. It doesn’t look like a puzzle,” Gibbs said. “Like there are some tracks on the schedule that they did repaves at that just looks like a mess out there. They did such a great job, so, kudos to them.”

North Wilkesboro Speedway, which last year hosted its first NASCAR National Series race weekend since the 1996 season, had a very old and worn track surface, which was last repaved in 1981, for last year’s events. The aged surface turned out to not be very conducive to good side-by-side racing for the NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen car.

Joey Logano North Wilkesboro Tire Test
Photo Credit: North Wilkesboro Speedway / HHP Photo

The massive difference in the track surface was very apparent for Logano, a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion. But Logano noted that the track was able to retain some of its characteristic bumps, one in Turn 1 and another on the exit of Turn 4, despite the repave, which is pretty cool.

“That’s something that made this racetrack so cool in the past. It had a lot of character, it was bumpy, and you’re forced to move around them because it’s challenging,” Logano detailed. “You make the thing like glass, I don’t know if that really makes racing better. I think the fact that it has a couple of bumps, and some areas where drivers can make mistakes, and jump out of the groove and do different things, it’s just going to promote passing, and that’s a good thing.”

While Wednesday was expected to only be exploratory testing, Logano said the teams were actually able to learn something in the opening day of the two-day session thanks in part to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series conducting a tire test the day before.

“Obviously, a repave is always different, but when you go from probably the most extreme worn-out surface to new is probably the most different you’re going to ever see with a repave,” Logano explained. “Anytime you have a repave, it takes a while to burn the track in, which the trucks helped with that a lot yesterday, it seems like.

“We were able to fire off today with a track today that was testable. Like, you could actually learn some things, which was good. Obviously, whenever there is a repave, wherever the cars are running is going to be the fast lane, and when you get out of that, it’s going to be ice until you get cars running too wide out there and you get the races going. [Then] I expect it to widen out a little bit and help that part of it.”

While the newly paved track is currently a one-lane track, as is the case with repaves for the most part, there is hope that the track will widen out with time. Time had worn the old Wilkesboro surface so badly that the track had landed in a permanent state of one-lane racing.

Ty Gibbs expects to see better racing at Wilkesboro out of the box with the new track surface.

“It will affect it a lot,” Gibbs said of the repave. “Last year, of course, we were only running on the bottom, because that’s where all of the grip was. The way this is going to be, I think it’ll be more double-file for restart-wise and that should be good.”

One interesting thing is that the new track surface seems to be creating more tire falloff than with the old cheese-grater-esque surface. Joey Logano says that while he doesn’t understand the science of it, he’s encouraged by the tire falloff that they saw on day one.

“Honestly, it feels like the controls are the most falloff in a run,” Logano said. “So, probably the direction that the majority it pushing I think at this point.”

In all, roughly 10 different tire compounds were tested on Wednesday, which led Goodyear and the teams to believe they have the correct tire picked out for May’s All-Star Race. Logano says the drivers expect to make additional runs with that tire on Thursday to make sure that the tire holds up on the long run.

While Logano was encouraged by the tire falloff, Byron expects to not see a lot of comers and goers on

William Byron North Wilkesboro Speedway tire test 2024
Photo Credit: North Wilkesboro Speedway / HHP Photo

the new track surface, and he feels the repave could produce calamity at least in it’s first race weekend.

“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,” Byron recalled, “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.”

Regardless of what type of race the new track surface ultimately puts on, Byron is just elated to be at a point in his racing career where he is considered an All-Star of the NASCAR Cup Series, and he hopes to add the All-Star Race win to his growing list of achievements.

“I’ll be here, I’m excited,” Byron stated. “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.”

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