Should NASCAR Bring Back North Wilkesboro?

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Should NASCAR Bring Back North Wilkesboro?
Jim Cooper/Getty Images
If North Wilkesboro were to reopen, the stands would fill just like they did 20 years ago.

It's easy for longtime NASCAR fans to get sentimental. We live in a high-tech digital age where everything is happening so fast that it's easy for nostalgia to get lost in the fray.

We're getting ready for Daytona testing while checking Bleacher Report for the latest in NASCAR news. We're checking for the latest tweets from our favorite drivers while circling the calendar for our upcoming trip to the track.

With all of the up-to-date facilities on the circuit, it's easy to forget that Darlington wasn't the only track with a personality. It's easy to forget that Martinsville wasn't the only track with a history steeped in stock car racing. Have we forgotten about where Harry Gant's quest for five consecutive wins was derailed in 1991? What about where Geoff Bodine lapped the entire field?

Have we forgotten about North Wilkesboro Speedway?

North Wilkesboro Speedway was NASCAR's first sanctioned speedway. It was a small addition in the center of NASCAR country. While the sport had Talladega and Daytona, the short track in North Wilkesboro was a part of the sport for 50 years while names like Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough took checkered flags along with Bodine and Dale Earnhardt. 

Speaking of Earnhardt, what about his heated interview in 1989 after a last-lap spin courtesy of Ricky Rudd cost him the race and ultimately the championship? Earnhardt's disappointment could hardly be contained as Dick Berggren attempted to get Earnhardt's side of the story following the incident. The incident is widely regarded as one of the most memorable moments in NASCAR history.

Now it stands a dilapidated relic, falling into disrepair while the sport continues to progress 18 years since its last major event at the speedway. It was on that day that a youngster named Jeff Gordon, fresh off his first Winston Cup championship, took yet another checkered flag in his No. 24 Chevy on his way to a runner-up finish in the points.  

www.gordononline.com
Jeff Gordon celebrates his win in the final North Wilkesboro event, September 1996.

As all fans know, North Wilkesboro was just a stepping stone on the way to bigger and better things for Gordon. What if we never took it off in the first place? What if we kept it around for Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson to dominate and add to North Wilkesboro's rich history? 

We don't have enough tracks like North Wilkesboro, and from a historical standpoint that is a shame. Drivers have come to prominence at the .625-mile race track. Championships have been won and lost there. The track has held a fine lineage of winners from Red Byron through Richard Petty and down to Gordon. 

We've got a fine crop of drivers coming up through the ranks who deserve to have their legacies cemented at the same places their grandparents' favorite drivers became legends. Darlington, Daytona and Martinsville aren't enough. Besides, NASCAR would be paying a fine tribute to its history by bringing back more storied venues. It's not like they can't front a bill for renovations to the speedway anyway.

Should NASCAR bring back North Wilkesboro?

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It would be a welcome addition to the sport. There are a few venues on the circuit that have overstayed their welcome in NASCAR anyway.

For example, barring the 2013 event at Fontana, it's a likelihood that we'll never see another exciting Fontana event. We could also switch Chicago's Chase spot with one at North Wilkesboro. Anything would do, as long as we don't have to see such a storied venue suffer the test of time. 

 

Besides, where else could the winner walk to Victory Lane after the race?

Follow Joseph on Twitter: @ThatSheltonGuy

 

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