RPW Column: A ‘Virtual’ NASCAR Return For North Wilkesboro

RPW Column By: JESSY MILLER / RPW -NORTH WILKESBORO, NC –  It’s been years since anyone has seen a live NASCAR race at North Wilkesboro Speedway when Jeff Gordon won in 1996. Race fans have been desperately waiting to see a race held at the iconic track once again… that is until last Saturday. The race came in a form people weren’t expecting- iRacing. Dale Earnhardt Jr. spent a lot of time and money on cleaning the track surface in Wilkes County North Carolina in 2019 so that iRacing could get a good scan of the track to add to their platform. iRacing is a NASCAR racing simulator used by many drivers to practice when they aren’t able to get to the track. It’s also used by fans to play in virtual tournaments to compete in races for fun. And for the last two months, it’s served as the spark keeping hope alive within the NASCAR community.

Over the last two months tracks (along with many other sports) have been shut down due to complications brought about through Covid-19. NASCAR survived this time by signing drivers up for iRacing and playing the races live on Fox Sports 1 with Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon, Larry MacReynolds and Clint Bowyer as hosts.

The race featured an interesting group of drivers, including Gordon, Michael Waltrip, NBCSN reporter and NASCAR driver Parker Kligerman, and Cup regulars such as race winner Denny Hamlin. The field was rich with competitors, and the virtual race did not disappoint. The race was filled with virtual wrecks, lots of passing and excitement, and with tons of jokes and old stories from the guys in the booth. It was a race to remember.

Was all of this excitement and exposure enough to bring the track back? Or shall Mother Nature reclaim the area once more? Only time will tell, and please, don’t try to visit the track.