When people talk about the bygone days of NASCAR, you often hear a few terms: moonshine, the Intimidator and North Wilkesboro Speedway—a beloved North Carolina track that fell into disrepair when the big leagues left in the late 1990s. But North Wilkesboro will soon come back to life, in the form of sim racing.
iRacing, one of the more popular simulator companies in oval and road racing, will be the one doing the revival and told Jalopnik that it plans to release to the North Wilkesboro sim to the public after it’s recreated to resemble what it was in 1987. It’ll be made available to the public “in 2020,” the organization said.
North Wilkesboro has been a chunk of nostalgia in the years since NASCAR left despite there being little hope of a return, and a group led by iRacing and Dale Earnhardt Jr. decided there’s at least one thing modern technology can do for the old, decaying track: upload it to a simulator.
The one thing holding that back was the overgrown nature of the actual racing surface, since it needed to be cleared in order for iRacing to scan it and get to work on the sim. Earnhardt posted about the shape up on Monday, showing piles of dirt and weeds and saying on Instagram that a big group came out in the cold rain in order to make it into “a super race ready surface.”
The track, as of 2014, looked like this.
Steve Myers, the executive producer at iRacing, said in a statement to Jalopnik that North Wilkesboro “is a legendary track in the history of NASCAR” and that iRacing has been “asked to bring [it] to the virtual world for years.” So, naturally, that’s what it’ll do.
“Thanks to a huge effort by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his team, plus Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc., and the operations teams of Charlotte and Bristol Motor Speedway, it’s now in condition to be scanned and brought to the sim as a playable track,” the statement read.
That’s a huge effort, indeed. It also came together quickly—Earnhardt tweeted about scanning the track for preservation in September, saying he was calling iRacing’s bluff about whether the organization would actually do a scan if he got the track surface cleared. A few months later, it’s happening.
Myers, when asked, also told Jalopnik iRacing will “recreate the track to 1987” rather than uploading it as it is today. The surface is in “better shape than was expected,” he said, so the cracks will be filled digitally sometime between now and its 2020 release.