Back to News

April 6, 2023

All-Star Race format revealed for North Wilkesboro return

Officials unveiled the format Thursday for the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race, which will use a pit-crew challenge to set the starting lineups for qualifying heats, all ahead of a purposely no-frills main event to highlight the return of North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The invitational winner will be determined by 200 laps, with just a competition break at or around Lap 100. Both green-flag and caution laps will count, and overtime rules will be in effect.

Each team will start on new tires for the All-Star Race, and have three additional sets to use. After the competition break, only one additional set of new “sticker” tires can be used.

The more traditional feel of the race meshes with the rebirth of the historic 0.625-mile track, which will mark its first appearance on the NASCAR schedule since 1996 with the All-Star Race on May 21 (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM). Preliminary events include the return of the Craftsman Truck Series (May 20, 1:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM), plus Late Model contests for the CARS Tour (May 17) and the ASA Stars National Tour (May 16).

ALL-STAR RACE: Buy tickets | Read about Cup Series testing

“We wanted it to be simple. We wanted the speedway to be part of the star factor of this event,” said Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports president and CEO. “… Being there, if you were there this past summer, and you saw the way that the fans kind of interacted with the race track, and the time they could see the old building and the old signs and just the way everything worked together. The fans are woven into the fabric of this race track, and the drivers appreciate that. And so it’s all going to work together. We didn’t want the format to be the story. We wanted the race to be the story, and the race track, and it’s going to really provide I think a great platform for the NASCAR All-Star race.”

A graphic depicting the All-Star Race format

The starting lineup for Sunday’s main event will be set by a pair of 60-lap qualifying heats, held Saturday night after the Craftsman Truck race. The starting order for those races and the 100-lap All-Star Open qualifier will be set by a Friday night pit-stop competition for each team. Each team’s qualifying time will be based on the speed of a four-tire pit stop, with timing lines marked one pit stall behind and one pit stall forward of the designated pit box.

The pit-stop element is partly a revival of the annual pit-crew competition, which was held each year until 2012. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has been instrumental in preserving North Wilkesboro’s history, said plans were in place for a trophy that would stay with the winning team each year.

Drivers not already eligible for Sunday’s feature will attempt to race their way into the field through the All-Star Open. That qualifying race is scheduled for 100 laps, with a competition break set for Lap 40 and overtime rules in place. The top two Open finishers and the top remaining vote-getter in fan balloting will be added to the All-Star Race field.

Drivers already eligible for the All-Star main event will be divided into two 60-lap heats that will set the All-Star starting lineup. The finishing order of Heat 1 will make up the inside row in the feature; Heat 2 finishers will occupy the outside row in that order. All those drivers will be followed by the three transferring through the Open and the fan vote.

“When we throw the green flag, we should just give them 100 straight laps of green-flag racing,” said Earnhardt. “You know, if there’s a natural yellow (flag) in there, fine. but let’s take all the gimmicks out. Let’s just see these cars go around the race track. Let’s just watch these drivers struggle with the grip and the challenge of that surface and just watch and see who’s trying to save some tire, who’s maybe trying to take advantage of getting some track position early and let the race sort of play out.”

MORE: Photos from Goodyear tire test

Eligibility standards for the invitational event are similar to rules used in previous runnings. Drivers who won a points-paying race since the start of the 2022 season are in. Also eligible are current full-time drivers who are previous All-Star Race winners or past Cup Series champions.

Twenty-two drivers have already clinched an All-Star Race spot: Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suárez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace.

RELATED: See every 2023 Cup Series winner