NASCAR is coming back to the North Wilkesboro Speedway next year.
Earlier this month, Nascar and Speedway Motorsports (the owner of North Wilkesboro Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway) announced that the track will host the 2024 NASCAR All-Star Race. The event takes place from May 17-19.
“We’re thankful to have the opportunity to bring back an international spotlight for the second consecutive year to North Wilkesboro and the great state of North Carolina,” Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith said in a statement.
The announcement comes just months after the North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted the 2023 all-star event.
“As part of NASCAR’s 75th anniversary, the return to racing at North Wilkesboro Speedway was one of the indelible moments of the 2023 season,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Development and Strategy Ben Kennedy said in a statement.
The fact that NASCAR chose to return to the speedway after a successful 2023 event is huge for the speedway.
NCSharp connected with Speedway Motorsports Senior Vice President of Communications Scott Cooper to learn a bit more about the decision and what else could possibly be in store for the organization.
Why did North Wilkesboro get the 2024 NASCAR All Star Race?
It’s quite the honor for North Carolina — specifically the North Wilkesboro Speedway — to host the 2024 all star race.
Prior to this year’s all star festivities at the track, the last time North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted a Cup Series event was 1996.
In an email with NCSharp, Cooper said there wasn’t one specific factor that led to this decision. Rather, it was a “combination of many factors.”
“Successful execution this past May, tremendous community and regional support and legislative financial support (are) among the top reasons,” he said.
Will NASCAR’s return to N. Wilkesboro coincide with sports betting launch?
Online sports betting in North Carolina has a launch window of Jan. 8 to June 14, 2024. Regulators have expressed that a launch closer to the close of the window is likely, and a race like this could put a pin on the calendar for the NC Lottery Commission, encouraging a launch before this major NASCAR event.
According to Cooper, it’s a huge deal that NASCAR selected this racetrack for the all-star race next year. Especially after how well everything went this year in May.
“It’s tremendous for the state of North Carolina,” he said. “Fans visited North Wilkesboro and the surrounding North Carolina mountains from all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and seven foreign countries as far away as Australia this past May.”
Cooper also pointed out just how big of an economic impact this race will have.
A lot goes into hosting an event this big, and with it comes a wave of dollars.
“Hosting a NASCAR Cup Series race typically generates more than $50 million in economic impact based on past studies across the country,” Cooper said.
Does Speedway Motorsports have plans to build a retail sportsbook?
The launch of online sports betting in North Carolina also includes the option for up to eight retail sportsbooks at pro sports venues – including North Wilkesboro – around the state. Cooper didn’t share any specifics on whether or not Speedway Motorsports has plans to build a retail sportsbook.
While he didn’t dismiss the idea of one, Cooper explained that the organization is taking a calculated approach.
“Speedway Motorsports is currently studying the process of how sports betting will work through parameters set forth by the state and evaluating potential opportunities,” he said.
Recent sports betting changes through the state’s budget bill tweaked the process for operators. Now, all sports betting license applicants must obtain a “written designation agreement” from a specific entity. Those entities inlcude professional sports teams, a facility that holds annual professional golf tournaments, and the owner/operator of a motorsports facility, among others.
And that’s where Speedway Motorsports comes into play.
James Hallas, NASCAR’s senior manager of commercial communications, touched on this during a conversation with NCSharp. He believes this new change “makes it easier for a place like North Wilkesboro to get a retail sportsbook built.”
Regardless of whether North Wilkesboro opts to open a retail sportsbook on-site, NASCAR betting sites in North Carolina will see a major boost from the resurgence of this legendary track.
How will the Major Events and Attractions Fund serve North Wilkesboro Speedway?
It’s important to look at where tax money from sports betting will go in North Carolina. Specifically, sports betting operators will see 18% of their gross gaming revenue go to taxes.
Sports betting tax dollars will go toward the athletic departments of 13 state universities, North Carolina’s General Fund and the North Carolina Major Events, Games and Attractions Fund.
The North Carolina Major Events, Games and Attractions Fund is self-explanatory. In short, sports betting taxes will go back into the state to help cultivate future entertainment opportunities. This is something Cooper believes will be key when it comes to attracting future events.
“The Major Events and Attractions Fund will be a tremendous recruitment tool for North Carolina, not just for North Wilkesboro Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, but for all sports venues across the state who can provide different types of resources and amenities depending on the needs of the special event.
The major events fund will take in 20% of sports betting taxes. Based off projection, the fund is expected to total $26.9 million by 2027-28. And some of those dollars are going right back to boosting North Wilkesboro Speedway.
“The fund will serve as an economic development initiative to attract high-profile events, which will benefit area employment, tourism and tax bases,” Cooper said.
Image Credit: Matt Kelley / AP Images