January 12, 2022:  at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (HHP/Chris Owens)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks to the media at Daytona. (HHP/Chris Owens photo)

NASCAR Nuggets: Dale Jr. Teases North Wilkesboro Entry

In case you somehow missed the news, North Wilkesboro Speedway is mounting its big comeback.

The North Carolina short track is returning from the dead later this year, with a series of races on the track’s aged asphalt in August followed by dirt races in October ahead of its 2023 repave.

If that’s not enough to wet your appetite, how about this: You may get a chance to see NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. race there.

Premium: Inside North Wilkesboro’s Resurrection

On Wednesday Earnhardt tested one of his JR Motorsports late models on the .625-mile track, sharing it with Josh Berry.

Afterward, the NBC Sports analyst indicated he’ll be behind the wheel of one of his cars at NWB come August.

“I think after what I experienced today, I got intentions of signing up and running the CARS Tour race,” Earnhardt said. “We got to figure out how many laps the race needs to be, should be. We got to get a lot of details ironed out. We’re in the conversation of doing all that stuff and today really helps us check a lot of boxes. I enjoyed it. I felt good out there. I would love to come here and race. So we’re gonna have two cars here in the CARS Tour. We’re gonna have two cars entered and I hope to be in one of them.”

There are two sets of CARS Tour events scheduled at the track — Aug. 19-20 (Pro late models) and Aug. 30-31 (late model stock). The JR Motorsports late models compete in the late model stock division, where JR Motorsports driver Carson Kvapil leads the standings.

Earnhardt shared his thoughts on the condition of the track, which he last raced on in 1995.

“Track’s a lot of fun and has a lot of grip,” Earnhardt said. “It’s real fast. And it’s fun, man. It looks great, surface is smooth, no major issues with the track. A lot of work going on around here. You can tell they’re trying and get this place ready to go and tons of people behind it.”

Family Pressure?

Last Saturday at Knoxville Raceway, Todd Gilliland experienced a major first: he made his first career NASCAR Truck Series start for the team owned by his father, David Gilliland.

He also won the race. 

It was his third win in 94 career starts in the series, the most of which came as a driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

SPEED SPORT asked Gilliland how the pressure of racing for his father compared to racing for someone like Busch.

“I think that’s almost a double-edge sword of a question,” Gilliland said. “It’s like as a Cup Series guy, I don’t know that I can really claim that yet, but when you go to a Truck race people expect you to do good, so I feel like that’s almost a little bit more added pressure. But then on the flip side it’s like you’re not racing for points. When I walked into Knoxville I was just ready to have a lot of fun. I love dirt racing and just going back to the Truck Series you don’t have to worry about points and all that, so there is still pressure, especially racing for my dad. This is a place I want to do so good at and I admire all of his hard work here, so I want to be a part of it. I think there’s a little bit of pressure there, but also it’s probably a little bit less pressure just going for a non-points race.”

Next Gen Parity

Halfway through the first NASCAR Cup Series season of the Net Gen era, the series is experiencing one of its most competitive seasons of the Modern Era (1972-today).

A total of 12 different race winners through the first 16 races ties the 2000 and 2012 seasons for second-most winners through 16 races.

That’s only behind the 2003 season, which saw 13 winners by this point.

Of the 12 winners this season, four are first-time Cup Series winners: Team Penske’s Austin Cindric (Daytona 500), Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe (Phoenix Raceway) and Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain (COTA) and Daniel Suárez (Sonoma Raceway). The Cup Series record for the most first-time winners in a single season in the Modern Era is five first-time winners, and it has occurred three times – 2001, 2002 and 2011.

This season has also produced 786 green-flag passes for the lead; the series-most through the first 16 races of a season since the Loop Data statistic was initially instituted in 2007 (the last 16 seasons). The Cup Series season is averaging 49.1 green-flag passes for the lead per race – up +35.3% from the 16-year average of 31.8 per race.

Xfinity First Timers At Nashville

Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Nashville Superspeedway will be the 15th time the series has raced at the 1.33-mile oval.

In eight of the first 14 races, the driver who went to victory lane was a first-time winner in the series.

In the case of Jack Sprague in 2002, it was also his only series win in 108 starts.

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Fox Sports Documentaries

Fox Sports announced this week the return of its short NASCAR documentary series “Beyond the Wheel,” a three-part series that will debut Thursday night (June 23) on NASCAR Race Hub at 6 p.m. ET.

The following documentaries comprise the sixth season of “Beyond the Wheel:”

Vintage to Vogue – Host Quincy takes viewers on a journey through NASCAR style, showing how NASCAR fashion has moved beyond mere appeal to become an iconic statement, from gearheads to fashionistas. The film illustrates how NASCAR touches all areas of the style industry from shoe customizations to branded apparel.

Evolution – Stock Car to Racecar – The film tells the 75-year history of NASCAR, told through the evolution of its most important asset. It highlights the numerous changes and groundbreaking advancements the NASCAR Cup Series vehicle has undergone over the last 75 years, shining the spotlight on all seven generations of the NASCAR racecar. The NASCAR racecars in the 1950s and 60s were truly stock cars. Evolution – Stock Car to Racecar journeys viewers through the years to show how the earliest forms of racecars evolved into the sophisticated, ultra-safe Next Gen car.

Beating the Odds – The Ernie Irvan Story – Ernie Irvan overcame adversity in his career to find success in NASCAR. From starting his career as a California outsider in a traditionally southern sport to almost losing his life in a crash at Michigan, Irvan’s perseverance is truly inspirational. Beating the Odds displays how a never-give-up attitude, and a naturally talented racecar driver can tackle all obstacles and win at the sport’s highest level.

“Evolution – Stock Car to Racecar” premieres Thursday, June 30, followed by “Beating the Odds – The Ernie Irvan Story” on Thursday, July 7. Both will air at 6 p.m. ET on FS1’s NASCAR Race Hub simultaneously live streaming on the FOX Sports App.

Kligerman Set For MX-5 Cup Race at Road America

NASCAR Truck Series driver and NBC Sports analyst Parker Kligerman is set for a race next weekend at Road America.

But it won’t be a NASCAR race.

Kligerman will compete in that weekend’s two 45-minute Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup races.

He will drive the No. 75 entry fielded by Thunder Bunny Racing.

“I’ve expressed interest in racing with this series for a while now, because it looks so fun,” Kligerman said in a press release. “These are often the best races of the weekend wherever they go. The racing is immensely competitive, and you constantly see passes you didn’t think were possible. I’ve tried my hand at Spec Miata a few times and had an absolute blast, so I’m eager to get behind the wheel of the MX-5 Cup car.”