If there’s anything missing from the two nights of Late Model racing at the legendary North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 16 and 17, it’s definitely not in the realm of star power. Over the two nights of racing with the CARS Circuit and the ASA STARS National Circuit, a ton of big names in the NASCAR world are dipping their toes back into late model territory. Some are going back to their roots, while others are doing it for the very first time.
2023 CARS Tour at North Wilkesboro Speedway
We’ll start with Tuesday night’s ASA STARS ECMD 150 National Tour. The largest National Super Late Model Tour has 11 drivers with ties to NASCAR’s top three tiers entered that night.
CHASE ELLIOTT (NASCAR Cup Series)
The biggest name among them has to be 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. For those who don’t remember, Elliott is quite the established Super Late Model racer. He has won the Snowball Derby twice, as well as the All-American 400, Winchester 400 and World Crown 300. Elliott also has a Super Late Model victory right here at North Wilkesboro Speedway. He came back a long time ago when he was only 14 years old.
ERIK JONES (NASCAR Cup Series)
Jones is no stranger to Super Late Model racing. In addition to his iconic victory over Kyle Busch in the 2012 Snowball Derby and a second victory in the race a year later, Jones has also won the Winchester 400 three times and the Redbud 400.
NOAH GRAGSON (NASCAR Cup Series)
Speaking of Snowball Derby winners, Jones’ Legacy Motor Club teammate Noah Gragson also won the prestigious Super Late Model race at Five Flags Speedway. He will return to the Super Late Model ranks at the wheel of Rette Jones Racing.
DANIEL SUAREZ (NASCAR Cup Series)
The last remaining Cup driver on the ASA entry list is Daniel Suarez. The Trackhouse Racing driver makes his Super Late Model debut on Tuesday night. Suavoir will also compete in the CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car race on Wednesday.
CHANDLER SMITH (NASCAR Xfinity Series)
Chandler Smith made his racing debut with Pro and Super Late models. He eventually also triumphed in the Snowball Derby in 2021. Smith is now full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Kaulig Racing where he is already a winner. Smith won in Richmond last month.
TY MAJESKI (NASCAR Craftsman truck series)
There’s another Snowball Derby champion from NASCAR’s highest tier entered in Tuesday’s race, and that’s Ty Majeski of Seymour, Wisconsin. Majeski, who competes full-time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with ThorSports Racing, finally won the 2020 Tom Dawson Trophy on his seventh attempt. Majeski was one of the nation’s top Super Late Model drivers before moving to NASCAR full-time. But he remains a player to beat every time he has the chance to start.
NASCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVERS COMPETE IN ASA RACE
William Sawalich (Trucks), Johnny Sauter (Trucks), Derek Kraus (Xfinity), Carson Hocevar (Trucks), Sammy Smith (Xfinity) and Grant Finallyger (Trucks), are also all signed up for Tuesday’s ASA STARS National Tour.
We will now turn our attention to Wednesday night’s Window World 125 for CARS Tour’s Late Model Stock Cars, the division that played a key role in the resurrection of North Wilkesboro Speedway.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR. (NASCAR Cup Series)
There are 10 current and former drivers from NASCAR’s top divisions entered in the 125-lap race on Wednesday, and none greater than Dale Earnhardt Jr. Let’s be honest, we don’t have to list his professional accomplishments, but we will when even. The CARS Tour co-owner is a two-time Daytona 500 champion, 26-time Cup Series winner, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer. He also finished third in this race last August.
Wednesday’s race will also feature two NASCAR Cup Series champions, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.
KEVIN HARVICK (NASCAR Cup series)
We’ll start with Harvick here first. The CARS Tour co-owner got his start in late model racing out west, and his crew chief, Rodney Childers, got his start in late model racing here on the east coast, where he was the one of the dominant riders in the discipline. Harvick won the 2014 Cup Series title, and the 2007 Daytona 500 is just one of his 60 victories.
Behind the Scenes: Kevin Harvick’s Latest Model for North Wilkesboro
BRAD KESELOWSKI (NASCAR Cup series)
Keselowski’s championship came two years before Harvick’s when he beat Jimmie Johnson for the 2012 Cup Series title. The 35-race Cup winner recently tried his hand at late model racing. He made his debut in an ACT Tour-style car in the Vermont Governor’s Cup at Thunder Road International Speedbowl last year. While Keselowski grew up riding Super Late Models, Wednesday’s race will be his debut in a Late Model Stock Car perimeter chassis.
Keselowski won’t be the only one making his LMSC debut with the CARS Tour on Wednesday, however.
ROSS CHASTAIN (NASCAR Cup Series)
NASCAR’s new “Mr. Excitement” has plenty of late-model experience under his belt, but Wednesday will be his late-model stock car debut. Chastain will race for Pinnacle Racing Group from Mooresville on Wednesday night.
CHASE BRISCOE (NASCAR Cup Series)
Cup driver Chase Briscoe will make his first career start on the pavement at North Wilkesboro Speedway. The Stewart-Haas Racing rider has been playing on dirt tracks for the past few years and will now join in the fun on the pavement.
HARRISON BURTON (NASCAR Cup Series)
Burton is very familiar with late model racing, although he grew up racing a straight rail chassis in the Pro and Super Late Model ranks. Burton won a CARS Tour race in 2017 in the now defunct Super Late Model division and has won prestigious SLM races such as the Rattler 250 and CRA SpeedFest 200.
NASCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVERS COMPETE IN CAR TOUR RACE
William Sawalich (Trucks), Kaden Honeycutt (Trucks) and Tyler Ankrum (Trucks) are also entered in Wednesday’s Late Model Stock Car event.
Wednesday’s Pro Late Model race will also see a few drivers with NASCAR ties as Carson Hocevar and Corey Heim will attempt to win the Crossroads Harley-Davidson 75. Rodney Sandstorm, also known as an IMSA driver and multiple 24 Hours winner from Daytona Rolex Jordan Taylor will also make his debut on the sidewalks and on the ovals. Sandstorm/Taylor is also a reserve driver and driver coach for NASCAR’s “Garage 56” efforts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
So this is it. Over three races in two nights, NASCAR fans can watch 21 of their favorite drivers go head-to-head with the best that Late Model pavement racing has to offer at historic North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Tuesday’s ASA STARS ECMD 150 National Tour and Wednesday’s doubleheader for stock cars and late model CARS Tour will be broadcast live exclusively on FloRacing. Racing fans can subscribe to FloRacing by clicking here.