Combined Efforts to Preserve North Wilkesboro Speedway Earns 2023 Second Quarter NMPA Pocono Spirit Award

June 20, 2023
Overview of North Wilkesboro moments before the start of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race.
Overview of North Wilkesboro moments before the start of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race. Photo by NKP

DARLINGTON, South Carolina – It took incredible work by many, but North Wilkesboro Speedway did the impossible with a return to the NASCAR schedule this season. 

Recognizing the efforts by a few of those individuals in particular, NMPA membership has voted Dale Earnhardt Jr., Terri Parsons, Marcus Smith, and Steven Wilson as the second quarter recipients of the NMPA Pocono Spirit Award. The group of four was among the most recognizable members of preserving the history of North Wilkesboro Speedway and pushing support behind its revival. 

Earnhardt used his podcast, the Dale Jr. Download, to press Smith on the issue. He also organized a cleanup day at the racetrack on a cold and rainy day in 2019 so iRacing could scan the track for its platform. 

Parsons worked behind the scenes for many years pushing for North Wilkesboro Speedway to return. Parson wasn’t afraid to get in Smith’s ear about wanting to see the track open again while also working with local officials in those efforts and rallying the community. 

The president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Smith, told Earnhardt on his podcast that he heard the outcry and hadn’t forgotten about the racetrack. It brought a new wave of optimism and a push to make it happen. Smith was among those who made the decision to move the All-Star Race, held at a Speedway Motorsports track, to North Wilkesboro. 

Wilson is a co-founder of Save the Speedway, an organization focused on getting North Wilkesboro Speedway reopened. It formed in 2005 and was persistent in its efforts to keep the history of the racetrack alive with the hope of seeing racing there again, and then offered assistance in making that happen. 

The group is now eligible for the year-end NMPA Pocono Spirit Award, which is also voted on by NMPA membership. It is presented at the annual convention. 

Other nominees who received votes were Paul Call, Frankie Muniz, Graham Rahal, The Dale Jr. Foundation, Monster Energy AMA Supercross and Chase Elliott. 

Established in 1992 and supported by Pocono Raceway, the Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motor sports. It is also meant to acknowledge competitors who have overcome illness, injury, or tragedy to return to racing.

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