For years we have been NASCAR racing fans, usually via TV. The first race we attended in person was at the Texas Motor Speedway near where we live. But this year we wanted to go to the hometown of NASCAR racing in North Carolina, where we spent a delightful weekend in Cabarrus County, just outside of Charlotte, NC, and the location of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 1.5 mile oval racetrack with seating for over 100.000 spectators. The whole area is about racing and we had so much fun visiting the various places, in addition to watching three racing events: the Windstream Pole Night on Thursday night, the Nationwide Race on Saturday afternoon, and the big CocaCola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup event on Sunday night. These events occur here every Memorial Day week-end And the fans are now gearing up for the exciting October 12 – 15 events: World of Outlaws Late Model Series Showdown, Bojangles Pole Night, Dollar General 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series, and Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. There is some kind of racing event in and around this area almost any week you choose to come.
The amazing new biggest screen in the world added this year to the track makes the race even more exciting for fans. It stands beyond the track so that we could see every detail “up close and personal” as the cars zoomed around the track. The close-up shots had a very tiny delay from the actual, so it did not detract but enhanced your watching the race. Our eyes did not stray to the screen, as at Dallas Cowboy Stadium, but instead, we could glance at the huge screen when we missed a detail or needed to see the point of interest more closely than any seat position could offer. It made the race very much more exciting. This is a wonderful addition to the Charlotte Motor Speedway and will offer many other fun things to see and do throughout the year. There are plans for drive-in movies and for playing video games on the huge screen!
The races are great to watch, especially since nowadays the cars and safety outfits the drivers wear are so well designed that even the most exciting and horrifying crashes almost always have the driver walking away unharmed, but your adrenaline really pumps when you watch it, holding your breath as you peer at flying car parts, flames and smoke. And we can thank the NASCAR engineers and builders for the many safety features on the cars which we drive each day, because they were first developed and tested in preparing race cars for such events as the NASCAR races. Among the features (first developed as a result of racing) which help us stay safer every day on the road are disc brakes, safety belts, steel bar roll cages, fuel tanks that don’t explode on impact, the front accordian-like crumpling on impact so the driver is not speared by the engine parts.
Hotels and restaurants and shopping are plentiful within a couple of miles of the Speedway, but you must make your reservations early because they fill up fast! We were so pleased to get to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, where we had a large and beautiful Junior Suite, which can accommodate two adults and two children. We enjoyed early and delicious breakfasts in the hotel restaurant each morning. There is a good exercise room with lots of equipment and a small indoor swimming pool. It is a perfect choice for your home during the races, just a little over a mile from the Speedway.
Very nearby is the huge Concord Mills Mall, where you can shop till you drop and find any and everything at outlet prices! And there are several restaurants you’ll find in the area. By far, our favorite was the fun Dave and Buster’s at this mall. Although this is a popular chain we had never discovered it before, but we will DEFINITELY return. Steak, seafood, chicken, salads, exotic drinks, fab desserts: The food and drinks were delicious because they specialize in Great Food! But your family will want to stay nearly all night because there are so many fun games to play for every age. You purchase a card to insert into each machine or game and the winner gains a number of little tickets depending on how well he or she plays the game. After a couple of hours of fun play we had our tickets weighed and bought some little items to take home. Be sure to purchase some of the delicious “Miss M’s Sweets” made here in Concord and found in the Mall and other places in the area.
The home of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who was killed in the 2002 NASCAR race at Daytona, is just a few miles away, and you can drive the Dale Trail to see some of the memorialized places he frequented and his 9 foot tall statue at Kannapolis at Dale Earnhardt Plaza.
Concord, a small town nearby is a great place to visit little unique shops and enjoy the friendly hometown people and the surrounding countryside. This whole area is devoted to racing and race fans and race famililes as most of the NASCAR drivers live in Charlotte or this area in the few months they get to be at home, since the race season is from February through Thanksgiving. During the races the drivers stay in their comfortable and elaborate RV’s in the special parking area near the Motor Speedway Garage. Sometimes you can see the drivers riding in golf carts from their RV’s to the Garage or Pit and many will stop for autographs, so Garage and Pit passes are a good value for being upclose and personal with some drivers and many technicians and pitcrews. It is fascinating to watch them work on race days at the track. Fans from age 16 and up can purchase Cold Passes for Garage and Pit, which means no racing is going on, and some adults can purchase Hot Passes. You can talk to the pit crews while they work and pocket a few lugs you may find on the ground. You might even see a driver or two up close. Any time you are in this area you are advised to wear closed toed shoes and long pants, and we suggest sunglasses, hats, and earplugs (all in plentiful supply at the various vending booths nearby.) The cars are LOUD!!! But I think the vroom! vroom! is what gets into race fans’ blood and creates the thrill and excitement!
Some hotels and businesses offer shuttle rides to the track. Parking is plentiful, but for some you must walk a good way, and for closer spots you must wait nearly an hour to exit, but it’s all part of the events! You can even stay in an RV, camper, or tent in the center of the racetrack. There are no hook-ups for water but there are large restroom and shower facilities. Campers bring chairs to line up along the fence or on top of their rigs to watch the race. Make reservations for this camping through Charlottte Motor Speedway. There are numerous other campgrounds very near the race track too.
Every race fan must allow a half day in downtown Charlotte to visit the new and wonderful NASCAR Hall of Fame. (Located at 400 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., phone 704 654 4400) This stunning facility opened in 2010 and has just recently inducted its second group of drivers into the Hall of Fame to be immortalized here, showcasing their memorabelia and cars. You’ll enjoy the collection of race cars through the years on display near the entrance, and you can walk on the track beside them to feel the pitch of the curves on which they speed nearly 200 miles per hour: very awesome! There are so many inter-active, fun and informative activities for all ages that you could spend all day here and still be learning more and never be bored. We loved the experience of the pit crew challenge in which three visitors work on a car: one changes the tire, one adds fuel, and one jacks the car up, all on a timer! The films at various places throughout the building help you learn the interesting history of racing, telling about the people who originated the idea and the ways in which the first cars were raced on dirt in fields. This place is filled with fun and information for fans of all ages to enjoy. Don’t miss it!