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Racing and More
Thomas R. Fletcher
could rightly be called “NASCAR Central.”
About four out of five NASCAR Cup series teams are based in the Charlotte
area. Not only are most teams based
in the area, a large percentage of the drivers live there.
Charlotte —the Queen
City—has a population of 664,000 and is a US banking center second only to New
York City. Many come to Charlotte
for the racing, and stay for the many other attractions.
hosts two major NASCAR Cup-series races each year.
Memorial Day weekend sees the series’ longest race, a 600-mile event.
The second, a 500-mile race is held each October.
Racing represents a tremendous economic impact on Cabarrus
County (home of Lowes Motor
Speedway) and the Charlotte area.
Lowes Motor Speedway seats 167,000 fans, with the in-field taken into
account more than 200,000 people attend each race event, with an estimated $100
million economic impact for each of these race events.
In many ways Cabarrus County is home to NASCAR.
Visitors may visit many of the race team shops in the area.
Minutes from downtown Charlotte in Cornelius, North Carolina is Michael
Waltrip Racing and Raceworld USA.
Raceworld USA represents one of the most fan-friendly visits available.
Race fans get a behind-the scenes look at what goes into fielding a race
team for a NASCAR event. This state
of the art facility is home to three NASCAR Cup teams, #55, #44, and # 00 as
well as the Nationwide Series #99 car. Here
fans can check out the garage, and see work actually being done on the shop
floor, look out on the machine shop or watch live pit practice.
fans will want to check out the Dale Trail,
in honor of NASCAR
racing legend and seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt.
It is the world’s first Motorsports Heritage Trail.
The trail is a self-guided auto tour through Earnhardt’s hometown of
Kannapolis, North Carolina and surrounding area.
Pick up a free map from the Cabarrus County Visitors Center and start
exploring. The trail starts at Exit
60 off I-85—Dale Earnhardt Boulevard. The
Dale Trail includes 20 stops related to the life of Dale Earnhardt.
It runs along Dale Earnhardt Boulevard and merges with State Highway 3
(renumbered Highway 3 in 2002 to commemorate the Intimidator’s #3 car).
Stop by Curb Motorsports Museum in downtown Kannapolis to see the 1980 #2
blue and yellow Chevy Earnhardt drove for his first NASCAR Cup win (the Winston
Cup series at that time). Stop #13
is Dale Earnhardt Inc, open Monday
– Friday 9 AM – 5 PM. A stop no
one wants to miss is Dale Earnhardt Plaza in downtown Kannapolis—dominated by
a nine foot tall, 900 pound bronze statue of Dale in street clothes—the way
many friends and neighbors remember him.
Think you’d like to join a NASCAR pit crew?
There’s a school for that—Pit Crew U at PIT Performance Instruction
and Training in Mooresville, NC. Pit
Crew U is the division of PIT that teaches the specific skills needed for a
career as an over-the-wall pit crew member of a NASCAR team.
It is an eight week course where students learn pit crew positions,
choreography, concepts, equipment and maintenance.
Pit crews are an essential part of a NASCAR team—the performance of
these crews often determines the race winner.
Pit Crew U students are required to maintain strength and conditioning
through workout schedules under the guidance of certified athletic performance
instructors. The PIT campus includes
a fitness and medical services facility, a six-stall pit area and quarter-mile
track. Pit stalls are equipped with
overhead cameras capturing students’ every move so their performance can be
examined and critiqued. PIT also
offers special event facilities, corporate performance programs, team building
and group tours.
to see what it feels like to go 165 MPH in a race car?
Then check out the Richard Petty
Driving Experience to make that happen.
You can do a ride along, or take the training and actually take the
has to eat, and the Charlotte area has
some fine dining establishments to be experienced.
In fact one could make Charlotte a destination based on cuisine alone.
The city has more than 150 restaurants, cafés, and eateries scattered
around town. It is as one Charlotte
resident pointed out, “Bankers like to eat well.”
So it shouldn’t be surprising that many fine dining establishments have
essentially, followed the money.
Wood-Fired Kitchen and Wine Bar is a place not to be missed.
Rooster’s features a relaxed upscale atmosphere with an open kitchen,
the wood-fired grill being the restaurant’s centerpiece.
The chic interior decor is rustic iron, wood, stone and leather and
unique in the fact that stuffed roosters are everywhere.
That’s right, stuffed roosters, as in male chickens that have been to
the taxidermist. Chef
Jim Noble refers to the food as “new southern cuisine,” a cooking
style that puts a twist on classic and rustic European cuisine.
Noble’s wood-fired cooking uses products from local farmers and organic
ingredients. The menu features an
emphasis on Spanish, French and Italian cuisine.
The Wine Bar features a selection of 150 fine wines from Italy, Spain,
France and California, housed in a wrought-iron wall display.
What would a visit to North Carolina be without some tasty barbeque?
Lancaster's Barbeque in
Mooresville is a NASCAR themed restaurant, with racecar hoods, bumpers and other
parts providing the décor. The
barbeque is simply wonderful. No
wonder the place is a favorite of NASCAR team members.
something a little different, try Lake Norman’s eeZ
Fusion for some of the area’s best sushi.
Here one may literally bump into some of NASCAR’s top drivers, as it
seems to be a favorite with quite a few. The
delicious fusion cuisine features cooked, raw and vegetarian dishes.
There’s something to satisfy most any palate.
Norman, North Carolina’s largest lake is located within a 20-minute drive
of Charlotte. Lake Norman’s 520
miles of shoreline offer plenty of water-based activities including swimming,
boating and fishing. If you need
something a little more adventurous, check out the US
National Whitewater Center featuring the world’s largest manmade
whitewater river with Class III and Class IV rapids, 5,700 square feet of
climbing area and 11 miles of hiking, biking and running trails.
USNWC hosted the 2008 US Olympic Team Trials for slalom canoe/kayak.
The center is open year round, but the hours vary with the season.
Those planning on whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing or other
activities should call ahead for reservations.
The 300-acre area offers whitewater kayak instructions with beginner and
intermediate packages. Private
lessons are available as are mountain bike rentals.
Whitewater rafting packages are available for beginner, intermediate and
for some pampering instead? Then you
may want to check out
the spa at the Ballantyne Hotel and
an urban oasis. It is a 20,000
square foot spa facility with a wide array of treatments available.
The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge was listed among the ‘Top 38 Golf Resorts in the
World” by PGA Magazine. The
Ballantyne’s Dana Rader Golf School was listed among the “Top 25 Golf Schools” by
to get some shopping done while visiting Charlotte?
There’s no place better than Concord
Mills— the number one shopping destination in the Carolinas with more than
200 retailers and restaurants. Concord
Mills’ 150,000 square feet of shopping area attracts more than 15 million
shoppers every year. Charlotte:
it’s more than just racing that brings the visitors back.
If You Go