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NASCAR country – a race fan's guide for a holiday in the south

The NASCAR scene is all centred in and around Cabarrus County, North Carolina

Published: May 13, 2015, 5:50 AM
Updated: November 23, 2021, 11:58 AM

Charlotte Motor Speedway

With the American Memorial Day weekend coming up (May 23-25), here’s a suggestion for a road trip – one that will incorporate some gorgeous American countryside and what is undoubtedly the greatest concentration of major league motorsports teams on this continent.

Toss in a big-time event at one of the most celebrated and elaborate racing facilities in the U.S. – the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway – and you have the making of a memorable trip.

It's all centred in and around Cabarrus County, North Carolina.

You can start your visit with a “Pit Stop” at the Cabarrus County Visitor Center situated in the heart of it all. Lots of free maps and brochures, insider information about the area and places to eat and sleep. You’ll find coffee, clean restrooms and a staff who eat, sleep and breathe racing.  The motto of the Cabarrus County Visitors and Convention Bureau is “Where Racing Lives” .

Take exit 49 off I-85 unto Bruton Smith Boulevard. If coming from the south, cross over I-85, if from the north, turn right at the end of the ramp. At the first traffic light, turn right before the Shell station and continue about three blocks. The visitor center is on your left.

Lodgings

Looking for a place to stay? Book early this is a busy weekend! Back across Bruton Smith Blvd are a half-dozen or so inexpensive chain hotels on Gateway Lane NW: Comfort Suites, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Sleep Inn & Suites, SpringHill Suites and Wingate by Wyndham.

All are clustered within the same crescent within walking distance of a number of places to eat or grab a coffee.

Just down Bruton Smith Blvd a quarter mile or so you will also find Courtyard, Embassy Suites and Residence Inn hotels. Interested in something more upscale? The Great Wolf Lodge is nestled in the hills behind the visitors center.

Hungry?

There are a number of eating establishments across the street from the hotels on Gateway Lane and more on Bruton Smith Blvd. Among them is something special - Jim ‘N Nicks Community Bar-B-Q.

The cheesy biscuits alone are worth the visit. Add in meat that has been smoked to perfection for 12 hours and a variety of home-made side dishes and you have a real winner. Everything is fresh, they don’t have a freezer! Caution: don’t order the home-made chocolate pie unless you have a cardiologist on speed-dial. 

Carolina Ale House, a family-friendly, sports-themed restaurant with an extensive menu is on the other side of I-85.

Shopping?

Concord Mills Mall, “the largest shopping and entertainment destination in the Carolinas” and one of the state’s largest tourist attractions with more than 200 stores, is just across I-85 where Bruton Smith Blvd becomes Concord Mills Blvd.

Sight-seeing?

Cabarrus County was incorporated in 1806. There are numerous historic sites, small antique shops and artisans around the area.

Thanks to mild winters with no frost, the roads are smooth. Spring is a wonderful time with mother nature in full bloom. Downtown Concord (pop, 80,000) is a visual treat with a variety of old and new establishments with emphasis on the non-chain variety.

Art - You may not associate art and stock car racing, but Sam Bass does. His gallery, near the speedway, displays more than 300 pieces of art, including originals, limited edition prints and fine art posters.

The Dale Trail - Dale Earnhardt is arguably the most widely-know name in American stock car racing. He was killed in a wreck at the Daytona 500 in 2001. 

The Dale Trail has been developed by the Kannapolis community to show visitors around the area where he and his family live(d).

A larger-than-life statue of him stands as the centerpiece of Dale Earnhardt Tribute Plaza at the corner of South Main and West B Street in Earnhardt’s hometown of Kannapolis, NC.

Hall of Fame - The elaborate multi-story NASCAR Hall of Fame is located in Charlotte, a half-hour drive from Concord.

The 390,000-square foot, $160-million facility opened five years ago. Loaded with memorabilia and interactive exhibits it is easy to spend a half day here.

Racing

If you want to see a NASCAR race, all of the organization’s series compete at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) on Memorial Day weekend, in addition to a couple of special events for the top rung Sprint Cup series.

The action starts on Friday night with the Sprint Showdown and Camping World truck series races. The Xfinity series and Sprint All-star races take place Saturday and the Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup race is on Sunday.  

Race Shops

All but one of NASCAR’s race teams are located within a 25-mile radius of Concord. The vast majority have an elaborate visitor centre and offer an exceptional ability to see into the “inner sanctums,” the actual shops where the cars are built and maintained.

They range in size and variety from the vast Hendrick compound to the tiny Wood Brothers operation.

While the teams are on the road much of the year, from February until October, they are all at home the week before the Memorial Day weekend. That is when they run at their “home track” – CMS, right there in Concord.

VISITORS' INFORMATION

Following are lists of visitors' bureau's, race team headquarters and other related sites you can plug into your navigation system to help find your way around

Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, 500 S College St., Charlotte, NC 28202

Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 10099 Weddington Road, Suite 102, Concord

RACE SHOPS

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, 8500 Westmoreland Dr. , Concord, NC 28027

Dale Earnhardt Inc, 1675 Dale Earnhardt Highway 3, Mooresville, NC 28115

Front Row Motorsports, 2670 Peachtree Rd., Statesville, NC 28625

Hendrick Motorsports, 4400 Papa Joe Hendrick Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28262

Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), 13415 Reese Blvd West, Huntersville, NC 28078

JR Motorsports, 349 cayuga Dr., Mooresville, NC 28117

JTG Daugherty Racing, 7201 Caldwell Rd., Harrisburg 28075

MIchael Waltrip Racing (MWR), 20310 Chartwell Center Drive,  Cornelius, NC 28031

Penske Racing – 200 Penske Way, Mooresville, NC, 28115

Richard Childress Racing, Industrial Drive, Welcome, NC

Richard Petty Motorsports,  7065 Zephyr Pl., Concord, NC 28027

Roush Fenway Racing, 4600 Roush Pl. NW,  Concord, NC 28027

Stewart Haas Racing, 6001 Haas Way, Kannapolis, NC 28081

Wood Brothers Racing, 7201 Caldwell Rd., Harrisburg, NC 28075

HOTELS

Comfort Suites – 7800 Gateway Lane NW, Concord, NC 28027

Courtyard – 7201 Scott Padgett Parkway, Concord, NC 28027

Embassy Suites – 5400 John Q Hammond Drive NW, Concord, NC 28027

Great Wolf Lodge – 10099 Weddington Road Ext, Concord, NC 28027

Hampton Inn & Suites – 7831 Gateway Lane NW, Concord, NC 28027

Hilton Garden Inn - 7831 Gateway Lane, Concord, NC 28027

Holiday Inn Express – 7772 Gateway Lane, Concord, NC 28027

Residence Inn – 7601 Scott Padgett Parkway, Concord, NC 28027

Sleep Inn & Suites – 7821 Gateway Lane NW, Concord, NC 28027

SpringHill Suites – 7811 Gateway Lane NW, Concod, NC 28027

Wingate by Wyndham – 7841 gateway Lane, Concord, NC 28027

RESTAURANTS

Carolina Ale House, 8695 Concord Mills Blvd., Concord, NC 28027

Jim ‘N Nicks Bar B Q – 7791 Gateway Ln, NW, Concord, NC 28017

MISCELLANEOUS

Concord Mills Mall – 8421 Concord Mills Blvd. Concord, NC 28027

NASCAR Hall of Fame, 400 East Martin Luther King Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28202

Charlotte Motor Speedway, 5555 Concord Parkway S, Concord, NC 28087 track

Sam Bass Gallery - 6104 Performance Drive, Concord, NC 28027