By Shuan Butcher
The sight of dozens of cars going in circles at 200 miles per hour just inches apart from each other, the sound of the engines roaring, the smell of rubber, the feel of the wind passing by your face as the cars whiz by you … this is all part of an experience you will not forget at a National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing event (also known as NASCAR).
Whether you are a fan of the sport or have never been to a racetrack, you should experience a NASCAR race at least once. And there is no better place to do so than Charlotte, N.C.
The Charlotte area is home to many of the teams, race car drivers, employees and shops. Charlotte Motor Speedway, located just outside the city in Concord, is one of the sport’s top tracks. Every driver and team want to win at their home track.
One of the many team shops in the area is Hendrick Motorsports, which is located just one mile from Charlotte Motor Speedway. You can actually visit the museum and team store for free and see a number of the iconic and winning cars through the team’s history. The number of display cases also contains trophies, helmets and other pieces of equipment used in competition. They also have some Hollywood memorabilia with cars and costume pieces from the Tom Cruise movie “Days of Thunder.”
There are a number of other team shops that are open to the public throughout the area as well.
One of the legends of the sport was Dale Earnhardt Sr., who died tragically during the 2001 Daytona 500. As a tribute to him, his hometown of Kannapolis and other surrounding communities created the Dale Trail, a 20-stop self-guided tour commemorating the life and legacy of one of NASCAR’s top drivers. Be sure to stop by the Dale Earnhardt Tribute Plaza, which includes a 9-foot bronze statue of him and pays tribute to the man and his accomplishments.
The City of Charlotte is also home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a major attraction that honors the history and heritage of the sport. This place is not a traditional museum, as it houses more than 50 interactive exhibits. Start your visit in the High Octane Theater, which features a 64-foot wide projection screen and surround sound and learn a bit more about the sport through a brief film.
Then visit “Glory Road,” which gives you an idea of the different degrees of banking at racetracks across the country as well as showcases the make and model of cars throughout the sport’s history. You can participate in a pit crew challenge by racing against others to change a tire and fuel up a car. The racing simulator gives you a chance to virtually drive a race car against other drivers.