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Racing’s roots run deep in Charlotte Region

Charlotte and NASCAR have been intertwined since the stock car racing sanctioning body’s inception in 1948.

The very first race in the “Strictly Stock Series,” the precursor to today’s Sprint Cup Series, was held at the old Charlotte Speedway, a dirt oval, in 1949.

Still today the city and region remained linked with NASCAR – its past, present and future.

The Charlotte area is the home base to a majority of the teams that compete in NASCAR’s three national series – Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks. Dozens of business supporting the sport are located here, too, and they provide thousands of jobs for the area’s residents.

Hundreds of thousands of race fans come to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord for the track’s three major NASCAR events each year – the Sprint All-Star race and Coca-Cola 600 on successive weekends each May and October’s Bank of America 500.

NASCAR, however, is just part of the racing history of the region.

The opening of zMAX Dragway @ Concord, the $60 million drag strip adjacent to Lowe’s Motor Speedway, puts this area squarely on the map for that form of racing.

Several of the top drag racing teams have already established their headquarters in the area. Doug Herbert’s top fuel team is located in Lincolnton, while pro stock drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line are joined by Cagnazzi Racing’s teams in the Mooresville area.

Rockingham Dragway, located just east of the town of Rockingham, is home to two International Hot Rod Association national events each season. For more information, visit www.rockinghamdragway.com.

Across the highway from the dragway in Rockingham sits the oval track formerly known as North Carolina Speedway. It’s now Rockingham Speedway and its schedule includes races in the Pro Cup and Automobile Racing Club of America series. For more information, visit www.rockinghamracewaypark.com.

There are several tracks that host weekly racing events within a short drive of Charlotte. Most generally operate from late March or early April through early to mid-September.

Carolina Speedway, a dirt track located just outside of Gastonia, runs on Friday nights (www.carolinaspeedway.net). Concord Motorsport Park near Midland runs events on a quarter-mile track and on a half-mile triangular oval, both paved (www.concordmotorsportpark.com). East Lincoln Speedway, a 3/8-mile dirt track near Stanley also runs on Saturdays (www.elspeedway.com). There’s also historic Hickory Motor Speedway, which this summer celebrated its 59th year of hosting NASCAR-sanctioned activities (www.hickorymotorspeedway.com).

Watching racing isn’t the only form of motorsports in the Charlotte area. There are also opportunities to get behind the steering wheel of a race car yourself.

Lowe’s Motor Speedway is used by several driving schools, each offering various packages where you can drive or just ride along in full-fledged race cars. The most famous of these, perhaps, is the Richard Petty Driving Experience (www.1800bepetty.com). For an overview of all the offerings at the track in Concord, go to www.lowesmotorspeedway.com.

Photos provided by The Charlotte Observer