Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fast Facts Redux: Charlotte Motor Speedway

Charlotte Motor Speedway, May 2016
credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts & Scuffs
It’s unofficially known as NASCAR’s “home track,” and holds two of the most important races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season – the longest NASCAR race, the Coca Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, and the fourth race in the Chase, the Bank of America 500, in October. Learn more about Charlotte Motor Speedway, part of the Speedway Motorsports Inc. group, in this week’s Fast Facts, originally published in Oct. 2013.
  • Charlotte Motor Speedway, located in Concord, North Carolina, was designed and built by Bruton Smith and his business partner, NASCAR driver Curtis Turner. The pair built their 1.5-mile dream track in 1959 at a cost of $1.25 million, and the first race – the World 600 – was held there in June 1960. Unfortunately, by 1961, the track fell into Chapter 11 reorganization, leaving Smith to pursue other business opportunities. After success as an auto dealer, Smith began buying shares of the speedway’s stock, becoming majority stockholder in 1975 and regaining control of the day-to-day operations of the track.
  • Smith hired H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler as general manager of CMS, and they worked out plans for improvements and expansion: more grandstand seats, luxury suites, improved concessions and restrooms, corporate offices, the Speedway Club and 40 condominium units all came to fruition during the first 10 years of their partnership. A lighting system was installed in 1992, making Charlotte the first modern superspeedway to host night races.
  • The 2,000-acre-plus complex is also home to a 2.25-mile road course, a 6/10-mile karting track, a quarter-mile oval on the frontsretch and a one-fifth-mile oval outside Turn 3 of the superspeedway. In May 2000, The Dirt Track @ Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 4/10-mile clay oval, opened across US 29 from the speedway, and in 2008, the “Bellagio of drag strips,” the four-lane zMAX Dragway, hosted its first NHRA drag racing event at the complex.
  • The track, which was known as Lowe’s Motor Speedway from 1998 to 2009, hosts races for all three of NASCAR’s top-tier series – Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, as well as the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour on the quarter-mile frontstretch track. The quarter-mile track is also utilized for a summer short-track Legends Cars and Bandoleros series.
  • Other series that have raced at the track include the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the International Race of Champions (IROC), the IndyCar Series, the ARCA Racing Series, the American LeMans Series, the IMSA GT Championship, AMA Supercross, and SCCA Formula Super Vee.
  • Numerous movies have been filmed at the track, including Speedway, Stroker Ace, Days of Thunder and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Rickey Bobby. In 2006, the track hosted the world premiere of Disney/Pixar’s CARS, becoming the first motorsports facility to host the world premiere of a major motion picture; more than 30,000 fans and numerous celebrities were on hand.
  • In 2011, CMS installed what was then the world’s largest HDTV, standing 80 feet high, 200 feet wide and weighing more than 82 tons. The title now belongs to another Speedway Motorsports Inc. track, Texas Motor Speedway, which is home to “Big Hoss TV,” introduced in 2014 and listed at 94.6 feet tall, 218 feet wide and weighing more than 108 tons.
  • CMS has also been the home of NASCAR’s All-Star Race, originally known as The Winston, for all but one year since its inception in 1985 (Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted the event in 1986).
  • Find out more about the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com


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