Sports & Motorsports
Just Gotta Visit The Race Shops
You’re the biggest NASCAR fan you know. You’ve got the T-shirts, the die-cast collectibles and a flag screaming the name and colors of your favorite driver that you send up right behind Old Glory on all major holidays, including race days. Now it’s time to put it over the top – it’s time to visit the teams’ homes.
In the business parks and along country roads outside Charlotte, NASCAR teams work all year preparing the machines that compete in the sanctioning body’s top touring divisions and you are invited to watch.
Most of the teams offer fan viewing areas where mechanics can be seen turning wrenches, and fabricators building cars for upcoming races. At the Penske Racing shop in Mooresville, NC, where the NASCAR Sprint Cup No. 2 of Kurt Busch, No. 12 of David Stremme and the No. 77 of Sam Hornish are maintained, you can watch from two levels. After getting a ground-floor look, walk up a set of stairs to access an observation deck that runs the length of the shop. From here, you can see cars being completed and watch the team’s transporters being loaded to leave for the next race.
Down the road in Welcome, NC, Richard Childress Racing offers you a look at the career of its longtime driver and the man who pushed the sport into the mainstream – Dale Earnhardt. The museum includes two dozen of The Intimidator’s cars and an entire section devoted to team owner Childress’s love of the outdoors. You can see crews hard at work for the current teams through floor-to-ceiling windows from the RCR Fan Walk.
At the Roush Fenway shops in Concord, NC, you can watch the teams along with spending time in the racing museum, which has a theater showing clips of the team’s successes. Displays include Jamie McMurray’s Sprint Cup car that’s in the same condition as when it rolled out of Daytona’s victory lane in July 2007 - complete with confetti and tire marks.
At the Hendrick Motorsports Complex, get an up-close look at the museum of the vicious side of the sport. On display is what remains of a race car that Ken Schrader took for a wild ride at Talladega Superspeedway in 1995. You can even try slipping into a tight-fitting racing seat. Just a few steps up the hill are the shops for the Sprint Cup teams. Large viewing windows give you a firsthand look at the cars of 2008 Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson, along with those of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin.
To help you get prepared for upcoming races, most shops have souvenir stores on site. Whether you are looking for a new T-shirt, die-cast model or even a hood or fender off a real race car, you will find it.
Keep your eyes open as you drive to and from the shops. Many teams are spread out across several buildings and a keen eye can spot a pit-crew practice under way, race cars being loaded or unloaded from transporters, or even a visit by a driver. Just remember, the crew members are earning a paycheck, so out of respect to them and your safety, keep your distance and go only where the public is invited.
Most shops are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but do close around holidays. Specific hours and directions are listed on team web sites. Nearly 50 shops are clustered near Mooresville, many just off I-77 Exit 36 in Lakeside Park. For maps and details, visit the Race City USA.
By Peter Anderson
By Peter Anderson
added: December 10, 2008
updated: July 16, 2009