Charlotte & More
Take The Wheel At Dirt Track Racing School
Stock car racing fans now have the opportunity to experience the sport's roots by participating in the Dirt Track Racing School at historic Carolina Speedway in Gastonia.
The school is the brainchild of Shawn Parker, a former racer who competed on asphalt tracks during a 13-year career in New England.
Once Parker moved south and witnessed his first dirt track race, he was hooked. He got the idea to start a dirt track school while earning his MBA from the University of South Carolina.
The school opened in spring 2008 and operates every other Saturday on Carolina Speedway's 4/10ths-mile banked oval.
"It's a wide track, but not too big," Parker says. "And I like its geographic location near the racing facilities in Charlotte."
The school has attracted participants from 40 states and several countries, including South Africa, Japan and Belgium. Participants must be 14 years or older and have the option of driving one of four types of dirt track cars: late model, modified, legends, or open-wheel sprint car. Each Saturday session includes a classroom presentation and track walk, followed by driving sessions interspersed with one-on-one instruction.
Parker says his students range in age from 14 up to 70, with women accounting for 10% of his business. He also hosts corporate outings.
"People are just blown away by the experience," says Parker. "They can't believe how much fun it is and how challenging it is. A lot of people think they just have to drive in circles, but there's more to it than that."
The Dirt Track Racing School experience varies greatly from the driving schools at traditional stock car tracks.
"It's a lot more fun than asphalt because you get the car sliding around and moving underneath you," Parker says. "Plus, racing is so commercialized these days. This gets back to the grass roots."
Driver packages range from 12 to 50 laps, with prices ranging from $199 to $750 per session.
added: September 28, 2010
updated: September 30, 2010