NASCAR Experiences Near Charlotte

NASCAR Experiences Near Charlotte

You can experience speeds up to 160 mph at the Richard Petty Driving Experience in Concord

You don’t have to go to a race track to experience NASCAR in North Carolina. Racing permeates all aspects of life in North Carolina. You can get a taste of it at restaurants, a museum, behind the wheel and even floating on the water.

Richard Petty Driving Experience
Your dreams of sliding behind the wheel of a NASCAR-style race car can come true at Richard Petty Driving Experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway. There you can either ride along with an instructor or take the wheel yourself. Either way, you’ll experience speeds up to 160 mph. The ride-alongs do not require a reservation. One is needed for the driving experience, which includes classroom instruction before you hit the track and feedback every few laps. A junior ride-along program for fans age 6 to 13 is available; the only stipulation, besides an interest in going that fast, is being at least 48 inches tall.

The Pit Indoor Kart Racing
If you want to go fast in a race setting, but maybe not 160 mph fast, The Pit Indoor Kart Racing may be more your style. The karts here reach 45 mph on one of the largest indoor kart tracks in the country. It’s a popular place for NASCAR teams to go and unwind. And if you get tired of driving, there’s an arcade, batting cages, laser tag and mini-golf onsite.

The North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame
The North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame has inducted some of the sport’s biggest names, including Richard Petty, AJ Foyt and Dale Earnhardt. You’ll spend hours looking at all the exhibits, including 40 race cars from the 1970s to the present, memorabilia and a gallery of racing art from such well-known artists as Sam Bass. You can also pick up a map that locates race shops and other racing attractions in the area.

NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
You can catch the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race the Saturday before the Coca-Cola 600. It doesn’t pay points toward the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, but it does pay a lot of money – $1 million to the winner. Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip are all past winners. It’s raced in several short segments, and it’s known for small margins of victory and big wrecks. You’ll get a chance to see drivers use the tricks they learned to get to the front while earning their stripes on short tracks across the country.

Red Rocks Café
You never know who will be at the next table when you go for a meal at Red Rocks Café at Birkdale Village. It’s long been a popular place for drivers and crew members to eat. Many of the items on the menu – such as Kyle Busch’s Southwestern chicken ravioli and Marty Smith’s garden salad – are named after drivers and other members of the motor sports community.

Lake Norman
Lake Norman, the largest lake within North Carolina, has been called the “NASCAR Riviera” because so many drivers live along its shores. You can experience a bit of that lifestyle by getting out on the lake. If you have a boat, launch it at Blythe Landing Park in Huntersville, which will put you close to the more developed eastern shore. There also are places to rent boats. If you would rather leave the navigating to a licensed captain, head to Queen's Landing in Mooresville. Its fleet includes a replica Mississippi River paddle wheeler. Dinner and sight-seeing tours are available.

Pete Anderson is a Gastonia-based writer who says lakes, race tracks and barbecue joints are his favorite places to enjoy North Carolina.

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