Fall NASCAR Weekend in Charlotte, Concord and Lexington
The inaugural Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 30, will be a huge challenge for drivers, as the half-oval, half-road course will be new to them. For fans, it's one of the most anticipated races in the Chase for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. But it’s not the only racing excitement you’ll find in North Carolina, home of NASCAR and many of the teams that compete in its events. If you make Charlotte your race-week base, you can tour team shops, watch short-track races, dive into the sport’s past and watch the first cutoff race of the postseason.
Day 1: NASCAR Hall of Fame and Red Rocks Cafe
Start in Uptown Charlotte at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It’s where the sport’s biggest names are enshrined in the Hall of Honor. There is a lot to see, so take your time and stay at least an entire morning or afternoon.
Begin your visit at Glory Road, an exhibit that uses racing machines – past and present – to trace the evolution of the Cup Series car. The pitch of the exhibit changes through its length, each degree of banking marked and matched to that of an actual track.
If there's a NASCAR-affiliated track near your hometown, you should find something from it in the Heritage Speedway exhibit. It’s where you can trace NASCAR’s more than 60 years of history through trophies, uniforms, car parts and even pieces of pavement cut from tracks.
But looking is one thing, and trying is another. You’ll find interactive exhibits in the Race Week portion of the Hall. You can walk through a hauler, lift an 80-pound refueling can, and feel the dead weight of a steel racing wheel and wide racing tire. Fight the snap of an impact wrench at another exhibit as you spin off actual lug nuts. You can put it all together in a simulated pit stop, pumping the jack handle, changing tires and adding fuel to a race car all under the pressure of the stopwatch.
You never know who will be at the next table when you go for a meal at Red Rocks Café at Birkdale Village in Huntersville. 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.
Day 2: Race Shops and Qualifying
The majority of NASCAR teams are based around Charlotte, and all are happy to have you visit them. Most offer viewing areas, where you can watch mechanics work. Start your day in Mooresville, where you’ll find Penske Racing. Climb the stairs and enjoy the view of the shop floor from the second-floor balcony. Souvenirs are available here but not access to the team’s IndyCar shops.
In Concord, visit Hendrick Motorsports, which is behind Charlotte Motor Speedway. Park your car at the team’s museum, where televisions play videos of Hendrick drivers sharing stories from their careers. Displays explain how a race car and its engine work. Race cars on exhibit will take you from the team’s one-car beginnings to its current four-car dynasty. When you’re done, take a short walk up the hill to the shops and peer through huge windows at cars being prepared for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson.
Friday night is Bojangles’ Pole Night where you’ll see the Cup cars qualify for the Sunday and Saturday races (the NASCAR XFINITY Series race is held Saturday).
Day 3: Hot Dogs, Cookies and Wine
Drop your trip into low gear and spend the day outside of the Charlotte region. After a 90-minute drive, you can arrive in Winston-Salem for lunch, a perfect time to stop at Pulliams hot dogs and barbecue. It doesn’t look like much – a small green-and-white-striped building in a gravel parking lot – but inside is a heaping helping of racing history and the best hot dogs in the South, according to editors at celebrity chef Rachael Ray’s magazine. The regulars like them “all the way” – mustard, onions, slaw and chili. Former NASCAR CEO Bill France Jr. loved them so much that he would divert his corporate plane to Winston-Salem so he could pick up a few on the way to a race. Eat your hot dogs at the stainless steel counter – they don’t have tables – while you look at the photos and souvenirs from racing past.
While in Winston-Salem, if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, visit the historic Moravian Culinary Trail. Several renowned bakeries, including one that’s been around for more than 200 years, create cookies and cakes that will make you the envy of your friends if you purchase some to take back with you. For another taste of local culture, stop by one of the city’s popular craft breweries.
Or skip the breweries, and on your way back to Charlotte, take U.S. Highway 52 south from Winston-Salem to Lexington. That’s where you’ll find Childress Vineyards. Owned by former NASCAR driver and current team owner Richard Childress, this destination allows you to sample chardonnays and merlots in the tasting room and purchase your favorites to take home. If you have time, stay for dinner at The Bistro.
Day 4: Bank of America Roval 400
The inaugural Bank of America Roval 400 is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30. Avoid heavy traffic by heading to Charlotte Motor Speedway early; spectator gates open at 10 a.m. The heaviest traffic is usually on Bruton Smith Boulevard and both ways on Interstate 85 from its exit, so try N.C. Highway 29 or 49 to get to the track. One option that eliminates the traffic altogether is arriving a day or so earlier and staying in an RV at the track campground.
Getting to the track early will give you time to pick up souvenirs from your favorite driver’s merchandise trailer and soak in the atmosphere. The track is known for its prerace activities, which have included mock military invasions and stunt shows.
You won’t miss any action, no matter where your seats are located. The track is home to the world’s second-largest high-definition television, which measures 80 feet tall and 200 feet wide.