Iracing Around:/I Charlotte

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Just the facts:
Full Track Name: Lowe’s Motor Speedway
Location: Concord
Population: Over 590,000 (U.S. Census Estimate)
Time Zone: Eastern

Race Dates:
NEXTEL Cup: NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge (May 20), Coca-Cola 600 (May 28), UAW-GM Quality 500 (October 14)
Busch Series: CARQUEST Autoparts 300 (May 27), Dollar General 300 (October 13)
Craftsman Trucks: Quaker Steak & Lube 200 (May 19)

Why Go?
While there is no doubt that Daytona offers an experience that is one of a kind, true NASCAR fans should plan to make the trip to Lowe’s Motor Speedway at least once in their lifetime. The track is very much the Mecca of NASCAR, as most all of the teams have their home bases nearby, it is one of two tracks (Daytona being the other) that hosts more than two NEXTEL Cup events yearly, and there are many things for race fans to do during race weekends.

Although this track did not have it’s greatest year in 2005 because of the tire problems that led to crash filled races, look for things to improve going into the future as this has been the site of some of the best racing action NASCAR has seen in its history.

How to Get There
If you are flying into the area, the best way to arrive is to land at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. From there, the city center is a short drive away.

If you are driving, however, you have many options. Probably the easiest route would be to find a way onto Interstate 85. From there, there are many intersections that will take you to the track, including Highway’s 29 & 49, 73, etc. Also, look into I-485 or I-77 if you want to stay away from some of the congestion which tends to occur on the main routes.

Noteworthy
Like its sister track Texas Motor Speedway, this SMI owned track also has the unique feature of having their own mascot, Lug Nut. While it may seem funny that LMS has their own mascots, they actually offer a lot of entertainment and are lots of fun for kids of all ages.

What else is there to do?
Charlotte is one of the few cities that transforms when NASCAR pays a visit. Pick up a newspaper when you arrive and you will see that there are many attractions that are suited specifically for race fans. If you want to get away from the racing, I would suggest making the trip up to Greensboro, as Charlotte embraces the sport during race weekends.

Where to Stay
Because of the many people who travel in from other locations, finding a place to stay can be tough at LMS. However, if you plan your trip early enough you should be able to find something near Concord or downtown Charlotte.

For those who cannot find hotels in Charlotte or are doing tours of team facilities, there are plenty of nearby cities. Look into rates for hotels at Belmont, Mooresville, Salisbury or anywhere in between.

Can’t Miss Experience
As I mentioned earlier, you cannot plan on visiting LMS unless you schedule a trip to at least one of the team’s corporate headquarters. Many of them (like RCR and Roush Racing) have museums built so fans can learn the history of the team and drivers. Also, many of them will announce “Open House” dates so fans can take guided tours of their facilities and meet their teams.

Can’t Miss Experience II
Even though the track hosts the longest race of the year (Coca Cola 600) and has a race during the “Chase for the NEXTEL Cup,” probably the most exciting event that takes place at LMS is the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. This non-point paying event was designed specifically for fans, as it is designed like a short track Saturday night race. It offers 90 laps of racing divided into three segments. While winning the first two segments is nice, the grand prize for winning the third and final portion of the event is close to $1 million, so you will see drivers competing at their best as they try to win it all.

If You Need More to Feed Your Racing Fix
While most fans can satisfy their racing needs with the multitude of races at LMS, there are some fans who just want more. Because of that, NASCAR developed the Pit Crew Challenge. This contest, which began in 2005, pits the nation's favorite over-the-wall athletes against each other in seven head-to-head skills competitions designed to showcase the talents of NASCAR's top crew members. Components of the competition include individual and team contests for tire changers, tire carriers, gas men and jack men. The event takes place during the All-Star Challenge week.

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