The NASCAR Cup Series is making its way to the Southeast for the first time in three years, and you can be sure that there will be plenty going on at Charlotte Motor Speedway as the trucks, cars, and fans come together for this great American institution. But, with the change in the calendar comes the change in the schedule, and while the speedway is always a blast to watch, things change throughout the year. So, let’s take a look at some of the things you may not know about.
The History Of The Speedway
The speedway, originally established in 1947, is one of America’s most recognizable landmarks and has quite the history. It was originally built as a war memorial and was the site of the first NASCAR race in 1949. Since then, it’s hosted an incredible array of racing events, including the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the Xfinity Series. Additionally, it’s been the setting for some pretty iconic moments in racing, such as Richard Petty’s victory in the 1982 Duel In The Desert.
The speedway has also been the location of a great deal of controversy, most notably regarding its banking. With turns 3 and 4 being the most famous corners, drivers have always complained about the banking, even before the installation of the SAFER barrier in 2017. In the 1950s and early 1960s, up to seven vehicles used to race at the speedway at the same time, causing the inside of the track to resemble a mess of bumper cars. Overtime, safety measures were put in place to prevent overcrowding and subsequent accidents. However, the installation of the SAFER barrier did not eliminate all the controversy surrounding the track’s banking.
The Rivalry Between The Charlotte Hornets And The Carolina Panthers
The Charlotte Hornets and the Carolina Panthers both started playing in the NBA in the 1970s, with the Charlotte Hornets being the first. However, it wasn’t long before the rivalry started, with both teams engaging in what would become a consistent battle for supremacy. Even after the Carolina Panthers won the 2018 Super Bowl, the rivalry is still going strong. The two teams meet once every year for the NBA All-Star Game, with the latest installment taking place this past February.
The Rise Of Truck Racing At The Speedway
For years, NASCAR had primarily promoted car racing at the track, with very few events organized around trucks. But, in 2006, the trucks became relevant once again as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was formed. As the name would suggest, the truck series is designed for truck drivers who live and work in trucking companies. The trucks are heavily modified, with up to ten wheels, which makes them much wider than your standard vehicle. They also feature a longer nose, creating more room for cargo and making them more stable on the track. Due to the increased stability, the trucks are more suited for high speeds and tighter turns. The truck series also encourages team collaboration, as the drivers work together to achieve maximum efficiency.
The Changing Weather At The Speedway
While the weather in North Carolina is lovely the whole year round, it’s important to recognize that it can be unpredictable. Sometimes, it can be hot and humid, while other times, it can be cold and dry. With that in mind, it’s important to prepare yourself for all sorts of situations when going to the speedway. If you’re planning on driving or riding there, make sure you bring along suitable clothing for the climate. Also, be aware that the air pressure is lower than it is at the coast, so your car may need some adjustment. Fortunately, there are professionals who can help you get used to the different climate and give you tips on how to improve your performance on the track.
New Tracks, New Rules
One of the interesting things about Charlotte Motor Speedway is how much it has changed over the years. When the place first opened, it had only three stripes on the track, which is why it was known as “Three Stripes” or “The Baby Grand.” At that point, the track was wide open, with very few rules. In fact, in the early years, motorcycling was even allowed. In the decades that followed, the track was periodically resurfaced to keep the pavement in good condition and the racing as interesting as possible. Over the years, the track has gained a reputation for being one of the more dangerous sports venues in the country. That’s probably because, as the years went on, the track kept getting longer, leading to more accidents. Finally, in 2017, NASCAR instituted a few changes in an attempt to make the racing safer. The first was the introduction of the SAFER barrier, which was built along the edge of the track. The second was a decrease in the amount of lug nuts that the drivers were permitted to carry. Finally, the third change was a ban against using cut-off wheels, which are those that have an additional piece of material attached to the end to increase traction.
Another thing that makes the Speedweay stand out is the variety of events that take place there. Unlike some other sports venues that specialize in a single area (such as football or baseball), the speedway does a lot more than just race cars. It also hosts concerts, rallies, exhibitions, and even has an opera house, which is how the venue got its name – The Opera House. The variety of events is great for people who love the track, as there’s something for everyone. Plus, it means that there’ll always be something new to see. The one downside is that, due to the variety of events, the track can become a bit chaotic at times. If you’re there for a specific event, be sure to check the schedule so that you can plan your time accordingly.
A More Family-Friendly Speedway
One of the things that the speedway has done over the years is work hard to make themselves more family-friendly. While there are definitely a lot of perks to going to a sports arena (and even an opera house) alone, sometimes you want to bring your kids along too. That’s why, starting in 2016, the speedway started a program where children could get in free for certain events. Additionally, they’ve made it so that the parking is free for everyone. And, last but not least, the speedway offers a special kids’ playground area, where young children can have fun while their parents shop or catch a movie. All these things make going to the Speedway a lot more appealing, especially if you have children. However, keep in mind that, as with any other sports venue, drink is often prohibited. And if you’re going during the day, make sure that your children are properly dressed for the occasion.
Less Obsession With Ratings
Another thing that the speedway does differently than most other venues is that they don’t obsess over the ratings like some other sports networks do. For example, for years now, ESPN has been obsessed with the “over/under” on how many points a given team will score. While that may be interesting to some, for most people it’s just mindnumbing repetition. At the Speedway, you’ll often see the cars come down the home stretch and the announcers just stop talking, because they know that the only sound that most people want to hear at that point is the noise of the engine as the car passes by. Sometimes, they’ll even throw the race in to bonus round just so they can listen to the cars go by without having to worry about anything else. While that may be interesting for the people who actually care about auto racing, for the average fan it can be frustrating.
On the plus side, at least the racing hasn’t been affected by these silly ratings games. For the past few years, whenever there’s been a ratings system in place, the cars at the speedway have been significantly faster and more exciting to watch. So, while not always convenient, at least it’s never dull.
Hopefully, this article has whet your appetite for more about the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, and the history of the Speedway. Like I said at the beginning, there’s a lot going on at this great American institution. So, be sure to check out the schedule so that you can make the most of it. And as always, if you have any other questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @alex_israelsen or via email at [email protected].