Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle: NASCAR Livin’ Large in Charlotte

The NASCAR Hall of Fame opened its doors to the public on Tuesday (May 11) and race fans everywhere are now able to wrap their arms around the 60-plus year history of NASCAR in one location. The greatest drivers in the sport’s history, tons of memorabilia and interactive displays that pull fans into the garage all now reside in the heart of Charlotte, N.C.

During the opening ceremonies, former mayor Pat McCrory made a statement that rang very true when he said Charlotte used to be a great place to live, but one didn’t want to visit there. Now, it is also a great destination for people looking for a place to spend their hard-earned vacation dollars.

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Fifteen years ago I moved to Charlotte because of a job opportunity and fell in love with the climate, the cost of living and the general location to stock car racing. However, like McCrory, I told all of my friends that it was a great place to live, but there really wasn’t much to do for entertainment.

Since then, the city has undergone a revival that has included bringing in a professional football team, a new NBA franchise and its associated arena, and a multitude of new buildings in the downtown landscape. Now, the NASCAR Hall of Fame has entered into the mix.

Charlotte was known for years as a center for banking in the Southeast, but the recent wave of mergers and acquisitions has resulted in a large number of those jobs moving to other cities. In the meantime, a large presence of technology has moved in, with biotechnology now becoming a force in the area as well. The money that these two industries bring to the table should begin to bring the region out of the depths of the economic downturn that has hit the area harder than most other parts of the country outside of Michigan.

Ironically, the downturn in Michigan is hurting the other major economic segment that makes up a huge portion of the Charlotte’s coffers, the racing industry.

The Hall of Fame is certainly going to help rejuvenate some interest in the racing industry for the Charlotte area. Some 90% of the race teams in NASCAR are based in the Charlotte area. Longtime holdout Petty Enterprises moved to the area a few years ago because they realized that the majority of the talent for the series was there.

Universal Technical Institute opened up the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville to provide instruction for individuals interested in working for race teams and gave the teams a centralized source to come to for new blood. The Rowan Cabarrus Community College also hosts another program that teaches the skills necessary to gain a foothold in the racing industry. Further, Winston-Salem State University has instituted the only four-year bachelor’s degree in Motorsports Management designed to groom tomorrow’s executives for the motorsports industry.

The plethora of race shops in the Charlotte area has resulted in a great influx of people to the region who are pursuing careers in the racing industry. The Hall of Fame is only going to increase the number of youngsters who will become interested in racing, and the vast number of opportunities to pursue that dream in the area is only going to serve to entice them and their families to relocate to Charlotte. There is no doubt that anyone who wants to be involved in racing, at least stock car racing, has to come to Charlotte if they truly want to get a legitimate chance of making it in the business.

As McCrory said, not only is the area a great place to live, it is now a great place to visit.

The race shops, the racetracks, the Bank of America Stadium, the Time Warner Arena, Discovery Place, the U.S. National Whitewater Center, the Charlotte Nature Museum, the Mint Museum, the Sam Bass Gallery, Ovens Auditorium, Carowinds Amusement Park, NC Music Factory, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Reed Gold Mine, Charlotte Knights, Kannapolis Intimidators, Charlotte Checkers, Billy Graham Library, Levine Museum of the New South, ImaginOn, Carolina Raptor Center and Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens all give visitors to Charlotte more than enough to see and do during a vacation.

There’s no doubt that it is a great time to live in Charlotte and the Hall of Fame only helps to further the appeal.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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