Charlotte Motor Speedway

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Location 5555 Concord Parkway South
Concord, North Carolina, 28027
Time zone UTC−5 / −4 (DST)
Capacity 94,000[1]
Owner Speedway Motorsports, Inc.
Operator Speedway Motorsports, Inc.
Broke ground 1959
Opened 1960
Construction cost $1.25 million
Architect Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner
Former names Charlotte Motor Speedway (1960–1998, 2010–present)
Lowe's Motor Speedway (1998–2009)
Major events

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
NASCAR Xfinity Series
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series

World of Outlaws
Quad oval
Surface Asphalt
Length 1.5 mi (2.4 km)
Turns 4
Banking Turns: 24°
Lap record 0:24.490 (Tony Stewart, Team Menard, 1998, IndyCar Series)
ZMAX Dragway
Surface Asphalt
Length 0.25 mi (0.4 km)
Banking 8000$
The Dirt Track
Surface Clay
Length 0.4 mi (0.64 km)

Charlotte Motor Speedway, formerly Lowe's Motor Speedway, is a motorsports complex located in Concord, North Carolina 13 miles (21 km) from Charlotte. The complex features a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) quad oval track that hosts NASCAR racing including the prestigious Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, the Sprint All-Star Race, and the Bank of America 500. The speedway was built in 1959 by Bruton Smith and is considered the home track for NASCAR with many race teams located in the Charlotte area. The track is owned and operated by Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) with Marcus G. Smith (son of Bruton Smith) as track president.

The 2,000 acres (810 ha) complex also features a state-of-the-art quarter mile (0.40 km) drag racing strip, ZMAX Dragway. It is the only all-concrete, four-lane drag strip in the United States and hosts NHRA events. Alongside the drag strip is a state-of-the-art clay oval that hosts dirt racing including the World of Outlaws finals among other popular racing events.


Charlotte Motor Speedway was designed and built by Bruton Smith and partner and driver Curtis Turner in 1959. The first World 600 NASCAR race was held at the 1.5 miles (2.4 km) speedway on June 19, 1960. On December 8, 1961, the speedway filed bankruptcy notice. Judge J.B. Craven of US District Court for Western North Carolina reorganized it under Chapter 10 of the Bankruptcy Act; Judge Craven appointed Robert "Red" Robinson as the track's trustee until March 1962. At that point a committee of major stockholders in the speedway was assembled, headed by A.C. Goines and furniture store owner Richard Howard. Goines, Howard, and Robinson worked to secure loans and other monies to keep the speedway afloat.[2]

By April 1963 some $750,000 was paid to twenty secured creditors and the track emerged from bankruptcy; Judge Craven appointed Goines as speedway president and Howard as assistant general manager of the speedway, handling its day-to-day operations. By 1964 Howard become the track's general manager, and on June 1, 1967, the speedway's mortgage was paid in full; a public burning of the mortgage was held at the speedway two weeks later.[3]

Smith departed from the speedway in 1962 to pursue other business interests, primarily in banking and auto dealerships from his new home of Rockford, IL. He became quite successful and began buying out shares of stock in the speedway. By 1974 Smith was more heavily involved in the speedway, to where Richard Howard by 1975 stated, "I haven't been running the speedway. It's being run from Illinois."[4] In 1975 Smith had become the majority stockholder, regaining control of its day-to-day operations. Smith hired H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler as general manager in October 1975, and on January 29, 1976, Richard Howard resigned as president and GM of the speedway.

Together Smith and Wheeler began to implement plans for improvement and expansion of the speedway.[1]

Night racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway

In the following years, new grandstands and luxury suites were added along with modernized concessions and restrooms to increase the comfort for race fans. Smith Tower, a 135,000 square feet (12,500 m2), seven-story facility was built and connected to the grandstands in 1988. The tower houses the speedway corporate officers, ticket office, gift shop, leased offices and The Speedway Club; and exclusive dining and entertainment facility. The speedway became the first sports facility in America to offer year round living accommodations when 40 condominia were built overlooking turn 1 in 1984, twelve additional condominium units were later added in 1991.[1]

In 1992, Smith and Wheeler directed the installation of a $1.7 million, 1,200-fixture permanent lighting system around the track developed by Musco lighting. The track became the first modern superspeedway to host night racing, and was the largest lighted speedway until 1998 when lights were installed around the 2.5 miles (4.0 km) Daytona International Speedway. In 1994, Smith and Wheeler added a new $1 million, 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) garage area to the speedway's infield.[1]

In 1995, 26-year-old Russell Phillips was killed in one of the most gruesome crashes in auto racing history.

From 1997 to 1999 the track hosted the Indycar Series. On lap 61 of the 1999 race, a crash led to a car losing a tire, which was then propelled into the grandstands by another car. Three spectators were killed and eight others were injured in the incident. The race was canceled shortly after, and the series has not returned to the track since. The incident, along with a similar incident in July 1998 in a Champ Car race at Michigan International Speedway, led to new rules requiring cars to have tethers attached to wheel hubs to prevent tires from breaking away in a crash. Also following the crash, the catch fencing at Charlotte and other SMI owned tracks was raised from 15 feet (4.6 m) high with 3 feet (0.91 m) overhangs to 21 feet (6.4 m) with 6 feet (1.8 m) overhangs to help prevent debris from entering the stands.[5]

In February 1999, Lowe's bought the naming rights to the speedway, making it the first race track in the country with a corporate sponsor. Lowe's chose not to renew its naming rights after the 2009 NASCAR season.[6] The track reverted to its original name, Charlotte Motor Speedway, in 2010.[7]

In 2005, the surface of the track had begun to wear since its last repaving in 1994. This resulted in track officials diamond-grinding the track, a process known as levigation, to smooth out bumps that had developed. The ground surface caused considerable tire-wear problems in both of the NASCAR races that year. Both races saw a high number of accidents as a result of tire failure due to the roughness of the surface. In 2006, the track was completely repaved.[8]

Charlotte Motor Speedway's high definition video screen in 2013.

Track president "Humpy" Wheeler retired following the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25, 2008, and was replaced by Marcus Smith.[9] At the end of 2008, the speedway reduced capacity by 25,000 citing reduced ticket sales. At the same time, the front stretch seats were upgraded from 18 inches (460 mm) fold down seats to 22 inches (560 mm) stadium style seats that were acquired from the recently demolished Charlotte Coliseum. On September 22, 2010, the speedway announced a partnership with Panasonic to install the world's largest high definition video board at the track.[10][11] The video board measures approximately 200 feet (61 m) wide by 80 feet (24 m) tall, containing over nine million LEDs and is situated between turn 2 and 3 along the track's backstretch. It has since been surpassed in size by the video board at Texas Motor Speedway.[12] The track demolished the Diamond Tower Terrace grandstand on the backstretch in 2014 to reduce the track's seating capacity to 89,000.[13]

Bridge collapse

On May 20, 2000, fans were crossing a pedestrian bridge from the track to a nearby parking lot after a NASCAR all-star race. An 80-foot section of the walkway fell onto a highway in Concord.[14] In total, 107 fans were injured at Lowe's Motor Speedway when the bridge dropped 17 feet (5.2 m) to the ground.[15] Nearly 50 lawsuits against the speedway resulted from the incident, with many being settled out of court. Investigators have said the bridge builder, Tindall Corp., used an improper additive to help the concrete filler at the bridge's center cure faster. The additive contained calcium chloride, which corroded the structure's steel cables and led to the collapse.[14] The incident is considered one of the biggest disasters in NASCAR history.[15]


Quad oval

The main quad oval is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long with turns banked at 24 degrees and the straightaways banked at 5 degrees. Currently the track hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series.

Contained within the main oval is a 2.25 miles (3.62 km) road course and a 0.6 miles (0.97 km) Kart course. Between the front stretch is a 0.25 miles (0.40 km) flat oval designed after Bowman-Gray Stadium. The 1/4 Mile track currently host the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, the Summer Shootout Series and other events such as the Legends Millon.

zMAX Dragway

zMAX Dragway

The zMAX Dragway is a state-of-the-art four-lane drag strip, located on 125 acres (51 ha) of speedway property across U.S. Highway 29 from the main superspeedway. It was built in 2008 involving a total of 1,876 workers and a combined 636,000 man hours. With 300 workers on site daily working an average 11-hour shift, a 13-month construction project turned into a 6-month one. At one point during construction, concern by nearby residents led Concord city council to rezone land the drag strip was being built on, preventing it from being built. Following the decision Smith threatened to close Charlotte Motor Speedway and build a track elsewhere in Metrolina.[16][17] When asked if he would go through with the threat Smith replied "I am deadly serious".[17] After a month of negotiations, the issue was settled and, instead of the speedway closing, Smith announced $200 million worth of improvements including road and highway improvements, as well as noise attenuation for the drag strip.[16] The drag strip officially opened on August 20, 2008, and a public open house was held a few days later. The first NHRA event was held September 11–14, 2008.[18]

The dragway features the only all-concrete, four-lane drag strip in the United States. The starting line tower is 34,000 square feet (3,200 m2) and includes 16 luxury suites, race control areas and a press box. Two grandstands, one on either side of the strip, can hold a combined 30,000 spectators. Twenty-four luxury suites with hospitality accommodations are located above the main grandstand. Two tunnels run underneath the strip to enhance fan mobility between the two grandstands.[19]

The Dirt Track

The Dirt Track at Charlotte[20] is a 0.4 miles (0.64 km) clay oval located across Highway 29 from the quad-oval speedway. The stadium-style facility, built in 2000, has nearly 14,000 seats and plays host to Dirt Late Models, Modifieds, Sprint Cars, Monster Trucks and the prestigious World of Outlaws World Finals.[1] In 2013, the track hosted the Global Rallycross Round 8.



Former races

Other events

The facility is considered one of the busiest sports venues in the country, typically with over 380 events a year. Along with many races, the speedway also hosts the Charlotte Auto Fair twice a year, one of the nation's largest car shows. Movies and commercials have been filmed at the speedway, notably Days of Thunder, and it is a popular tourist stop and car testing grounds.[1] The facility also hosts several driving schools year-round, such as Richard Petty Driving Experience, where visitors have the opportunity to experience the speedway from a unique point-of-view behind the wheel of a race car.[23]

The feature of the April 2005 Food Lion Auto Fair at the speedway was a popular sculpture exhibition, Jim Gary's Twentieth Century Dinosaurs. It is a menagerie of Garysauruses, all life-sized, and constructed of automobile parts. A special tent housed the heavily attended exhibition and a huge Gary sculpture, over forty feet long, was displayed at the entrance to the raceway during the entire fair. H. A. "Humpy" Wheeler and the speedway then sponsored the funding for the traveling sculpture exhibition to be featured by Belk College of Business on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where a self-guided tour of the campus-wide display was extended to the end of July.[24]

American Idol season twelve auditions took place at the speedway from October 2–3, 2012.[25]

Since 2013, the annual Carolina Rebellion hard rock and heavy metal festival concert on the first weekend in May has been held at the Rock City Campgrounds located at the speedway. Bands such as Avenged Sevenfold, Kid Rock, Deftones, Disturbed, ZZ Top, Halestorm, Sevendust, Anthrax. Five Finger Death Punch, and All That Remains have played at Carolina Rebellion. The event was extended to three-day format in 2016, with 80,000 in attendance.[26]

Track records

1.5 miles (2.4 km) quad-oval
RecordYearDateDriverCar makeTimeSpeed/Average speed
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Qualifying 2014October 9Kurt Busch Chevrolet 27.167198.771 miles per hour (319.891 km/h)
Race (600 miles) 2016May 29Martin Truex Jr.Toyota3:44:05160.655 miles per hour (258.549 km/h)
Race (500 miles) 1999October 10Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 3:07:31160.306 miles per hour (257.987 km/h)
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Qualifying 2005 October 11 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 28.763187.735 miles per hour (302.130 km/h)
Race (300 miles) 1996May 25Mark Martin Ford 1:55:23155.996 miles per hour (251.051 km/h)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Qualifying 2014 May 16 Kyle Busch Toyota 29.384183.773 miles per hour (295.754 km/h)
Race (200 miles) 2003 May 16 Ted Musgrave Dodge 1:45:05114.768 miles per hour (184.701 km/h)
Verizon IndyCar Series
Qualifying 1998 July 24 Tony Stewart G-Force 24.490220.498 miles per hour (354.857 km/h)
Race (312 miles (502 km)) 1997 July 26 Buddy Lazier Dallara 1:55:29.224162.096 miles per hour (260.868 km/h)
zMAX Dragway
Pro Stock Car 2008 Sept. 13 Kurt Johnson Cobalt 6.680206.95 miles per hour (333.05 km/h)
Pro Stock Motorcycle 2008 Sept. 13 Matt Smith Buell 6.952192.08 miles per hour (309.12 km/h)
Monster Truck[28] 2012 Mar. 17 Randy Moore Aaron's Outdoor Monster Truck 96.80 miles per hour (155.78 km/h)

NOTE: NHRA does not keep records for Top Fuel or Funny Car because of the 1,000 foot distance used in those two classes when the track opened.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Speedway History". Charlotte Motor Speedway. Archived from the original on 2012-01-15. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
  2. Charlotte Observer timeline on Charlotte Motor Speedway Archived November 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. Benyo, Richard (1977) SUPERSPEEDWAY: The Story Of NASCAR Grand National Racing Mason/Charter ISBN 0-88405-391-1 pp.71-6
  4. Benyo, SUPERSPEEDWAY, p. 76
  5. "Fatal Crash Prompts IRL Action". CBS News. CBS Interactive. Associated Press. May 18, 1999. Retrieved November 25, 2010.
  6. Newton, David (January 23, 2010). "Standing room only? Not these days". Concord, North Carolina: ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  7. Long, Dustin (January 5, 2010). "New name for a track, new drivers and some rule changes". The Virginian-Pilot. Landmark Media Enterprises. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  8. Bowles, Tom (March 5, 2010). "Hard choices ahead if Kentucky Speedway joins Sprint Cup circuit". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Archived from the original on March 8, 2010. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  9. "NASCAR promoter Humpy Wheeler to retire after Coca-Cola 600". Crain Communications. May 20, 2008. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  10. "TV is 30 percent larger than Cowboys'". ESPN Internet Ventures. March 31, 2011. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  11. "Charlotte Motor Speedway and Panasonic Announce World's Largest HD Video Board". 2010-09-22. Archived from the original on 2010-09-24. Retrieved 2010-09-22.
  12. Sports News & Articles – Scores, Pictures, Videos - ABC News
  13. Pockrass, Bob (December 11, 2014). "Tracks continue removing seats; how it could impact fans". Sporting News. Retrieved May 29, 2016.
  14. 1 2 Fryer, Jenna (July 5, 2006). "Judge rules against fans in Lowe's bridge collapse". ESPN News Services. Raleigh, North Carolina: ESPN Internet Ventures. Associated Press. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  15. 1 2 Boudin, Michelle (July 30, 2010). "10 years after NASCAR bridge collapse, injured man changing lives". WCNC-TV. Charlotte, North Carolina: Tegna, Inc. Archived from the original on March 9, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2010.
  16. 1 2 "Lots of love (and $80M) keeps track in Concord". 2007-11-27. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
  17. 1 2 Poole, David; Durhams, Sharif (2007-10-03). "My way or no speedway, Bruton Smith tells city officials". The Charlotte Observer.
  18. "zMAX Dragway – A Year in Review". Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  19. "zMAX Dragway @ Concord Fast Facts". Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  20. "Dirt Track". Charlotte Motor Speedway. Archived from the original on 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2013-07-18.
  21. "Stadium Super Trucks Added to TORC Charlotte Race". Off-Road. August 9, 2016. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  22. Meritor Champ Truck World Series - Home
  23. Charlotte Motor Speedway - Races Tracks - Richard Petty Driving Experience. Retrieved on 2013-07-18.
  24. "Belk College notes passing of sculptor Jim Gary". Retrieved 2015-11-12.
  25. Smith, Shannon (October 3, 2012). "'American Idol' auditions: day two in Charlotte". Tribune Broadcasting. Retrieved June 17, 2015 via WGHP.
  26. "Carolina Rebellion to bring three days of rock". The News Herald. March 28, 2016. Retrieved May 30, 2016.
  27. "Race Results at Charlotte Motor Speedway". Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  28. Glenday, Craig (2014). Guinness World Records 2014. 2013 Guinness World Records Limited. p. 171. ISBN 978-1-908843-15-9.
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Coordinates: 35°21′03.13″N 80°41′00.92″W / 35.3508694°N 80.6835889°W / 35.3508694; -80.6835889

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