Charlotte Motor Speedway

Charlotte Motor Speedway
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Satellite image

Cms outline 10.jpg
Location 5555 Concord Parkway South
Concord, North Carolina, 28027
Capacity 140,000
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 Nationwide Series
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour
NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series

INEX Raceceiver Legends Car Series
Quad oval
Surface Asphalt
Length 1.5 mi (2.4 km)
Turns 4
Banking Turns – 24 degrees
Straightaways – 5 degrees
Lap record 0:24.49 (Tony Stewart, Team Menard, 1998, IndyCar Series)
ZMAX Dragway
Surface Asphalt
Length 0.25 mi (0.4 km)
The Dirt Track
Surface Clay
Length 0.4 mi (0.64 km)

Charlotte Motor Speedway is a motorsports complex located in Concord, North Carolina, United States 13 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina. The complex features a 1.5 miles (2.4 km) quad oval track that hosts NASCAR racing including the prestigious Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend and the Sprint All-Star Race. 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 (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 0.25 miles (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.



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. In 1961, the speedway fell into Chapter 11 reorganization but quickly recovered despite the lagging ticket sales. Smith departed from the speedway in 1962 to pursue other business interests. He became quite successful and began buying shares of stock in the speedway and, by 1975, had become the majority stockholder, regaining control of its day-to-day operations. Smith hired H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler as general manager in 1976 and together the two began to implement plans for improvement and expansion of the speedway.[1]

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 condominiums were built overlooking turn 1 in 1984, twelve additional condominium units were later added in 1991.[1]

Night racing at CMS

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]

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 other 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.[2]

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.[3] The track reverted to its original name, Charlotte Motor Speedway, in 2010.[4]

In 2005, the surface of the track had begun to wear since its last repaving in 1994.[further explanation needed] This resulted in track officials diamond-grinding the track, a process known as levigation, to smooth out bumps that had developed. The grinded 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.[5]

Track president "Humpy" Wheeler retired following the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25, 2008, and was replaced by Marcus Smith.[6] 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 form 18 inches (460 mm) fold down seats to 22 inches (560 mm) stadium style seats.[3]

On September 22, 2010, CMS announced a partnership with Panasonic to install the World's largest high definition video board at the track.[7] The video board will measure approximately 200 feet (61 m) wide by 80 feet (24 m) tall, containing over 9 million LEDs and will be situated between turn 2 and 3 along the track's backstretch. The installation of the video board is now completed.[8]

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.[9] In total, 107 fans were injured at Lowe's Motor Speedway when the bridge dropped 17 feet to the ground.[10] 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 dry faster. The additive contained calcium chloride, which corroded the structure's steel cables and led to the collapse.[9] The incident is considered one of the biggest disasters in NASCAR history.[10]


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, Nationwide 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 CMS 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.[11][12] When asked if he would go through with the threat Smith replied "I am deadly serious".[12] 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.[11] 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.[13]

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 their 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.[14]

The Dirt Track

The Dirt Track at Charlotte[15] 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]

1/5-mile oval

Located outside of the backstretch of the main speedway near turn three is a small 1/5-mile auxiliary oval occasionally used for Legends races. The auxiliary oval used to have a twin dirt oval that was removed following the construction of the aforementioned Dirt Track.



NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:

Sprint All-Star Race, Coca-Cola 600, Bank of America 500

NASCAR Nationwide Series:

Top Gear 300, Dollar General 300

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series:

North Carolina Education Lottery 200

NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour

UNOH Southern Slam 150

NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series:

NHRA Carolina Nationals
ZMax 4 Wide Nationals

INEX raceCeiver Legends Car Series

Legends Big Money 100, Summer Shootout Series, Winter Heat Series

World of Outlaws

WoO May Showdown (sprint cars)
WoO Late Model Showdown (late models)
World of Outlaws: World Finals (sprint cars, late models, Super DiRT Car Series)

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 Food Lion 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.[1]

The feature of the April 2005 Spring 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.[16]

Track records

1.5 miles (2.4 km) quad-oval
Record Year Date Driver Car make Time Speed/Average speed
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Qualifying 2005 October 13 Elliott Sadler Ford 27.948 193.216 miles per hour (310.951 km/h)
Race (600 miles) 1995 May 29 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 3:56:55 151.952 miles per hour (244.543 km/h)
Race (500 miles) 1999 October 10 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 3:07:31 160.306 miles per hour (257.987 km/h)
NASCAR Nationwide Series
Qualifying 2011 October 14 Paul Menard Chevrolet 29.089 187.735 miles per hour (302.130 km/h)
Race (300 miles) 1996 May 25 Mark Martin Ford 1:55:23 155.996 miles per hour (251.051 km/h)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Qualifying 2005 May 20 Mike Skinner Toyota 29.500 183.051 miles per hour (294.592 km/h)
Race (200 miles) 2003 May 16 Ted Musgrave Dodge 1:45:05 114.768 miles per hour (184.701 km/h)
IZOD IndyCar Series
Qualifying 1998 July 24 Tony Stewart G-Force 24.490 220.498 miles per hour (354.857 km/h)
Race (500 miles) 1997 July 26 Buddy Lazier Dallara 1:55:29 162.096 miles per hour (260.868 km/h)
zMAX Dragway
Record Year Date Driver Vehicle Time Speed
Pro Stock Car 2008 Sept. 13 Kurt Johnson Cobalt 6.680 206.95 miles per hour (333.05 km/h)
Pro Stock Motorcycle 2008 Sept. 13 Matt Smith Buell 6.952 192.08 miles per hour (309.12 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. ^ a b c d e "History". Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "Fatal Crash Prompts IRL Action". CBS News. May 18, 1999. Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Newton, David (2009-08-06). "Lowe's will not renew naming rights". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  4. ^ Long, Dustin (2010-01-05). "New name for a track, new drivers and some rule changes". Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  5. ^ Bowles, Tom (2010-03-05). "Hard choices ahead if Kentucky Speedway joins Sprint Cup circuit". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  6. ^ "'Humpy' Wheeler to retire following Coca-Cola 600". 2008-05-21. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  7. ^ "TV is 30 percent larger than Cowboys'". ESPN. 
  8. ^ "Charlotte Motor Speedway and Panasonic Announce World's Largest HD Video Board". 2010-09-22. Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  9. ^ a b "Judge rules against fans in Lowe's bridge collapse". ESPN. 
  10. ^ a b Michelle Boudin. "10 years after NASCAR bridge collapse, injured man changing lives". WCNC. 
  11. ^ a b "Lots of love (and $80M) keeps track in Concord". 2007-11-27. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  12. ^ a b Poole, David; Durhams, Sharif (2007-10-03). "My way or no speedway, Bruton Smith tells city officials". The Charlotte Observer. 
  13. ^ "zMAX Dragway – A Year in Review". Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  14. ^ "zMAX Dragway @ Concord Fast Facts". Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Dinosaurs Invade Campus". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  17. ^ "Race Results at Charlotte Motor Speedway". Retrieved 25 November 2010. 

External links

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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