Exploring NASCAR Country in North Carolina

In our house, Sundays were for racing, not football


Published:

Taking the Pit Crew Challenge at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Courtesy of nascarhall.com

Growing up, my world revolved around cars. For the longest time, I believed this need for speed was the influence of my dad. In our house, Sundays were for racing, not football, and we were always tinkering on a project car in the garage. Now that I have a son of my own, I’m not so sure the love of cars in little boys is learned, but rather inherent.

I traded my own souped up Mustang for an SUV and lawnmower years ago. Yet, nary is a day when my son isn’t zooming cars across our living floor with a smile on his face and Lighting McQueen on his T-shirt. His passion for race cars has re-fired my own spark plugs. There thankfully are plenty of options right here in NASCAR country to get him up-close and personal with racing without the big league ticket price.

 

Hendrick Motorsports Museum and Team Store

Start your tour of Hendrick Motorsports 110-acre, 12 building complex in the two-team shop buildings that are open to the public. The lobby of the 9-24 Building – where shop engineers begin building cars that will eventually race for the checkered flag – is filled with display cars from all three of NASCAR’s series. Kids can mechanics working on cars through the floor-to-wall window. The cars are finished in the 48-88 Building, where the 48 car, 88 car and race trophies are on display. There’s also a video display with a live overhead shot of the garage.

Wrap up your Hendrick Motorsports experience in the museum and store. Check out race and championship winning cars like Jimmie Johnson’s 2016 Cup Series championship car, cars from the movie “Days of Thunder,” a collection of every Hendrick diecast car made, and notable helmets like Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s custom skull helmets.

The museum and team store is open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The team shop is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission is free. 4400 Papa Joe Hendrick Blvd., Charlotte. 

 

NASCAR Hall of Fame

The racing awe starts the moment you enter the hall of fame with Glory Road. The spiraling ramp is lined with 18 cars depicting iconic moments in NASCAR’s history. As you climb, notice how the display banking increases to demonstrate the steepness of actual turns. Challenge your family to see who can keep their footing the longest on Talladega’s 33-degree embankment. 

The Race Week exhibit is a family favorite because it lets fans get behind the scenes of NASCAR’s inner workings. Team up and race the clock for a practice pit stop or pair against each other to see who can change a tire the fastest. Call a race as a TV announcer. Flag a race as an official. Tour a hauler or try your hand behind the wheel in a racing simulator. There’s also a kids section complete with a pint-sized pit simulator so nobody feels left out.

Open daily from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is $12-$25; and free for ages 2 and under. 400 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Charlotte.

 

Carolina Speedway

Carolina Speedway in Gastonia hosts weekly dirt races, drawing upwards of 70 cars across eight divisions. The races are broken into digestible qualifying, heat, and main event races (meaning you can leave whenever attentions spans wane and you won’t miss anything). My son didn’t stop laughing or smiling at his first race, pointing at the cars as they slid through the mud-filled turns and jumping up and down in excitement.

As this is an evening event, there is plenty kid-friendly food from the concession stand like corn dogs, chili cheese fries, and boiled peanuts. The mid-race Kids Break with the track mascot Mud Wagon the Dragon provides plenty of candy to stay awake and energized. 

Races are held Friday nights the second weekend of March through mid-October. The gates open at 5 p.m. and racing starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults and free for ages 11 and younger. 6355 Union Road, Gastonia.

 

Bryan M. Richards is a beer, food, and travel writer who has happily added family travel writing to his credentials. His work has appeared in Men’s Journal, AAA’s Go, and just about anything with the word Charlotte in it. He’s using his son as an excuse to buy a mid-life crisis car.

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Hope Community Building
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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More information

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Online at your Home
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Cost: $11

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Telephone: 800-437-6125
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More information

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Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
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View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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More information

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
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View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
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820 E. Williams St.
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View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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More information

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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Want to do more to help out your community park? Do you like history, the environment, agriculture, and/or the arts? Consider volunteering at Yates Mill! Join us anytime during the program time to...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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