They represent an entire industry of creative minds who put thought into what gets you on your feet and into the driver’s seat. Behind the scenes or by your side, they have a hand in creating moments you’ll remember forever.
Here are 10 of Cabarrus County’s most exciting experiences. Take this list and run with it! For an action-packed vacation, fasten your seat belt and see how many you can check off during your trip.
In Cabarrus County, racing festivities begin long before the green flag drops. Jacqueline Gafrarar and the team at CSM Production put on 600 Festival, a series of family-friendly events that kick off race weekends at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In Concord, fans line the street to welcome NASCAR Cup Series haulers headed to the track during the Haulers on Union Parade. In conjunction with Jiggy with the Piggy barbecue festival in Kannapolis, friends gather for a show under the stars during Movies on the Campus, and kids race their own veggie car creations at the Zucchini 600. The Kids Zone at Jiggy showcases more of racing’s youngest talent with cars on display and driver autographs. Jacqueline’s son, Caleb is part of this next generation of drivers. At just nine years old, he is a talented kart racer giving fans another reason to get on their feet. Several of the sport’s future stars launch careers at Charlotte Motor Speedway, adding to the area’s reputation of “Where Racing Lives.”
When she’s not pushing limits in the gym as a Certified Personal Trainer, Wendy Venturini brings fans action from the track each week as a booth announcer and pit reporter with the Performance Racing Network. Born into a family of racers, her love for the sport began early and has evolved into a passion that’s led her to become one of the most dynamic women in motorsports. You can catch Wendy on the air or get a glimpse of the PRN studio during Charlotte Motor Speedway’s “Over The Wall” Tour. Daily tours are the perfect way to see it all even when it’s not a NASCAR race weekend. Learn the track’s history, cruise down pit road, feel the full-tilt force of the 24-degree banking and more. Plus, stop in Winner’s Circle for a photo opportunity and visit zMAX Dragway and The Dirt Track. Charlotte Motor Speedway also offers special race week tours. The Race Shop Tour and Laps and Taps Tour both include stops that are essential to the full Cabarrus County experience.
Executive Vice President, Greg Walter and the entire crew at Charlotte Motor Speedway make the most awe-inspiring events look effortless. Along with three of the most anticipated races on the NASCAR Cup Series calendar, CMS hosts NASCAR Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series events each year. But that’s not all. The Speedway megaplex includes zMAX Dragway and The Dirt Track which host prestigious races including the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals and World of Outlaws World Finals. And don’t forget AutoFair, the world’s largest automotive extravaganza and the Summer Shootout—a grassroots racing series complete with fireworks and fun races like the School Bus and Power Wheel races. From military tributes at the Largest Memorial Day Celebration to the 3-million twinkling lights of Speedway Christmas, a tremendous amount of thought and hard work goes into creating unreal experiences for visitors.
NASCAR Race Shops are essential to what makes Cabarrus County one of the world’s premier motorsports destinations. Inside these cutting-edge facilities, crew member’s like Stewart-Haas Racing’ Ryan Mulder are hard at work preparing for the next race. Ryan and so many dedicated team members like him make the action on the track possible. So, before you take a seat in the grandstands, bring the experience full circle by stopping by one of the shops. See how everything comes together in fan viewing areas, then explore history and pick up souvenirs inside Museums & Teams Stores. At SHR, the massive windows make you feel as if you’re inside the machine shop, and nostalgic racing portraits and trophies tell a deeper story of the drivers. Along with Stewart-Haas, other shops like Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing and are located within minutes of Charlotte Motor Speedway and welcome fans free of charge.
Ready to try your hand behind the wheel? Whip through the banked corners of legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway from the driver’s seat. Driving 101 founder Bob Lutz and his wife Heather operate the area’s most immersive racing experience. The NASCAR Racing Experience puts you in the shoes of a NASCAR driver. Attend the driver’s meeting with crew chief and utilize in-car radio communications with a personal spotter during your laps around the track. Prefer to be a passenger? There are several options to ride along. For an open-wheel experience, try the Mario Andretti Racing Experience. The Indy-style cars are another intense way to satisfy your need for speed. Either way, Bob and Heather provide excellent opportunities for you to feel the horsepower firsthand. Strap in and get ready for the ride of your life!
Next door at zMAX Dragway, North Carolina native Roy Hill makes it possible for you to get inside a dragster and slingshot down the first four-wide dragstrip in the world. Roy is a legend in the sport of drag racing and his passion led to the creation of Roy Hill’s Drag Racing School in 1989. He’s been teaching the art ever since. Rushing down the same dragstrip where the pros hit speeds of 330mph as they race four-wide is a thrill like none other. Top Fuel NHRA licensed driver Doug Foley also offers the chance for you to ride or drive in a dragster. A family affair, Doug’s racing journey led him to launch Pure Speed Racing Experience. No matter when you decide to take your own side-by-side ride, be sure to mark your calendar for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in the spring and NHRA Carolina Nationals in the fall.
Karting is the key to fast fun. At K1 Speed, Jonathan Heitzman helps riders of all skill levels experience indoor kart racing. Just arrive and drive! The environmentally-friendly electric karts let racers start at their own pace. Be prepared for a full work out as you navigate a challenging combination of twists and turns through Concord’s two professionally designed courses. After the thrill of crossing the finish line, grab a picture on the podium and kick back in the Pit Café. Since these machines don’t emit exhaust fumes and are pretty quiet, the atmosphere at K1 is ideal for relaxing as a spectator. The setting also makes it a popular spot for birthday parities and other group celebrations. So, for a weatherproof afternoon of driving excitement, round up all of your friends who have a lead foot and go see Jonathan at K1.
More indoor excitement awaits at the largest indoor water park in the Carolinas. Take the plunge down Howlin’ Tornado, twist and turn through River Canyon Run, and continue the racing theme down Mountain Edge Raceway. There are rides and slides for all ages at Great Wolf Lodge, and lifeguards like Autumn Miller watch over the indoor water park. Constantly scanning the scene, it’s not uncommon to see guests giddy with anticipation before the Fort Mackenzie Tipping Bucket splashes down. While she and her pack ensure every guest has a great time in the always toasty 84-degree water park, the rest of the Great Wolf crew coordinates a slew of exciting activities. From Story Time and the Great Clock Tower show to bowling inside Ten Paw Alley and high-flying adventure outside at the Howlers Peak Ropes Course, the fun is endless. But with suites just steps away from all the attractions, your family can make the most of vacation time and get back to the action bright and early then next day.
Looking for some fresh air? Expert outdoorsman Lenny Stallings is ready show you the ropes—literally. On a mission to promote healthy human connections through outdoor adventure, Capstone Climbing & Adventure offers excursions and programs for groups. Make reservations for you and your crew to experience the high and low-ropes courses, go canoeing and flat-water kayaking on the Rocky River, or rock climbing at more of North Carolina’s scenic settings in the region. With a focus on environmental education, they help visitors explore many sections of the Carolina Thread Trail—a developing regional network of greenways, trails and blueways that reaches 15 counties, two states and 2.3 million people. A number of these exist in Cabarrus County for anyone looking to get active. Whether you want to hike, bike, paddle or walk, places like the Pharr Family Preserve, which runs through a protected alluvial forest along the Rocky River, are the ideal sport to start.
Cabarrus County has plenty of beautiful outdoor spots to connect with nature, but none are quite like Reed Gold Mine. Located in the small town of Midland, America’s first documented discovery of gold happened here in 1799 when 12-year-old Conrad Reed found a 17-pound gold nugget. After using it as a doorstop for three years, Conrad’s father John Reed sold the nugget to a jeweler in Fayetteville for $3.50. As one of the state’s most unique attractions, the site has welcomed over 2,000,000 visitors since opening in 1977. Today, Reed Gold Mine is the only underground mine open to the public in North Carolina. Site Manager, Larry Neal is in the know on all things gold and waiting to share this rich history and interactive experience with you. Tour the museum, see the ore-crushing stamp mill in action, walk through several hundred feet of underground mine tunnels and pan for gold from April to October. You can even keep what you find!
Your appetite for adrenaline is the driving force behind experiences like these. Stay in Cabarrus County and discover everything the thrill seekers have in store this year!