A Guide to Experiencing NHRA in Cabarrus County, NC

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Whether you’re a longtime fan or new to the sport, this quick read will get you up to speed on how to experience drag racing like a pro. These fast facts and insider tips cover it all—from the basics of the sport and major NHRA events held here to ideas for visiting zMAX Dragway and […]

January 16, 2020

Whether you’re a longtime fan or new to the sport, this quick read will get you up to speed on how to experience drag racing like a pro.

These fast facts and insider tips cover it all—from the basics of the sport and major NHRA events held here to ideas for visiting zMAX Dragway and Cabarrus County. Plus, each section includes extra resources so you can bookmark them and access later.


NHRA flag flies above zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina
The National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) is the auto racing organization for championship drag racing. During a race, cars of the same class battle head-to-head from a standing start to be the first across the finish line, a feat some make in under four seconds at speeds over 330mph!

In Cabarrus County, NHRA events are an all-day experience with three full days of racing. The tournament-style competition starts with qualifying and the fastest cars advance to elimination rounds held on the final event day to determine overall winners in each class. Class is based on vehicle type, engine size and a variety of other factors. There are over 200 classes in 15 categories including Top Fuel and Funny Car which post the highest speeds.

Along with even more details, NHRA.com offers a list of terms that’ll help you sound like a seasoned fan in no time. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Christmas Tree (“The Tree”): Electronic starting device between the lanes on the starting line.
  • Elapsed Time (“e.t.”): The time it takes a vehicle to travel from the starting line to the finish line.
  • Speed Trap: The final 66 feet to the finish line where speed is calculated.

Resource: NHRA 101 with Glossary of Terms


Charlotte Motor Speedway’s complex in Concord encompasses zMAX Dragway, the world’s first four-lane, all-concrete drag strip. Known as the Bellagio of drag strips, zMAX hosts plenty of thrilling events throughout the year including two of NHRA’s most anticipated race weekends on the series schedule.

Dragsters race on the four-lane drag strip in Concord, North Carolina

NHRA Four-Wide Nationals (Spring)
What NHRA calls “the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet,” this event features 44,000-horsepower as NHRA drag racing stars race four-wide. Races kick off under the lights on Friday and continue Saturday as teams get a final shot to improve their times before Sunday’s eliminations.

Dragsters race side-by-side at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North CarolinaNHRA Carolina Nationals (Fall)
Racing action heats up as the weather cools off in Cabarrus County! The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns for three days of intense two-wide races. Check out side-by-side competition during the second race of the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Resource: Charlotte Motor Speedway Event Schedule


Arrive prepared and make the most of your visit!

Drag racing stimulates all your senses—from the smell of burnt rubber to the sound of thunderous engines which means ear protection is a must! Bring a set for everyone in you crew or rent them at the track. Amenities at zMAX also include a whole host of concessions, and you can bring a 14x14x14 cooler with your own refreshments– just be sure to leave any glass at home.

Young race fan with ear protection on enjoys drag racing at zMAX Dragway

NHRA events offer fun for the entire family both on and off the track.

Not only do kids 12 and under get in free with an adult, but every ticket is a pit pass! In addition to witnessing cars accelerate down the track at over 300mph, get a behind-the-scenes look as teams work on their 10,000-horsepower hotrods.

To catch the most action, head to your favorite driver’s pit right after they make a run and watch for the next 30 minutes as crews tear down, clean, inspect and rebuild their ride. You can even score autographs and snap selfies!

Many teams have hero cards available, and you can always stop by the Explore Cabarrus Fan Van for a free Destination Guide with autograph page. The Nitro Alley Fan Zone also features racing simulators, music, and merchandise plus exciting demonstrations and displays.

Race fans take a photo with driver, John Force

A family enjoys activities in the Nitro Alley Fan Zone at zMAX Dragway

Call or visit Charlotte Motor Speedway online for details on ticket packages, upgrades and other special deals. Already have tickets? Download the CMS app for all the information you need right at your fingertips.

Along with these tips, the usual pointers apply—Get there early, bring sunscreen and wear weather-appropriate attire. This includes comfortable shoes that can stand up to the sticky racing surface during the Track Walk!

Resource: Race Fan Information on CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com


Come for the adrenaline-pumping events, stay to explore motorsports museums and more!

With attractions like Charlotte Motor Speedway, The Dale Trail and NASCAR Race Shops, Cabarrus County is a bucket list destination for motorsports fans. It’s the only place on earth where you can discover Dale Earnhardt’s hometown, watch NASCAR crews at work and get behind the wheel of a stock car, all in one visit. There’s even more automotive history at stops like the Mustang Owner’s Museum and Curb Museum, where motorsports collide with North Carolina’s music heritage.

Visitors take photos inside Stewart-Haas Racing's NASCAR shop in Kannapolis

Pair your visit to zMAX Dragway with other adrenaline-fueled activities like indoor skydiving or trekking through underground mine tunnels where America’s first gold discovery was made. Add endless shopping options, local places to eat and drink, and family fun at spots like SEA LIFE Aquarium or K1 Speed and you’re on the way to one unforgettable adventure.

Get inspired by browsing the Cabarrus County, NC Destination Guide and start planning your trip now with these Places to Stay. Camping is available just outside of zMAX Dragway and there are over 30 hotels in the area to choose from.

Resource: Cabarrus County, NC Destination Guide

Have questions or want to learn more?
We’re always here to help! Stop by or call the Visitor Information Center at 800-848-3740. For answers on the go, connect with @ExploreCabarrus on social media using #ExploreCabarrus.

Information at your fingertips.

Need info on the go? Browse the digital Destination Guide online now for details on restaurants, attractions, shops, parks, museums and more.

Destination Guide