Charlotte Motor Speedway History
Charlotte Motor Speedway was designed and built in 1959 by current chairman and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee O. Bruton Smith. The late Curtis Turner, one of stock car racing's earliest stars and another Hall of Fame inductee, served as Smith's primary business partner.
Together, they built their dream of a 1.5-mile superspeedway on the outskirts of the Queen City and, on June 19, 1960, the first World 600 was contested at the new facility.
In 1961, like many superspeedways of the era, the track fell into Chapter 11 reorganization from which it eventually emerged despite lagging ticket sales. After his departure from the speedway in 1962, Smith pursued other business interests in Texas and Illinois. Working within Ford Motor Company's dealership program, Smith became quite successful and began purchasing shares of stock in Charlotte Motor Speedway. By 1975 Smith had again become the majority stockholder in the speedway, regaining control of its day-to-day operations.
He hired H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler as general manager and the two began to implement plans for needed improvements and expansion.
During the ensuing years, Smith and Wheeler demonstrated a commitment to customer satisfaction, building a facility that continuously established new industry standards. Thousands of grandstand seats and luxury suites were built. Food concessions and restroom facilities were added and modernized to increase the comfort of race fans. Smith Tower, a 135,000-square-foot, seven-story facility connected to the speedway's grandstands, was erected and opened in 1988. The building houses the speedway's corporate offices, ticket office, souvenir gift shop, leased office space and The Speedway Club, an exclusive dining and entertainment facility.
In 1984, under the direction of Smith, Charlotte Motor Speedway became the only sports facility in America to offer year-round living accommodations when it built 40 condominiums high above turn one. Twelve additional condominium units were added in 1991.
Another innovation was a $1.7 million, 1,200-fixture permanent lighting system developed by MUSCO Lighting of Oskaloosa, Iowa. The revolutionary lighting process uses mirrors to simulate daylight without glare, shadows or obtrusive light poles.
The lighting system was installed in 1992, allowing Charlotte Motor Speedway to be the first modern superspeedway to host night auto racing.
In 2011, Charlotte Motor Speedway revolutionized the fan experience by installing the world's largest HDTV along the backstretch of the legendary superspeedway. At an incredible length of 200 feet wide, standing 80 feet tall and weighing 165,000 pounds, the video board covers an expansive 16,000 square feet. Fans seated throughout the front stretch from Turn 4 to Turn 1 have clear viewing angles of the gigantic board that features 720P high-definition visuals illuminated by more than nine million light emitting diode, or LED, lamps.
In addition to the 1.5-mile quad oval, the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex includes a 2.25-mile road course and a six-tenths-mile karting layout in the speedway's infield; a quarter-mile asphalt oval utilizing part of the speedway's front stretch and pit road; and a one-fifth-mile oval located outside Turn 3 of the superspeedway.
Three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events, two NASCAR XFINITY Series races and one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event are among the major events held on the 1.5-mile superspeedway. The Richard Petty Driving Experience and the NASCAR Racing Experience also use the track extensively throughout the year.
Other events on the various tracks include the Bojangles' Summer Shootout, a summer short-track series for Legend Cars and Bandoleros and World Karting Association regional, national and international races.
Charlotte Motor Speedway also annually presents two of the nation's largest car shows and swap meets, the Charlotte AutoFair in April and September, plus the speedway plays host to the Goodguys Southeastern Nationals each October. With track rentals and events, the speedway is used more than 300 days per year for all of its attractions, which includes Speedway Christmas - a holiday-themed light show spanning three miles over the speedway's infield, grandstands and concourse which in 2017 attracted a record 120,000 cars from mid-November through Dec. 31.
Motion pictures such as "Days of Thunder," "Speedway," "Stroker Ace" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," and even music videos like Tracy Lawrence's "If the Good Die Young" have been filmed at the speedway. In 2006, Charlotte Motor Speedway became the first motorsports facility to host the world premiere of a major motion picture. More than 30,000 fans along with stars such as Paul Newman, Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt and Larry the Cable Guy were on hand for the debut of "CARS," an animated hit from Disney/Pixar. Additional rental dates are reserved for race team testing and automobile manufacturer research.
Since its opening in 1960, Charlotte Motor Speedway has established itself as The Greatest Place to See the Race, offering a lifetime of memories for race fans throughout the world.