CUP: The Two Weeks Of Charlotte

The Charlotte, NC area certainly will earn its title of major motorsports capital over the next two weeks.

From racing to hall of fame inductions and selections to a gathering of all-stars and stock car racing’s longest event, Charlotte will sparkle with some of motorsports’ major events from May 15-27.

The string of events will begin Tuesday night in nearby Concord as long-time NASCAR team owner Richard Childress and former driver Ricky Rudd will be inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Embassy Suites hotel.

Childress, who remains active in the sport, began his NASCAR career as a driver and later won six Sprint Cup championships with Dale Earnhardt Sr. driving his Chevrolets.

Rudd had a successful driving career in the Cup series and, in fact, gave Childress his first win as a team owner in 1983.

Childress and Rudd were elected for Hall honors by members of the NMPA, an organization of motorsports writers, photographers and broadcasters. The NMPA hall is located at Darlington Raceway and is not affiliated with the relatively new NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

The spotlight will move to the Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte Thursday night for the annual Sprint Pit Crew Challenge, a skills competition for 24 Sprint Cup pit crews. Denny Hamlin’s crew has won the past two events.

Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s “home” for the next two weekends, will open Friday with a full day/night of activity, including qualifying for three events – the Sprint All-Star Race, the Sprint Showdown and the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 Camping World Truck race. The Truck race is scheduled for 8 p.m.

One of the season’s most anticipated events is scheduled Saturday night at CMS as the sport’s top drivers gather for the annual Sprint All-Star Race, which will be televised by SPEED. The event will have a new format this year. Drivers will race for 90 laps in a 20-20-20-20-10 sequence. The Sprint Showdown will be held prior to the all-star race, and the Showdown’s top two finishers will advance to the night’s feature.

The events of the second race week in Charlotte lead to the season’s longest race, the May 27 Coca-Cola 600, a day-to-night affair that tests strategy and endurance like few other races.

The week’s activities will open, however, with a big day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Wednesday (May 23) as voters will choose five new members of the hall from a list of 25 nominees. Voting is scheduled in the Charlotte Convention Center near the hall, and results will be announced that day.

Coca-Cola 600 activities are scheduled to begin Thursday at 7 p.m. at CMS with qualifying for the race.

Scheduled Thursday to Saturday (May 24-26) in downtown Charlotte is the Food Lion Speed Street festival, an annual event which turns the streets of downtown into a racing smorgasbord. Bands will perform on two stages, and there will be an assortment of racing-related games and booths.

No activities are scheduled at CMS Friday. Nationwide qualifying and the History 300 Nationwide race are scheduled Saturday.

The big finale, the Coca-Cola 600, is scheduled at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.