In the world of NASCAR, everything in February basically revolves around the two weeks at Daytona. We have been doing it that way for fifty-plus years. Now sure, there are other big events through out the NASCAR season. I don't think there are any two bigger weeks than those spent in Charlotte, NC.
I have been going to Charlotte since 1972. It's just incredible to see how the sport and Charlotte Motor Speedway have continued to evolve and develop over the decades. I give a lot of the credit to Bruton Smith, former track promoter Humpy Wheeler and Bruton's son Marcus who now runs Charlotte Motor Speedway.
From Day 1, these guys have pushed the envelope to make the sport bigger and better. They are always looking for ways to draw more fans to the sport and more importantly, give the fans more value for their dollar. Their goal year after year has always been to give the fans the best show and experience they have ever seen before.
Like I said, I went to Charlotte in 1972 and as a rookie I finished sixth in my very first race there. That was the start of a love affair I have had with that place ever since. When it comes to the bigger tracks, it was my favorite as a driver but also my favorite as a fan. I say that mainly because the folks at the Speedway are never satisfied. They constantly try to make things bigger and better. Everything Charlotte does and tries to do is bigger and better than the other tracks.
Everything builds up for two weeks in Charlotte and is topped off Sunday evening with the Coca Cola 600. It's one of our most prestigious races every year and as you know, it's the longest race on the schedule every year. With it being run on Memorial Day weekend also adds to the mystic of the race.
Now back in the day, we had what we called our Crown Jewels – our version of the Triple Crown. They were the Daytona 500, the Coca Cola 600 and also the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend. Those races always were big, huge events. There was lots of pageantry and build up to those races.
Now remember, we come to Charlotte to run the Coca Cola 600 this Sunday evening, but the list of things that have already happened and are going to happen is amazing. There was the Pit Crew competition, the Engine Builders competition, and Friday was the Truck Series. Saturday brought us the Sprint Showdown race and then the All Star race which paid Kurt Busch, who won the race a cool one million dollars. Sunday saw everyone head downtown for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction ceremony which was incredible.
Now this week there are all kinds of charity golf tournaments around Charlotte that the drivers donate their time to. There are various autograph sessions. There is the Speedway Children's Charities dinner. Thursday finally brings action back to the track with practice and qualifying. Friday night our Trackside bunch will be in downtown Charlotte for our big show in the middle of Speedstreets. Saturday will be the Nationwide event and then like I mentioned, Sunday late afternoon around dinnertime, the green flag waves for the Coca Cola 600.
You have to be excited for car owner Roger Penske. His car won the pole for the Indy 500 this Sunday and then as mentioned Kurt Busch, who drives for Roger, won the All Star race last Saturday night. So Roger has already had a great start to things.
You can easily see and agree with why North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue declared May as Motorsports Month. There is just so much for the fans to do when they come to Charlotte in May. You have 90% of the teams based there and the shops are open for the fans to take tours and sometimes get to meet their favorite drivers. Now the icing on the cake this year is the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte.
We always tell you that NASCAR fans are the most loyal fans of any sport. It really is true. For example, we had fans come through our office/museum out by the Speedway last week who told us they take their vacations every year just to come to Charlotte for the races. Most of the folks coming through our place tell us they stay not just for one week, but both weeks of racing. That's simply incredible.
For a race fan, Charlotte in the month of May is the Disneyland of racing.